The Cowled Lover and Other Plays

The Cowled Lover and Other Plays

The Cowled Lover and Other Plays

The Cowled Lover and Other Plays

Excerpt

Robert Montgomery Bird was born in Newcastle, Del., February 5, 1806. His education, begun at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia, was completed at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was graduated in April 1827.

It is doubtful if he engaged in active practice for any length of time. In the first place, he was more interested in the theory than in the practice of his profession. Medicine, moreover, was not his first love; that was literature, particularly dramatic literature. There must have been early attempts at playwrighting while he was still a medical student, for some of the fragments he left certainly precede his earliest complete play, dated June 1827.

None of the first six plays that Bird wrote, were produced in his lifetime. Four of them were written in 1827, the year of Bird's graduation from Medical School, the fifth in 1828, and the sixth in 1930. Five of them were written without any prospect of production, the sixth was written for Edwin Forrest. This play, Pelopidas, was never produced. When Forrest read it he found that the leading rôle was not sufficiently outstanding. Nothing daunted, Bird turned to another subject with a rôle better suited to Forrest, and the latter produced The Gladiator at the Park Theatre in New York on September 26, 1831. It was immediately successful, and Forrest carried it in his repertory for several years.

Bird followed this success with Oralloossa and The Broker of Bogota, his best work. Shortly after the production of the latter play, the playwright and the actor parted company. Forrest refused to live up to an oral financial agreement, which had been made at the beginning of their association, and Bird, receiving practically nothing for his work, could not make a living writing plays.

Still the man of letters, he turned to fiction, but he was not as successful in this field as he had been in the drama. As the historical romance was then (1834) one of the most popular forms of fiction, it was natural that Bird should try his hand at it. In rapid succession he published Calavar and The Infidel, two romances of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, The Hawks of Hawks Hollow, a romance of the American Revolution, and Nick of the Woods, a story of the Kentucky frontier. His other works of fiction are The Adventures of Robin Day . . .

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