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ST. JOHN HANKIN (1860-1909)

The following biography was originally published in The British and American Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. pp. 107-8.

St. John Emile Clavering Hankin was born in 1860 at Southampton. His early education was received in his native city, but he later attended Malvern College, and then Merton College at Oxford. After his graduation in 1890, he went to London, and entered the field of journalism. Four years later, he went to Calcutta, there pursuing his journalistic career. The following year he returned and began writing for The Times and Punch. In 1909, as a result of his neurasthenic condition, and in a fit of depression, he drowned himself.

Hankin is among the number of [turn-of-the-century] English dramatists whose aim it was to give to the stage plays of charm and individuality and containing a valuable comment on life. He allied himself with the pioneers of the Court Theater and the Stage Society, where innovations and attempts to break loose from the conventionalities of the day were freely accepted. Probably because of his premature death in 1909, Hankin has been a little too highly praised. John Drinkwater (in his introduction to the Dramatic Works) says: "St. John Hankin lived and wrote at the beginning of a new movement, and his permanent distinction in drama will be rather that of right and endeavor and the recapture of just instincts than of full-bodied achievement ... that he was one of the few who first sought to bring back sincerity and a fit dignity of form to the great art is a distinction of which he will not easily be deprived." Hankin was more a symptom than a finished product; yet his efforts to produce life in an artistic and pleasing framework, and his quaint wit, entitle him to a place among the less important members of the advance guard.