Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: In Mizzoura

Augustus Thomas
Representative Plays by
American Dramatists: 1856-1911:
In Mizzoura

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Representative Plays by American
Dramatists: 1856-1911: In Mizzoura, by Augustus Thomas
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at
Title: Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: In
Author: Augustus Thomas
Release Date: July 22, 2004 [EBook #12988]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by David Starner, Leah Moser and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.


[Illustration: AUGUSTUS THOMAS]

(Born, St. Louis, Mo., January 8, 1859)
It is not a new thing for a dramatic author to write prefaces to his plays.
We are fortunate in possessing a series of personal opinions in this
form that constitute a valuable asset in determining individual attitude
and technical purpose. Read Schiller's opening remarks to "The
Robbers," Victor Hugo's famous opinions affixed to "Cromwell" and
his equally enlightening comments introducing "Hernani," and you can
judge the value autobiographically and philosophically.
The American dramatist has not been given, as a general rule, to such
self-examination; he has contented himself with supplying the fashions
of the day in the theatre, and has left to the ubiquitous press-agent the
special prerogative of whetting public curiosity as to what manner of
man he is and as to the fabric from which his play has been cut. There
has been no effort, thus far, on the part of literary executors, in the
cases, for example, of Bronson Howard or James A. Herne, to preserve
the correspondence of these men, so much of which dealt with the
circumstances surrounding them while writing or the conditions
affecting them while rehearsing. These data would be invaluable in
preserving a perspective which the modern historian of the American
theatre so wofully lacks.
All the more significant, therefore, is the edition of Mr. Augustus
Thomas's works, now being issued by Messrs. Samuel French. Thus far
the "autobiographies" of six plays have been prepared by the dramatist
in a charming, reminiscent vein. The present Editor is privileged to
make use of one, describing the evolution of "In Mizzoura," and this
inclusion removes from him the necessity of commenting too lengthily
on that play, for fear of creating an anti-climax.
Read consecutively, the prefaces suggest Mr. Thomas's mental
equipment, his charm and distinction of personality, the variety of his
experiences which have given him a man's observation of people and of
things. The personalia are dropped in casually, here and there, not so
much for the purpose of specific biography, as to illustrate the
incentives which shaped his thought and enriched his invention as a

playwright. His purpose in writing these forewords is just a little
didactic; he addresses the novice who may be befuddled after reading
various "Techniques of the Drama," and who looks to the established
and successful dramatist for the secrets of his workshop. These prefaces
reveal Thomas as working more with chips than with whole planks
from a virgin forest. He confesses as much, when he talks of "Mrs.
Leffingwell's Boots." It was "salvage," he writes, "it was the marketing
of odds and ends and remnants, utterly useless for any other purpose."
Yet, with the technical dexterity, which is Mr. Thomas's strongest point,
he pieced a bright comedy picture together--a very popular one, too. In
the course of his remarks, he says, "When I had the art department on
the old St. Louis Republican--" "There is an avenue of that name
[Leffingwell] in St. Louis, near a hill where I used to report railroad
strikes." Similar enlightening facts dot the preface to "In Mizzoura,"
suggesting his varied employment in the express and railroad business.
Thus, with personal odds and ends, we can build a picture of Thomas
before he started on his regular employment as a playwright, in 1884,
with "Editha's Burglar", in conjunction with Mrs. Frances Hodgson
There is an autobiographical comment published, written presumably at
the request of the late Hamilton Wright Mabie, which is not only worth
preserving as a matter of record, but as measuring a certain facility in
anecdote and felicity of manner which have always made Thomas a
welcome chairman of gatherings and a polished after-dinner speaker.
"After Farragut ran the New Orleans blockade," he states, "my father
took direction of the St. Charles Theatre, New Orleans, then owned by
Ben De Bar. When he returned to St. Louis, in 1865, I was in my
seventh year, and my earliest recollections are tinged with his stories of
Matilda Herron, John Wilkes Booth, and others
Continue reading on your phone by scaning this QR Code

 / 30
Tip: The current page has been bookmarked automatically. If you wish to continue reading later, just open the Dertz Homepage, and click on the 'continue reading' link at the bottom of the page.