Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/311

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293
The Broadway School

feeling under the impulse of Ibsen, who related themselves to a literary movement and to a social evolution, any such school of our own. We may be ashamed to claim that our theatre has produced a Broadway school of playwrights, of whom George Broadhurst (with his Bought and Paid For, Playhouse, 26 September, 1911) and Bayard Veiller (with his Within the Law, Eltinge Theatre, 11 September, 1912) are the typical examples. And the annoying feature of such a tradition is that here and there in the work done by these men there is some real flash, some real creative contribution, showing the inherent ability which purpose would have moulded into distinction. Now and then, out of such workmanship, the theatre gets a whole piece like Eugene Walter's The Easiest Way (19 January, 1909), which goes to the bone of realistic condition, cruel, ironic, relating it to a morbid type of emotionalism, of which Pinero's Iris is an example. Walter, by a feeling for character and situation, builds better than his contemporaries. His Paid in Full (25 February, 1908), barring certain evident situations on which uncertain suspense is built, has as much careful reproduction of average American life as Miss Baker's Chains has of English. And Walter's melodramatic sense, in The Wolf (Bijou Theatre, 18 April, 1908) and The Knife (Bijou Theatre, 12 April, 1917), is better than Veiller s trick method of suspense in such a piece of the theatre as The 13th Chair (48th Street Theatre, 20 November, 1917).

The American dramatist has always taken his logic second hand; he has always allowed his theatrical sense to be a slave to managerial circumstance. The new drama of reality is not based on snap appreciation or judgment. Imagine John Galsworthy writing Justice after reading someone else's impression of the cell system of prison life. Yet Charles Klein wrote The Lion and the Mouse after reading Ida Tarbell's History of the Standard Oil Trust, and Edward Sheldon wrote his one political play, The Boss (30 January, 1911), after reading an editorial in Collier's Weekly. No drama can be built truly unless one feels deeply the materials used. Sheldon's The Nigger (New Theatre, 4 December, 1909) shows every evidence however effective the situation of the author's learning of the Southern problem from books read at Harvard University. It has none of the innate sincerity of Moody's The Great Divide or Alice