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338 LETTERS IN CANADA 1995 sible for these writers to reflect their own taste in their writings is less clear (especially since nobody is required to believe them unless experience verifies the verdict). That each segment of the theatre would be anxious to claim special validity and privilege for itself would not come as much of a surprise to anybody. That people outside that particular segmentwould be required to agree is another matter. Perhaps the most substantial problem in the argument about privilege is the tendency to generalize about the subject at hand. This seems to come from the current assertion that excellence of performance is itself a subversive concept. There is, then, no need to demonstrate that 'actors' are Jcreators' who Jintroduceinto thework anauthentic5ubject, another author.' Is there a reader of the material at hand who has not seen a performance on a stage so brutalized by the self-satisfied incompetence of some or all of the actors involved that he might doubt the infallibility of 'actors'? That all actors should be given the licence to be 'creators' because David Garrick performed that function with brilliance can hardly be taken as an apriori truth. What puzzles me here is that little recognition is given to the vagueness ofthe answer because the question is so insubstantial. The fact that various participants inthe 'theatre' are shownto be concerned because they are less successful or 'privileged' than they think they shouldbe does not automatically mean that the rest of humanity is required to summon up the same degree of concern. The special pleading of various writers who apparently believe that their route to privilege for themselves is to acrueve through their indignation a reduced privilege for somebody else is neither very convincing nor very admirable. I repeat that Sidnell has drawn material together in an interesting and useful way. I have attempted to challenge some of the theorizing that has been brought in to play to tmderstand that material. I wish only to encourage its readers to involve themselves with the material with a clear awareness of what is being proven, and an equally clearperception ofwhat would constitute proof. (DOUGLAS H. WHITE) Peter Sabor, editor; Stewart J. Cooke, associate editor; Geoffrey M. Sill, contributing editor. The Complete Plays ofFrances Burney McGill-Queen's University Press. Volume 1: Comedies. xlviii, 399; Volume 2: Tragedies. vi, 329. $150.00 On 5 January 1895, a well-known novelist's attempt to increase his literary earnings by becoming a successful dramatist collapsed when Henry James was booed by the gallery on the first night of his costume drama Guy Domville. A century earlier, Frances Burney had suffered a like reverse when her Edwy and Eigiva was withdrawn after a single disastrous presentation at Drury Lane on 21 March 1795. J.P. Kemble as the eminently HUMANITIES 339 urunemorable Anglo-Saxon king and Mrs Siddons as his tragic bride had givenoftheirbest, but the lesser actors were 'sadly imperfect' in their parts, and the under-rehearsed performance fell far short of adequate. But the play itself was faulty, as Mrs Siddons knew; the audience, she later remarked, 'was quite Angelic and only laughed where it was impossible to avoid it.' Burney, mortified, abandoned for the time being her hopes of substantial income from the theatre, and swiftly completed her third noveL the highly profitable Camilla (1796). Burney had begun writing plays fifteen years before that ill-fated premiere; her first comedy, The Witlings, was composed when the success of her epistolary novel Evelina (1778) had brought her into Mrs Thrale's circle at Streatham. Her father, the son of an Irish actor, dedicated to raising his family above its theatricalorigins, persuaded her to suppress it. Frances sighed as a writer, but she obeyed as a daughter, and published instead her second novel, Cecilia (1782), an even greater success than its predecessor. In 1788, a Keeper of the Robes in the Queen's Household, oppressed by loneliness and the growing shadow ofthe king's insanity, Burney began to draft tragedies set in early medieval England. Three of these were completed in the 1790S: Edwy and Elgiva, Hubert de Vere, and The Siege of Pevensey; a fourth, Elberta, remained in...


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