Two Plays by Charles Rann Kennedy
IN discussing drama that is put into book form for library enjoyment, and literature that is created with the stage in view, the critic of books is somewhat at a disadvantage. The great plays that form an essential and almost a fundamental part of our literature unquestionably are more impressive on the stage than in the study, and their authors unquestionably wrote them with the stage, and not the study, in mind, as their proper setting. A critic, therefore, is bound by common sense to regard a drama as literature of a certain special kind, as much addressed to the eye as a painter’s picture, and as much addressed to the ear as the score of an opera. When a drama succeeds in appealing to both sight and hearing without sacrificing its importance for the reflective mind, we must recognize in it a work of true dramatic art.
The two dramas recently written by Charles Rann Kennedy, The Servant in the House and The Winter Feast, come clearly within this definition, and manage also to convey a moral message without sacrificing to this the other interests. Briefly, they are constructed as integral products of a morality, an intelligence, and an artistic perception that play into each other with unusual flexibility. In the first of the dramas to be produced, — I believe it was the second in actual order of writing, — there is an extraordinary amount of concentrated moral teaching, made palatable to the general audience (who are not, indeed, inclined to find a moral lesson as unpalatable as the more specialized audiences find it) by the rapid movement of the interest, the interspersal of deep sentiment with lively humor, and the familiarity of the human types represented ; also by the supreme authority of the dominating figure in the play. To the casual observer this dominating figure seems to represent the moral element more or less detached, at least embodied in a separate entity, as in the Scriptures the figure of Christ is seen to move, act, and live as an individual personality; a close consideration of the drama shows, however, that he is not so much the symbol of a detached morality as the burningglass by which the existing morality in human beings is drawn to an effective concentration.
The outline of the plot is almost classically simple. An oriental servant arrives in the household of a vicar, where troubled conditions reveal themselves. These conditions are neither mysterious nor difficult to understand. The drains of the church and of the vicarage are wrong, and the Vicar’s congregation in consequence is falling off. He is unable to obtain money to repair the church building, and his spirits are much depressed. It is presently made clear that his social position is somewhat exceptional. He began life as a workingman’s son and was given an education through the efforts of his two brothers, one of whom later went to India and became a bishop there, while the other remained in England and followed his trade as a mender of drains and sewers. The latter (his own wife being dead) has given his little girl to his brother, the Vicar, to educate and care for. At the opening of the drama the Vicar, who has heard nothing of his two brothers for many years, receives word from each that he will visit the vicarage that day. The brother of the Vicar’s wife, the hypocritical and scheming Bishop of Lancashire, also arrives to complicate a situation already complicated by the dislike of the Vicar’s wife for the workingman whose daughter she has had kept in ignorance of her parentage. The child, Mary, and Rogers, a page, complete the number of characters represented.
The foci of the moral situation are the reciprocal relation of the child and her father, and the relation of the Vicar to his sacred responsibilities as a follower of Christ. The problems are these, stated in their crudest form: Shall the child be enlightened as to her father’s person and occupation ? shall the Vicar continue to deny his brother by act, if not by word ? shall the church receive financial relief through the ungodly practices suggested by the Bishop of Lancashire? Or, further condensed into one broad statement: Shall the world and the devil prevail against the religion of Christ ?
From these elements it would be quite possible to construct a play as melodramatic in its spiritual effects as the dramas of fire and flood still popular with the people. The impact of a classic taste upon modern material has driven The Servant in the House, on the contrary, along paths of marked restraint and seriousness. The impression made by its workmanship upon any mind familiar with various forms of art must be analogous to the impression made by certain early Renaissance paintings in which the austerity of the past has not fully relaxed its hold, but is reproduced under a glowing general tone, learned in the practice of new methods.
There is a diffused radiance of goodness in the play which is at once its greatest moral attribute and its most important technical achievement, and this radiance is at its utmost intensity in the person of Manson, the Eastern servant, whose influence is exercised upon all the others. From the beginning one feels in every character this potential moral force, with the single exception of the Bishop of Lancashire, who serves very well as a modern version of his Satanic Majesty. Using symbol for the most part with vitality of effect, there are moments when, his audience obviously in his mind, the author betrays a tendency toward its excessive use. No doubt the natural impulse of the dramatist who writes consciously for the requirements of the stage is to insure the holding of attention in all parts of the house, and this necessitates a certain amount of emphasis that might very well be lessened were only those nearest the footlights taken into consideration. In the same way he perhaps insists upon an amount of enlightening symbol for the benefit of a more or less withdrawn mental vision that otherwise might miss his points, and this would be unnecessary with one keen to note the finer shades of expression.
