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Mrs. Gardiner. A Comedy in One Act (1888): A Play by George Moore Brendan Fleming Headington, England ON 12 APRIL 1888 a one act play by George Moore, The Honeymoon in Eclipse, was staged at St. George's Hall by The Strolling Players , an amateur theatrical group.1 Little has been known of this work: it was never published; no copy of the script was thought to exist; and, its title—The Honeymoon in Eclipse—is only known because it was mentioned in a contemporary review.2 For these reasons, mention of this early work has hitherto been restricted to the briefest of references: a summary of the play's plot in a somewhat critical contemporary review; a letter by Moore in response defending the production; and a letter from George Hockley, one of the cast.3 Given such limitations the place of the play within Moore's canon has never been properly assessed. However, the recent discovery of a typescript of the play, under the title Mrs. Gardiner. A Comedy in One Act,4 offers a unique opportunity to reassess this work written during a crucial phase of Moore's literary development . In particular, it provides an invaluable opportunity to examine his technique and development as a playwright and his involvement with the transposition of André Antoine's Theatre Libre from France to England. Insofar as Moore's involvement with the Theatre Libre prepared for his contribution to the Independent Theatre, this play fills a gap in Moore's development as a playwright during this period.5 Perhaps, most significantly, the source on which Mrs. Gardiner is based has been uncovered to be a short story, not by Mrs. Godfrey as previously believed, but by the Irish novelist, Mrs. Hungerford. Moore's engagement with the work of Mrs. Hungerford, a connection hitherto unknown, merits further examination, especially in the context of his novel A Drama in Muslin (1886). The example of Mrs. Hungerford, an Irish woman novelist who remained in Ireland but was successful in 259 ELT 48: 3 2005 Britain, offers a suggestive counterpoint to the figure of Alice Barton, Moore's fictional representation of the possibilities open to an Irish woman writer who chooses exile. The staging of this play in April 1888 occurred at a crucial point in Moore's career. The first English edition οι Confessions of a Young Man had just been published in March 1888 and the French serialisation of the book had begun. It was this serialisation that was to precipitate Moore's break from Zola. Between April and May 1888, Moore's novel Spring Days was being serialised in the Evening News which is where Moore's articles on the state of contemporary drama were published prior to the staging of Mrs. Gardiner. Writing in late 1887, George Moore assembled a series of articles in which he critiqued the state of contemporary English theatre. These are important as they can be read as preparatory to the appearance of The Honeymoon in Eclipse four months later. (Both the articles and the fullest discussion of the play were all published in the Evening News. ) In the final article Moore concluded: "English dramatic art is in a last stage of decadence. It is rotten at the root, and it must fall of its own rottenness and a primitive art grow up in its place, before literature is again heard in a London theatre. We must, therefore, look up, not down, for regeneration . .. .We must turn, therefore, rather to the music-hall for regeneration ."6 This was an argument for the regeneration of English theatre through music-hall which he had outlined some years previously in the pages of The Bat.1 Indeed, Moore's advocacy on behalf of the vitality of the music-hall determined his choice of venue for the first production of Mrs. Gardiner: "if the law forbidding stage plays in music-halls were rescinded , I would write for a music-hall in preference to a theatre audience . Music-halls being barred my choice would fall on German Reed's."8 German Reed's Entertainment was "a new style of performance" pioneered by Thomas German Reed and his wife Priscilla which "was to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 259-267
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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