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

§ 20. Charles Klein

The American drama now began to show a greater sensitiveness to the social forces of the times. Herne’s realism was not one of social condition, but expressed itself in human psychology. Charles Klein, however, tried to give newspaper crispness to business condition, which Bronson Howard had suggested in The Henrietta. In fact, the Dean of American Drama once said that in order to see how far American taste had advanced since his day, one had only to contrast the moral attitude of the heroine in Rachel Crothers’s The Three of Us (Madison Square Theatre, 17 October, 1906) and the social fervour of the heroine in Klein’s The Lion and the Mouse (20 November, 1905) with any of his own plays. The fact is that Charles Klein (1867–1915), from the moment he stopped writing librettos like El Capitan, had a strongly developed reportorial sense which was more theatrical than profound. None of his plays could bear close logical analysis; all of his plays had situations that were “actor-proof” and sure to get across on the emotional force of the moment. But his social and economic knowledge was incomplete. One feels this in contrasting his Daughters of Men (19 November, 1906) with George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses. The fact is, Klein had no political vision, though none of his contemporaries could be more earnest in the handling of social materials. The Third Degree (1 February, 1909), The Gamblers (31 October, 1910), Maggie Pepper (31 August, 1911), are obviously built for effect; they have no organic growth. The truth is, Klein’s solutions for the ills-of-America condition were all sentimental. He was much nearer his natural psychology in writing The Music Master (26 September, 1904) than in determining the outcome of social and economic problems.