A considerable number of Mr. Kennedy’s readers — perhaps fewer of those who constitute his audience in the theatre — do not require Manson’s flowing Eastern robes or his scriptural allusions to recognize in him the embodiment of the Christian spirit, or, to put it plainly, the Christ with us. To the few in the front seats, Manson would, metaphorically speaking, appear even a more impressive figure than he is, if divested of the slight but insistent claims upon recognition that give to his character an historical importance which seems superficially to compete with its moral importance, thus slightly confusing what we may call the values of the dramatic picture. This probably is particularly obvious to a contemporary who finds it difficult entirely to separate the text of the drama from the first impersonation on the stage, an impersonation of the utmost dignity and sweetness, but one that through accidents of resemblance brings out with especial clearness the likeness of Manson to the Christ of history and art. There is an almost mocking recognition of this resemblance as a necessity in the early dialogue between the Servant and Rogers.
Rogers. What d’ you wear them togs for? This ain’t India.
Manson. People don’t always recognize me in anything else.
Rogers. Ga’rn, Mr. Manson, that’s a bit orf! Clothes don’t make all that difference, come now!
Manson. They are the only things the people of this world see.
The important point is the real resemblance in the effect of the central figure upon his environment to the effect of the Christian religion upon those who came close to its founder. Without any of the expedients common to the uninspired proselytizer, Manson draws out in the people of the household he has entered a self-questioning habit. Under his influence, indirectly exercised, they interrogate right and wrong, and their attitude toward their fellows. Their minds are lifted unconsciously to a higher level, and they begin to consider the proportionate place of permanent standards and ideals in the world. Especially they begin to look with the eyes of sympathy upon the souls of men, and to recognize strivings toward spiritual betterment that formerly had been concealed beneath prejudices and dislikes.
To create a character recognizable by its effect upon other characters requires a remarkably certain and delicate insight into human nature. Mr. Kennedy’s Manson, rising as he does above the moral level of his surroundings, without worldly ambitions or emotions, would easily be confused with those vast images of stone and wood that suggest only idolatrous worship, did he not possess the power of acting through others. It is of the essence of his life that it should be vicarious, that his spirit should join with that of all mankind to purify and energize it, and this is made manifest in the action of the play without the awkward machinery of explanation. Much of his talk is question, and his hearers by their responses are revealed to themselves. It is the art of Socrates, and as difficult to use successfully as in the days of Athenian scholarship. In the case of Manson it is maintained consistently until it is abandoned for the plain speaking of the fourth act — an act which, in its interior drama, resembles that of the cleansing of the Temple in the Biblical narrative.
The action throughout takes place in the region of the conscience and the mind, and in a singularly pure atmosphere of sincere and passionate, yet gentle feeling. The plot is without the conventional “love” interest, yet two kinds of love — that of a child and father, and that of a wife and husband — are analyzed with amazing penetration. The workingman who has given up his child enters her presence after his interview with Manson, with his heart stirred to a sense of that self-sacrifice which almost inevitably is a part of the paternal relation. Mary, ignorant of his identity, enters into talk with him concerning his lost child and her own father that becomes poignantly significant to the initiated hearer. Presently the child asks concerning his daughter, “Where is she now?” and the following dialogue takes place: —
Robert. Never you mind. She’s bein’ looked arfter.
Mary. By whom?
Robert. By people as I’ve allus hated like poison!
Mary. Why, are n’t they kind to her ?
Robert. Yus: they’ve made ’er summat as I could n’t ’a’ done.
Mary. Then why do you hate them ?
Robert. I don’t any longer. I ’ates myself, I ’ates the world I live in, I ’ates the bloomin’ muck ’ole I’ve landed into!
This is a characteristic passage. Throughout the play we continually note such gradual transference of hatred from individuals to conditions, the gradual shifting of the responsibility for conditions from the shoulders of others to the shoulders of the individual who has been ready to blame them. It is a temper of mind that is emphasized tenfold in the later scene between Mary and the Vicar, when the latter assumes the responsibility for his brother’s downfall, and it is a mark of the elevation of the author’s conception that we become interested in this struggle between the lower and the higher nature, not because of our interest in the individual strugglers, but as a symbol of the eternal conflict of the forces of good and evil working through mankind. Our personal sympathies are awakened for the father robbed of his child, for the child robbed of her father, and for the Vicar tossed hither and yon by the storm in his soul; but we are stirred to a depth beyond the reaches of personal sympathy by the appeal to the spirit of righteousness within us, by the response of that spirit to the command of the moral law.
