Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 10. Bronson Howard

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVIII. The Drama, 1860–1918

§ 10. Bronson Howard

Bronson Howard (1842–1908) came to the theatre with a full journalistic career behind him. He had the serious mind of a student, the keen, polished culture of a man of the world. To play-writing he brought a convention typical of the day and a constructive ability which made him always an excellent workman but which often prompted him to sacrifice thoughtfulness for stage effectiveness and solid characterization for effervescent sprightliness. His style, so well contrasted in Saratoga (21 December, 1870), The Banker’s Daughter (30 September, 1878), The Young Mrs. Winthrop (9 October, 1882), and The Henrietta (26 September, 1887), is limited by all the reticence, the lack of frankness which the seventies and eighties courted. In other words, he went on the supposition that so long as one was French one could be broad, but that Americans would never stand for too much latitude of morals from American characters. But, as a pioneer in the field of the drama of contemporary manners, Howard’s plays are interesting and significant. His treatment of capital and labour, as shown in Baron Rudolph (25 October, 1887), his reflection of business stress, in The Henrietta,—these were, in their day, novel departures. But his plays were none of them organically close knit. It was easy to make Saratoga ready for consumption in London theatres by calling it Brighton. In 1886 Howard delivered a lecture before the students of Harvard University, illustrating the general laws of drama, and outlining the conventional traditions against which he worked. He was never able to escape them. Shenandoah (9 September, 1889) was more national than most of his work. To its preparation he brought that scholarly orderliness of mind which characterized the man in conversation.