The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-Valuation

The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-Valuation

The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-Valuation

The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-Valuation

Excerpt

The Education Authority of the London County Council honoured me in 1920, and again in 1921, with an invitation to deliver, at King's College, a certain number of lectures on the drama, to audiences mainly composed of teachers. This book contains, with slight additions and retrenchments, the substance of my two courses of lectures.

Had I been a younger man, I should probably have recast my material in more permanent form, and attempted a new history of our dramatic development. There is ample room for such a work. SirAdolphus Ward stately chronicle of English Dramatic Literature ends with the reign of Queen Anne; and the intervening centuries have found no similar, historian. The reason is not far to seek: namely, that the drama, as literature, had sunk very low in the eighteenth century, and had almost ceased to exist in the nineteenth. The field of research was certainly not an inviting one; yet the theatre was throughout these centuries a more or less popular institution, and from that point of view, if from no other, its history was, and is, worth writing. The revival of the past thirty years lends fresh interest to the' subject. Only by examining the causes of the decrepitude of two centuries can we fully understand the causes of the rejuvenation we have witnessed.

But an adequate study of the subject, literary and sociological, would demand from five to ten years of unremitting labour; and I have arrived at a time of life when one does not lightly undertake such long engagements. Dryden's Almanzor could wave away the millions of Boabdelin, saying

Stand back! I have not leisure yet to die!

-- but in the workaday world one has to reckon with a tyrant who is more "strict in his arrest. . . ."

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