The interweaving of this ancient religion of brotherhood and fatherhood with the simple and warm sentiment that is aroused in every natural human heart by the thought of such relationships, is performed not merely deftly, but with a kind of inspired delicacy. Whether we have been bad sons or good sons, cruel brothers or kind, there is the immemorial quickening of the breath and surging of the blood in the veins at the vision of a father despised or a brother denied; and to this feeling, incorporated with our life from the beginning, all the external incidents of the plot are addressed. Nothing could be more touching or more true to the idealism of an imaginative child than Mary’s effort to build a picture of her father that shall satisfy her instinct of heroworship. Nor could anything be more moving than the dawn of the consciousness in the father’s mind of his inferiority to that idea, and of the dread of his child’s awakening to the fact of his relation to her.
These, however, are comparatively superficial emotions; the deep reality of the emotional situation lies in the meeting of all these diverse minds and temperaments on the ground of sane renunciation. The strained and forced renunciation of the ascetic and mystic has no part in the drama. Nothing is asked of these soundbodied human beings but the free giving up of their acquired habits in favor of a sturdier morality. Their fears and prejudices, their angers and revolts, are banished by the simple and commonly unpopular religion of work; and they are led to choose their own paths. In the worship of his “ job,” his “ lovely bit of work,” the Drain Man forgets that it means horror and possibly death. He has discovered that the church is built upon a vault in which the dead are buried, and that this is the source of the Vicar’s troubles, and he offers himself as the man to set things right. The strength of his inheritance from the laboring class, and the genuine though hitherto slumbering force of his character, impel the Vicar to join with his brother and renounce his life of words and doctrines for the labor that lies at hand. The subtlest passage in the drama is introduced at this point with great simplicity. The Vicar is striving to persuade his brother not to undertake the dreadful task. Martha, his wife, is listening to their combat of arguments and protestations. She has been the idolatrous wife whose love for and absorption in her husband’s physical and worldly comfort have choked the higher aspirations of his nature and kept him in bondage to her love. In one violent moment of plain speaking the Vicar has thus defined her class: —
“ What else but idolatry is this precious husband-worship you have set up in your heart — you and all the women of your kind ? You barter away your own souls in the service of it, you build up your idols in the fashion of your own respectable desires. You struggle silently amongst yourselves, one against another, to push your own god foremost in the miserable little pantheon of prigs and hypocrites you have created.”
In this character she has fought against the acknowledgment of the brother who has fallen to the lowest social level, against the keeping of the church pure from the schemes of the worldly bishop, and against all hindrances to her husband’s material advancement. But in her mind also the leaven of Christian humility has been working, and when her husband is vainly endeavoring to take from Robert the glory of his dedication to the “job” he knows how to perform, it is she who exclaims, “There is yet one other way!” Pricked by the spur of this suggestion, the Vicar completes his emancipation from the very fetters she has fastened upon him. With characteristic violence, and unable even at this moment to do his own deed without recourse to the eloquence in which he has been trained, he cries to his brother, —
“Then by God and all the powers of grace you shall not go alone! Off with these lies and make-believes! Off with these prisoner’s shackles! They cramp, they stifle me! Freedom! Freedom! This is no priest’s work — it calls for a man.”
And upon these furious utterances fall the quiet words of his wife: —
“God’s might go with you, William! Accept him, Christ.”
Thus at the end the most stubborn nature in the group is the one to yield most.
The energy of the drama lies in these close readings of heart and mind as much as in the emphatic phraseology and the artfully constructed rise of the plot from lower to higher levels of interest; the fact that it is impossible to describe it as a whole or in part without a loss of its dignity and pathos is sufficient proof of its real subtlety of workmanship under its appearance of rapid ease and spontaneity.
In The Winter Feast we enter at once a different atmosphere. The scene is cast in the eleventh century, some twenty-five years or more after the discovery of America by the Norsemen. The names of the characters, Thorkel, Biorn, Olaf, and the rest, are those of history and saga, but the plot is imaginary. It is simpler in its main lines than even that of The Servant in the House, but there is a perpetual byplay of allusions, a twisting of motives, a complication of misunderstandings that play about the fundamental structure of the plot as the angled and twining ornament of a Gothic cathedral plays about the pillars and arches. To suggest the idea of ornament may, however, be more or less misleading, so clear and rapid and unadorned is the language of the play, and so strictly are the classic unities preserved. Again, the drama is one of moral significance. The quotation that stands as its corner-stone is this: —
“The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place, and your covenant with death shall be disannulled and your agreement with hell shall not stand.”
