The Restoration Theatre

The Restoration Theatre

The Restoration Theatre

The Restoration Theatre

Excerpt

The following seven chapters, although comprising a detached study and entirely complete in themselves, may also be taken as the first Part or instalment of an extensive work upon the Restoration Stage, 1660-1700, which with many intervals and lengthy interruptions has engaged me during the last forty years.

In 1893, when I was first beginning my collections, the Restoration dramatists were very generally ignored, and even among professed scholars the period excited but puisne and lukewarm interest, an indifference, indeed, which it would scarcely be too much to say often amounted to positive aversion.

There were, it is true, some notable exceptions. Sir Edmund Gosse gave us many brilliant sympathetic studies of Congreve, Otway, and others, which in these days of the arid pedantry of the costive colon and comma school are a delight and a refreshment most welcome to read. Mr. G. Thorn-Drury, K.C., was known for his intensive study of Restoration poets, his acute scholarship, the treasures of his fine library. Mr. R. W. Lowe had written a monograph on Thomas Betterton, which--minor faults though it may have and inaccuracies--is alive with true enthusiasm and remains a piece of very real value and solid worth.

In 1911, during which year I was paying frequent visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, that ripe scholar and great Elizabethan, Arthur Henry Bullen, often used to discuss with me my notebooks and outlined chapters for a History of the Restoration Drama, a book he was generously anxious should be issued by his own Press. However, I was diffident. I felt that my work was not as yet sufficiently shaped, that more research was necessary before I could put it into its ultimate and acceptable form. Bullen was reluctant to agree, but when I suggested that I should meanwhile edit for him some of the more neglected Restoration dramatists he at once gladly entered into the ancillary scheme. There had been reprints of Etherege by Nimmo in 1888, and of Vanbrugh by Lawrence and Bullen himself in 1893, but it was felt that neither Verity who undertook Etherege, nor W. C. Ward who was responsible for Vanbrugh, had quite that knowledge of the Restoration theatre which is the only outcome of long and concentrated study in difficult places, but which is none the less an essential equipment for the editor of Restoration plays.

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