Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

'TRELAWNY OF THE "WELLS"'

January 1898

MR. PINERO, with a modesty bordering on humility, calls this delightful play a comedietta. He wants us, therefore, to take it lightly, and not to consider it as a finished picture of some theatrical and non-theatrical folk of the crinoline and horse-hair sofa days. But however light his touch, however sketchy his characters, however thin the thread of plot that strings the four acts together, there is far more depth in this little work than in many volumes of bulky proportions.

The question is, will the large world of playgoers see and understand the play as it ought to be seen and understood? Mr. Pinero has oftentimes done things which enchanted the few and bewildered the many: The Times is an example; the memorable Cabinet Minister is another; yet another is The Amazons; and all of these, for which he has been sparsely praised, are of his later and glorious days. Earlier, when he had not yet 'arrived', and wrote in that same half satirical, half pathetic style which is all his own, he was roundly abused. No man has encountered more treacherous nails and splinters upon the ladder of fame than our Pinero. And even now, while we hail him as the premier playwright of the Englishspeaking world, it would seem that the public is slow to appreciate Pinero at his best; it would have little of the fascinating Princess and the Butterfly, and it is by no means certain whether it will enjoy to the full the exquisite charm of Trelawny. For our author leads us into a sphere which is foreign to most, even though

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