The interplay of character and destiny is woven about a lie which brings catastrophe in its wake, with the inevitableness of Æschylean tragedy. The characters number eight. They are Thorkel, an old viking; Valbrand and Biorn, Thorkel’s son and foster-son; Olaf, son to Biorn; Ufeig, a priest; Odd, a thrall; Herdisa, Valbrand’s wife; and Swanhild, their daughter. The time is between the hours of seven and ten on the evening of Winter’s Night Feast, October 14, 1020 A.D. The place is the homestead of Thorkel in Iceland. At the opening of the first act, Valbrand’s character is indicated by the fact that his sword is being wound with hemp about the handle by Odd the thrall, in order that its master shall find the grip easier to the hand. Thorkel comments scornfully that in his own day “men were more fain to grip cold iron than hemp.” And he makes the further comment that Valbrand has not sung since his marriage with Herdisa. Valbrand is thus seen at once as the typical man of letters, the skald or singer of songs, whose taste is more for lovely words than for the feeling of cold iron.
Presently, Ufeig, the priest, enters. Immediately before his coming the warning has been heard: a cry, half-human, of wind and storm cleft by thunder, which, heard on Winter Feast, is a boding of ill luck. The evil character of Ufeig is soon revealed, and we come direct to the great issue of the drama, the lie that has to fulfill its mission in the human lives involved. Ufeig and Thorkel are left alone, shortly to be joined by Valbrand, and from their conversation the story of the past is learned. Twenty years before, Herdisa had scorned Valbrand and had bestowed her love unasked upon his foster-brother Biorn, who is no skald, but a valiant fighter. Biorn sailed with Thorkel to Vineland, but did not return with him. Thorkel brought back from him a scorning message to Herdisa, and she in anger was wedded to Valbrand. Ufeig, discovering that the message was a lying one, threatens to disclose the fact to Herdisa, and although Thorkel and Valbrand both hold him in hatred, both finally “hansel peace” with him to ensure his silence. Ufeig reports the coming of a ship with a stranger, who sends Thorkel a message which discloses his identity. He is Biorn, and at the end of the first act he enters the room where all finally have assembled, to be greeted by them according to their individual knowledge or ignorance of the secret.
In this act we are in the presence of strong emotions, of craft and guile, of weakness and evil power. Not a glimmer of the cheerful light of sound morality reaches the dark scene. We tell off the characters by their sins in the absence of any known virtues. Thorkel has lied to promote the interests of his son against those of his foster-son. Ufeig, who is the spirit of evil masquerading as virtue, and who has thrice received injuries from Thorkel, uses his knowledge of the lie to promote his own interests, later to be disclosed. Valbrand, discovering that his happiness is founded on a lie, is feeble of will and suffers the deceit to continue. Herdisa has been stung in pride to the point of choosing her mate without love. Swanhild, who runs in to tell her dream of a lover, is the only purely innocent creature in the group by which Biorn is received.
The next act is an impressive piece of close-knit plot, and grim story-telling. Events march rapidly. Angry passions are at white heat, and find voice in fierce action. The spectators must look on at a tornado of conflicting emotions, with a sense of the vast gulf separating such primitive life from our modernity, yet also with that certain response upon which we all may count when the depths of human nature are stirred in any age or any land, however alien to our own. Biorn sitting at table tells of his wanderings, of how he remained at Vineland to try and save the daughter of the Red Folk’s king who had risked her life to set the white men free. He had lived with her a twelvemonth, then she had died. He hints at the existence of a son, but does not speak plainly concerning him. He asks Swanhild if she is betrothed, and when she tells him of her dream-lover he promises to find him for her. This is the peace before the storm, but the audience and the reader feel the brooding tempest in the air. It breaks with the entrance of Ufeig, who presumes upon the “peace hanselling” of Thorkel and Valbrand to ask Swanhild’s hand for his son Black Helgi. Upon this, Valbrand breaks peace and Thorkel betakes himself with his terrible sword to Ufeig’s house. Biorn and Herdisa, left alone together, go over the past with swift short words that pelt like hail upon the ears. The lie is discovered, and, as Valbrand reënters, Biorn casts at him the taunt, “Unloved!” At Herdisa’s bidding, Valbrand follows his foster-brother, bearing two swords. Herdisa, left brooding by the fire, murmurs, “ Biorn shall pay for that bitter word.”
