This article was originally
published in Representative One-Act Plays by British and Irish
Authors. Ed. Barrett H. Clark. Boston: Little, Brown, and
Co., 1921. pp. 3-4.
ARTHUR WING PINERO was born at London in 1855. Trained at first for the law, he remained in his father's law office until he was nineteen, when he became an actor with Mr. and Mrs. Wyndham, playing minor rôles for a year in Edinburgh. His next venture was in Liverpool. In 1876 he came to London and played at the Globe Theater. He then entered Irving's company and remained at the Lyceum for five years. During this time the young actor had been writing plays, the first of which, "£200 a Year," was produced at the Globe in 1877. Daisy's Escape and Bygones were produced a short time after at the Lyceum. The success of Daisy's Escape and the conviction that he was not destined to become a great actor induced him, according to one of his biographers, to abandon acting and devote himself entirely to the writing of plays.
The Squire (1881) is the first of Pinero's plays that showed promise. The following year William Archer wrote of Pinero as "a thoughtful and conscientous writer with artistic aims, if not yet with full command of his artistic means." The "artistic means" rapidly developed, for in the farces Dandy Dick, The Schoolmistress, and The Magistrate the dramatist revealed extraordinary skill and a natural bent for comedy. Sweet Lavender and The Profligate, plays of a more serious character, followed in the late 1880s. The Second Mrs. Tanqueray was acclaimed in 1893 as the finest English play of the time. It is indubitably one of the most effective plays of that generation.
Pinero has often been criticized as formal, old-fashioned, conventional; the criticism is in some respects not unwarranted, though the spirit in which it is made is rather an indication of a desire to applaud other dramatists who departed from Pinero's methods than properly to judge his achievements.