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are to be written at all, it is better that they should be good plays than shoddy ones. I do not pretend that the need for a national theatre is so keenly felt that Englishmen are prepared to die on a barricade for it. But there is a large and, I believe, an increasing number of people who are seriously desirous of seeing such a theatre established. And though I don't know how many votes are to be got by its establishment—the ultimate test of any political measure nowadays—I am not sure whether a Government which gave them what they wanted might not score even politically.
If, however, we are not to get an endowment for the theatre out of the Government, there remains the possibility of getting one from some one or more rich men, and this, I own, seems to me more likely. Indeed, it is a standing source of wonder to me that such a theatre has not been started already. It would be such a very much more interesting hobby than most of those on which millionaires seem to lavish their money at present. It is only the other day that the halfpenny papers were chronicling how one of these gentlemen had spent some thousands of pounds on turning part of a London hotel into a wig-wam (or was it a lake?) for the evening in order to give a dinner-party which should amuse his guests. What a very odd sense of humour he must have had! Other people spend fortunes on building racing yachts of absurd construction in order that they may sail across the Atlantic and race under conditions productive of the minimum of sport and the maximum of ill-feeling. The number of wealthy men who have ruined themselves and their friends over keeping racehorses is prodigious. People will finance air-ships and polar excursions and new religions. There is nothing too fatuous or too dull, apparently, for millionaires to spend their money on. The one thing to which it never occurs to them to open their purses is the drama. The only exception I can call to mind in recent times (save the King of Bavaria) is the late Marquess of Anglesey, and his theatrical ambition, unhappily, did not soar above playing principal boy in a pantomime in a diamond cuirass.
I confess I cannot understand it. For, considered merely as a game, the running of a repertory theatre in London (if you did not want to make money out of it) would be enthralling. There is a special and peculiar excitement about being present at the production of a play with which you are connected, whether as author or manager, or merely as ' backer” or “ patron,” which can hardly be exaggerated. The glamour of the enterprise, its extreme flukiness, the utter impossibility of telling, even from the final rehearsal, whether a play will succeed or fail with an audience give it a fascination not to be found in any other branch of sport. Indeed, to the ordinary “commercial ” manager the excitement is almost uncomfortably poignant, and a little resembles that of the Suicide Club. For him, burdened with his extravagant mounting and costumes and his oppressive rent and taxes, the failure even of a
single play may spell something like ruin. The patron of a repertory theatre is in a more enviable position. He has all the excitement of the commercial manager's venture, but only a fraction of his risk. For he does not want his play to
He is not staking his all on the chance of finding a piece that will attract 80,000 people in three months, and spending a preposterous amount of money on scenery and costumes in the vain hope of making it
All he wishes to do is to see whether a play which he believes to be good is worth including in his repertory. A quite inexpensive production will suffice to show him this, and if the play fails, no harm has been done. He has always his repertory to fall back upon, and one failure or even a dozen failures hardly affect him. To the ordinary manager two or three successive failures spell bankruptcy.
In a repertory theatre, therefore, entrenched behind its endow. ments, a man has all the excitement and the interest of ordinary theatrical speculation and none of the anguish. Why does nobody start one? If I were a capitalist I would do it myself to-morrow. Nay, more, if I ever wallow in gold as a result of my plays—which, I am bound to say, does not seem likely-I shall immediately do so. Not only do I believe that such a theatre would be really valuable to dramatic art in this country, but I am quite sure that I should get an enormous amount of amusement out of it. The mere fun of putting up the other fellows' plays and watching them fail would be delightful, and if they succeeded—as they might occasionallyit would be almost equally exhilarating. For it would show that in that particular instance one's judgment had been right, and there are few subtler tributes to human vanity than that. And how the dramatists would wrangle! Amantium viae. Let other successful playwrights buy motor-cars and houses in Portland Place; give me a repertory theatre to make merry with my friends. Millionaires may get their pleasure out of turning the Hotel Cecil into a lake; mine shall be got by turning a theatre into a bear garden.
Hitherto I have only spoken of the value of an endowed theatre to the drama and the dramatist, and have left the managers more or less out of account. But the managers stand to gain at least as much by its foundation, though to judge by their attitude towards the proposal the fact has hardly dawned on them yet. For the condition of the London theatre just at present is by no means a comfortable one, even for the managers, as they themselves frankly admit. A large number of them are losing money and losing it a great deal faster than they like. The only question is, why? "High rents, high rates, high salaries, the competition of the music-balls, the requirements of the County Council,” the managers answer, and all these things are against them, no doubt. But these are not the worst evils from which the London theatre is suffering to-day. That evil, I believe, is lack of brains. In Swift's terrible phrase, the theatre is “ dying from the top.” Clever men are not writing for it,
and clever men are not likely to write for it until the conditions are altered. Mr. Thomas Hardy has written a play lately—The Dynasts —but he has been careful to write it in four volumes and some fiveand-twenty acts in order to make it quite clear that it is not written for the theatre. The list of “ Court” playwrights included the name of more than one man of letters of ability, but then the Court management was run to some extent on endowed theatre lines, though, unhappily, it had no endowment. There is no place for such men in the ordinary commercial theatre. The danger of this utter brainlessness of the theatre of to-day is that educated people will stop going to it altogether from sheer boredom. They will not consent to spend money and endure fatigue in order to see the same old situations indifferently handled in the same old way by playwrights who quite obviously despise both their work and their audi
That is why it is so unwise of the managers not to support the idea of a national theatre, and that is why it is so unwise of them to support the censorship against the dramatists instead of supporting the dramatists against the censorship. For the censorship, by confining the subjects of plays within certain narrow conventional limits and forbidding dramatists to go outside those limits for newer themes and more unconventional treatment, prevents men of letters who take their art seriously from writing for the stage at all. The managerial policy should be to support everything which promotes interest in the drama or attracts new classes of playgoers to the theatre. The fools will go to the theatre in any circumstances. The problem is to attract the clever people. And though the plays which an endowed theatre would foster would not be the kind of plays which, at present at least, it would pay the ordinary manager to produce, they would undoubtedly create an interest in the theatre in a class which at present never darkens its doors. The Court management actually did this to some extent, though, unluckily, it did not last long enough to produce its full effect. And though these new playgoers would not at first be sufficiently numerous to be worth catering for in the ordinary theatre, their influence would gradually make itself felt even in that sphere. When this happened it might once more become possible to put up even quite intelligent plays at a West-end playhouse without the certainty of bankruptcy.