During the act there is a constant cross-play of words and meanings, amazingly true to the habit of the ancient sagas. For example, when Herdisa uses the word “mocking” in her talk with Biorn before the discovery of the lie, she remembers that she was mocked by him, and for a moment they bandy the word back and forth, she feeling its sting and he unconscious of her feeling. The skald idea, also, is harped upon, keeping the difference between skald and warrior continually in the mind of the audience. There are, however, no elaborations that do not play their part in emphasizing the significance of the principal ideas. These are driven into the consciousness of the hearers with sharp reiterated strokes that play a kind of primitive tune in the mind — a Siegfried anvil-song without Siegfried’s joyousness. Up to this point there is no joyousness in the play, but the very ferocity of the characters, the pride of Herdisa, the sharp contempt of Biorn, have a certain tonic effect, a stimulus as of stinging icy winds in the sudden gusts of winter.
The third act carries the story along toward its unsuspected crisis. Herdisa, still sitting by the fire, imagines Biorn to be slain and pictures the horror to her mind. Swanhild enters, and she and her mother talk of the child’s likeness to her father, and then of their guest, whose early story she does not know. Thorkel enters to say that he has killed Black Helgi and his brothers, an incident that takes a minor place in the great march of tragic events. A cry is heard without, and Swanhild is sent to her bed, as Odd the thrall comes in bearing a sword. He tells his tale of the battle between the brothers, but one of the mists of the true Scandinavian saga has arisen and he knows not who is killed. He knows only that the sword was given him by the survivor, whose face he could not see, with the message, “Go tell thy mistress he whom she hates is dead.”
The sword is examined and the haft is found to be bare, thus indicating that it is Biorn’s sword, and that Valbrand, not Biorn, is the one who has been slain. Herdisa, in a revulsion of intense feeling, cries out, “What word is left me? Our house hath lost its tongue. Valbrand the skald is dead ! ” Then, declaring that she killed him when she killed his singing twenty years before, she exalts the gift of song and calls upon Thorkel to avenge his son’s blood. In this compressed and vehement scene it is enough to follow the tumultuous beating of hearts without attempting to analyze Herdisa’s upwelling loyalty to her husband with whom she has lived for twenty years. It may be a profound reading of human nature that shows the bonds of kindness and custom strengthened to equal those of early passion; it may be the sense of justice toward the dead, and vengeance for murder, as obligations of the most exacting order which form so large a part of the morality of the sagas; it may be the result of a gradual turning of Herdisa’s affections unconsciously toward the gentle virtues and gifts of Valbrand, the skald, — a type as winning, no doubt, in ancient times as in the present; it more probably is the excess of self-abasement following upon a vengeful mood. Whatever the cause, the eloquence of the wife commanding vengeance on her husband’s murder has in it the true thrill of tragic drama. There is no pettiness, no weakness, no indecision or reflection. The fierce primitive nature of the Icelandic woman is awake in her, and her feelings, from whatever source they spring, demand instant and violent action, nothing less than the blood-atonement.
Ufeig enters while she is urging Thorkel to vengeance, and tries to tell them news which she will not hear, believing that she knows all. Spurred by her furious emotion, she goes forth to seek means of revenge. Ufeig continues to talk, and Thorkel begins to suspect the truth, that Biorn, not Valbrand, is dead. When Ufeig has left, he calls Swanhild, to question her as to which of the swords Valbrand took with him. She knows nothing, and he follows Herdisa. Swanhild, seated by the fire, ponders the mysteries of the night. Olaf enters, and she recognizes in him the lover of her dream.
Thus the third act, which opened in darkness and horror, closes on this gentle picture of youth and simplicity and trustfulness. The fourth act continues the picture with as sweet a passage of lovemaking as may be found in all literature. The typical saga tangle of misunderstandings is again introduced, but with tender, blithe merriment and good humor. Olaf, weary from his journeyings, presently is sung to sleep by Swanhild, and while he sleeps Herdisa enters, her thirst for atonement still unsatisfied. Swanhild is sent to her bed, and, Olaf awakening, Herdisa tells him of Valbrand’s death without speaking Biorn’s name, and spurs him on to offer the blood-atonement. She asks him to swear on the sword she holds, and as he bends to kiss the sword he sees that it is Biorn’s, and dropping it takes back his oath. Herdisa, who has been absorbed in her own passions, now looks at him for the first time, and seeing the likeness to his father, asks who he is. He tells her, and she attempts to hold him to his oath, but cannot. He escapes from her to Swanhild’s Bower, where she has spun her day-dreams, and there slays himself.
