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The Stage Career of Cicely Hamilton (1895–1914)


Seán Moran

Drawing on recently released or previously neglected archive material, this book is the first dedicated to the stage career of Cicely Hamilton (1872–1952). Best known for her work with the women’s suffrage movement, Hamilton was at the same time deeply committed to the commercial stage as an actress, dramatist and activist. The book draws extensively on Hamilton’s own recollections as well as those of her close associates, supplemented by contemporary press reviews and articles, and concludes with a chronology of the productions in which she performed as a touring actress based on confirmed dates and venues.

This book «(…) is a fascinating and fantastic resource for current and future scholars of Hamilton’s work, as well as those interested in the wider framework of (…) the theatre industry of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.»

Dr. Naomi Paxton (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

«With its documentation and assessment of Hamilton's touring career, (…) this well written and meticulously researched study provides an original contribution to theatre, dramatic, and reception history.»

Prof. Dr. Rudolf Weiss (University of Vienna)

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Chapter One. Actresses and Critics


Chapter OneActresses and Critics

Most of the plays in which Cicely Hamilton worked for the first ten years were either revivals of popular works or West End hits touring the country or the suburbs of London. Only rarely does she appear to have acted in a genuinely original work like The Gamekeeper (1898) or Night Birds of London (1900). The ‘hand-me-down’ nature of this repertoire does have one benefit in that initial success attracted critical attention to which we can now turn in order to assess how critics received these plays when first performed and before they went on tour. Reviews of the time are a vital element in this book for this reason – they permit contemporary voices to be heard, and any views expressed therein have the virtue of being contemporary to the source material and therefore free of modern preconceptions or ‘baggage’. Having said this, however, Leonard Merrick’s novel The Condition of Peggy Harper (1911) serves as a reminder that provincial theatre critics may have had little experience of their task or written in the knowledge that they were reviewing plays under a certain degree of pressure. Although Merrick’s work is fiction, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero writes in the 1918 edition (from which all quotations are taken) that he had witnessed “enough of the seamy side of the stage” in his early days as an actor to allow him to vouch for the general credibility of the novel (vi). There is, therefore, no reason to doubt...

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