ST. JOHN HANKIN.
LONDON, Nov. 23rd, 1908. The last month has been dominated by the inevitable topic impossible to ignore and difficult to discuss with advantage. The psychology of the German Emperor is more than ever the despair of his people and a peril to the world. Through week after week international feeling has risen upon an ascending scale of unparalleled surprises, and even at the moment of writing it is not quite certain that the climax has been reached. In the Imperial interview which appeared with explosive suddenness in the Daily Telegraph on October 28th, that organ secured a journalistic sensation unmatched by itself in the half a century of its experience, and perhaps unequalled in the records of any newspaper. The broad results were that controversy raged from Tokio to Washington and from Cape Town to St. Petersburg; and that an immense agitation demanded a change in the constitutional organisation of the German Empire. Unfortunately this strange and lamentable incident has proved to be no personal and passing episode, and to understand it in its main bearings we must go back to the events preceding the Reichstag elections of last year. In the autumn of 1906 the relations of "Kaiser and People" reached a crisis.
Its permanent significance was pointed out in these pages. There had existed in Germany a profound despondency caused by the diplomatic situation, the morbid fear of isolation and the hereditary dread of what Bismarck used to call the cauchemar de coalitions. For the first time the dismissal of the Iron Chancellor seemed to the overwhelming majority of Germans an act of stupendous and almost incredible folly. The Iron Chancellor's attitude in the dark end of his career was recognised at last to have been no mere exhibition of superannuated egoism, but the result of a prophetic anxiety caused by profound knowledge of the Kaiser's character and a despairing conviction that the sequel of the new personal régime would be what we have seen, Caprivi's Chancellorship seemed at first to mean constitutional progress because of the more liberal spirit it was supposed to represent. In reality it meant constitutional reaction. For despotism itself may, of course, be liberal, just as democracy may be tyrannical. The old Emperor William I., though filled with a sense of religious responsibility for his office, acted upon the advice of his Ministers. He gave his con
fidence to the greatest representative of his people. In this way national unity was secured as well as it can be under any system; Bismarck's administration depended as much upon popular approval as upon Imperial support; the characteristic ends of representative government were fulfilled. With the Iron Chancellor's fall the political clock was put back, though the true nature of what had happened was for a long time concealed. A young Sovereign, inspired at once by burning nationalism and a sense of Divine Right, of attractive personality, of inexhaustible energy and apparently brilliant gifts, took the reins into his own hands. For a period all things seemed to superficial observation to prosper even better than before. The truth was that to a large extent the Kaiser appeared to reap a golden harvest from his own sowing, while in reality interest was still accumulating upon the capital amassed by the personalities and achievements which had gone before. German policy showed adventurous developments in every direction. . Its aggressive audacity disturbed the world. All manner of incompatible objects were simultaneously pursued. In disregard of Bismarck's sombre warnings, Russia was alienated by Oriental enterprises, though friendship with Russia had been regarded by the Iron Chancellor as the very basis of German political safety. Next, William II. devoted himself with extraordinary enthusiasm to German naval expansion. This while the existence of a deeprooted hostility to England had been revealed amongst his subjects. This after the Krüger telegram and other warnings had convinced the people of this country that, however warm and sincere might be the Kaiser's friendly assurances from time to time, it would not be safe to trust to the stability of his temperament. In similar circumstances no practical people careful of its vital interests could have come to a different view. England was driven to revise her arrangements. There occurred, first, the Japanese Alliance; secondly, the entente cordiale; thirdly, the Anglo-Russian understanding The results of the personal régime had ruined the Bismarckian system.
This was the state of things in the autumn of 1906, when Germany was saturated with pessimism. The Emperor chose that moment to make a speech in which he denounced all pessimists. This was too much. The tempest was unchained. A public agitation, unprecedented since the foundation of the new Empire, demanded that the personal régime should cease. So violent was the storm of rage and bitterness that for a moment it seemed as though the struggle for direct Parliamentary Government in Germany was definitely begun. At this point a diversion was created by an adroit maneuvre. The Catholic Centre, under the yoke of whose opportunist ascendency all other sections had groaned, but by