Gilbert's Letter to The Times of 22 April 1880
Issue 29862, pg. 10 col E


Dramatic Options


Sir,--Has it occurred to Mr. Samuel that some of the English dramatic authors he has named might decline to collaborate with a French author, whose first consideration on sitting down to compose a plot is "In what new light, or under what new combination of circumstances, can I present my adultress," and who, if this element of interest were withheld from him, would be utterly at a loss to discover materials for a satisfactory one-act farce?

I think Mr. Samuel is unfairly severe on London managers. A manager does not take a theatre in order to encourage English dramatists, he takes it in order to make a fortune out of it; and no one can blame him if he adopts the readiest and safest means to that end. The manager who deals with the English author of an original play has, at best, but a manuscript to judge from, and managers are, as a rule, very poor judges of plays in manuscript. In dealing with the author of a French play which has already been produced, he has an opportunity of seeing the play "in the flesh." As the piece passes before his eyes he can tell exactly what modifications are necessary to adapt it to the taste of an English audience; he sees which scenes drag and which scenes are "risky;" and he can tell at a glance whether the piece will or will not suit his audience and his company. It is absurd, however, to argue from this state of things that no original English plays are to be had. Ninon, by Mr. Wills; Forget-Me-Not, by Messrs. Grove and Merivale; the Old Love and the New, by Messrs. Bronson Howard and Albery, are all original, and have all been successful.

Your obedient servant,

24, The Boltons, April 21.

W.S. GILBERT

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