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and an admirably devised system of pensions is enforced without making deductions from salaries. The price of seats is fixed at a low rate, the highest price being 4s., the cheapest and most numerous seats costing 10d. each. Both financially and artistically the result has been all that one could wish. There is no public subsidy, but the Emperor pays £500 a year for a box. The house holds 1800 persons, yielding gross receipts of £200 for a nightly expenditure of £125. There are no advertising expenses, no posters. The newspapers give notice of the daily programme as an attractive item of news.
There is some disinclination among Englishmen deliberately to adopt foreign methods, to follow foreign examples, in any walk of life. But no person of common sense will reject a method merely because it is foreign, if it can be proved to be of utility. It is spurious patriotism to reject wise counsel because it is no native product. On the other hand, it is seriously to asperse the culture and intelligence of the British nation to assume that no appreciable section of it cherishes that taste for the literary drama which keeps the national or municipal theatre alive in France and Germany. At any rate, judgment should be held in suspense until the British playgoers' mettle has been more thoroughly tested than hitherto.
No less humiliating is the argument that the art of acting in this country is at too low an ebb to justify the assumption by a public body of responsibility for theatrical enterprise. One or two critics assert
THE TRAINING OF ACTORS
that to involve public credit in a theatre, until there exist an efficient school of acting, is to put the cart before the horse. This objection seems insubstantial. Competent actors are not altogether absent from the English stage, and the municipal system of theatrical enterprise is calculated to increase their number rapidly.
Abroad, the subsidised theatres, with their just schemes of salary, their permanent engagements, their well-devised pension systems, attract the best class of the profession. A competent company of actors, which enjoys a permanent home and is governed by high standards of art, forms the best possible school of acting, not merely by force of example, but by the private tuition which it could readily provide. In Vienna the companies at the subsidised theatres are recruited from the pupils of a State-endowed conservatoire of actors. It is improbable that the British Government will found a like institution. But it would be easy to attach a college of acting to the municipal theatre, and to make the college pay its way.
Much depends on the choice of manager of the enterprise. The manager of a municipal theatre must combine with business aptitude a genuine
a devotion to dramatic art and dramatic literature. Without a fit manager, who can collect and control a competent company of actors, the scheme of the municipal theatre is doomed to failure. Managers of the requisite temper, knowledge, and ability are not lacking in France or Germany. There is no reason to anticipate that, when the call is sounded, the right response will not be given here.
Cannot an experiment be made in London on the lines of the Vienna Volks-Theater? In the first place, it is needful to bring together a body of citizens who, under leadership which commands public confidence, will undertake to build and control for a certain term of years a theatre of suitable design in the interests of dramatic art, on conditions similar to those that have worked with success in Berlin, Paris, and notably Vienna. Then the London County Council after the professions it has made, might be reasonably expected to undertake so much responsibility for the proper conduct of the new playhouse as would be implied by its provision of a site. If the experiment failed, no one would be much the worse; if it succeeded, as it ought to succeed, the nation would gain in repute for intelligence, culture, and enlightened patriotism; it would rid itself of the reproach that it pays smaller and less intelligent regard to Shakespeare and the literary drama than France, Germany, Austria, or Italy.
Phelps's single-handed effort brought the people of London for eighteen years face to face with the great English drama at his playhouse at Sadler's Wells. “I made that enterprise pay,” he said, after he retired; "not making a fortune certainly, but bringing up a large family and paying my way.” Private troubles and illness compelled him suddenly to abandon the enterprise at the end of eighteen years, when there happened to be none at hand to take his place of leader. All that was wanting to make his enterprise permanent, he declared, was some public control, some public acknowledgment of responsibility which, without impeding the efficient manager's freedom of action, would cause his post to be properly filled in case of an accidental vacancy.
PHELPS ON PUBLIC CONTROL
Phelps thought that if he could do so much during eighteen years by his personal, isolated, and independent endeavour, much more could be done in
permanence under some public method of safeguard and guarantee. Phelps's services to the literary drama can hardly be over-estimated. His mature judgment is not to be lightly gainsaid. It is just to his memory to put his faith to a practical test.
ASPECTS OF SHAKESPEARE'S
A FRENCH critic once remarked that a whole system of philosophy could be deduced from Shakespeare's pages, though from all the works of the philosophers one could not draw a page of Shakespeare. The second statement—the denial of the presence of a page of Shakespeare in the works of all the philosophers—is more accurate than the assertion that a system of philosophy could be deduced from the plays of Shakespeare. It is hopeless to deduce any precise system of philosophy from Shakespeare's plays. Literally, philosophy means nothing more recondite than love of wisdom. Technically, it means scientifically restrained speculation about the causes of human thought and conduct; it embraces the sciences of logic, of ethics, of politics, of psychology, of metaphysics. Shakespeare's training and temper unfitted him to make any professed contribution to any of these topics.
Ignorant persons argue on hazy grounds that the great avowed philosopher of Shakespeare's day,
1 This paper, which was originally prepared in 1899 for the purposes of a popular lecture, is here printed for the first time.