The character of Olaf and that of Biorn are outlined in this act with an economy of means, and a definiteness and comprehensiveness of portraiture, certainly not easily to be paralleled in modern drama. When Herdisa, after learning Olaf’s identity, still tries to claim his help, he says to her quite simply, “How shall I slay my father whom I love ?” And as she still presses his oath upon him, he adds, “He would but kiss me whiles I did the deed.” In this we have a complete picture of the reciprocal love and understanding that have existed between the father and the son. Their life together in the wild of Vineland; their journey to Biorn’s home; the affectionate plotting of the father for the son’s happiness; the weakness of an oath in that son’s eyes in comparison with the unspoken bond between him and his father; the entire little history of ineffable charm and poignant suggestion, is told in the two brief phrases which turn the tragedy from one of ruthless woe and desolation to one through which the spirit of love penetrates with a power to illumine the darkest shades of human misery.
In the last two acts we have the culmination of all these plans and hopes gone hopelessly awry. At the opening, Valbrand has returned and Swanhild is breaking his heart with her happiness, as yet unconscious of her own misfortune, and joyful that her mother’s mourning will be turned to rejoicing by the appearance of Valbrand among the living. Then in a single breath come her finding of Olaf dead in her Bower, Valbrand’s sudden madness at this crowning horror of his destiny, the death of Herdisa, and the disintegration of the family that was founded on a lie.
In this drama Herdisa is the controlling character. The waves of emotion beat upon her mighty personality without changing it. In The Servant in the House the text, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ,” is exemplified. Until the Vicar and his wife have seen that the mere bringing up of their brother’s charming child was the least of the claims made upon them by the spirit of brotherhood, their lives are essentially lawless. When, at the end, all are at last prepared to labor together for the making of a cleaner and kinder world, the law of Christ is established. In The Winter Feast, among the clash of contending wills and minds, we may perceive the influence of a superb but destructive individualism. The mesh that has been wound about Herdisa is cut by her vast egoism. To fulfill the necessity of her mood she commands the slaying of one brother by another, of a son by a father, of a father by his son. All issues pale in the light of her concentrated purpose of vindicating her personality. In Olaf and Biorn we see the noble ready power to give themselves and their lives rather than do hurt to kindness and loyalty. In Herdisa, on the contrary, the force of her nature, which, turned toward happiness, would have flooded many lives with joy, turned toward misery, finds no instrument too delicate or too weighty for the accomplishment of her vengeance. She is swept out of herself by a repentance as tremendous as her wrath, and as deadly. The working of her individual will contains a lesson as profound as the lesson of The Servant. And it is one of the triumphs of the drama that, with all this concentration of purpose, a natural sweetness and affection gleam through the prison of her passionate brooding upon one idea, realizing for the spectator the beauty of her perverted possibilities.
In both plays it is perfectly apparent that the moral ideal, the moral life, is to the author the most important thing in the world. It is so important that he has called upon his highest abilities to serve it. Unfortunately, many a writer, especially in these later years of multitudinous literature, has made the moral ideal do the work of both morality and art, and in its name has produced works of curious unworthiness. The result is still more painful when a writer, as not uncommonly happens, depends upon the immorality of his point of view to hold the interest of his public, and permits himself to subordinate his æsthetic instinct, and trust to his subject to carry him through. Mr. Kennedy has a different method. It is his “little job” to write dramas, and he puts into the perfection of his execution as much passion as the ancient monks put into the pictures they painted to the glory of God. In consequence, his work hangs together with the integrity of good craftsmanship. There are no empty spaces, no loosely woven connections, no structural points unaccounted for. The whole is tight and true and of the firmest texture. There are contrast and rhythm and balance, especially there is the sense of substance. Even in The Winter Feast. where the scene is laid in a distant country and the characters are kept faithfully adherent to ancient types, the feeling that they belong to this ponderable world, and not to the eccentric aerial world of the imagination, is not for a moment lost. This in part is because they care for moral questions, which is the quality that divides real from imaginary characters far more positively than it divides man from the brutes. But it is also in part due to the fact that the author has not only thought but observed, and has sifted his observation of this incredible world untiringly for those elements that will best lend credibility to the spiritual world which he discerns beneath all appearances.