A Bill of Divorcement

by Clemence Dane. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1921. 12mo, 143 pp. $2.00.
To assess a play fairly from the reading of it in printed form is extremely difficult. The reviewer is always haunted by a suspicion that the play he is reading Plight become Suddenly transfigured by the touch of a gifted actor.
This play of Miss Dane’s is a case in point. It does not read remarkably well, but there are scores of situations and lines which suggest all sorts of possibilities behind the footlights.
The real difficulty seems to be that, in its written form, one wonders just how much is play and how much is tract.
The audience is requested, in the first place, to imagine that a certain form of divorce bill has become the law of the land. A modest enough request for a play-bill, but a little exacting to minds long accustomed to the traditions of the past. It is quite evident that the author regards the proposed law as wholly desirable.
Quite apart from the subtleties of the divorce question, however, this dual characteristic blurs the dramatic effect of the piece and impairs its effectiveness as a printed play.
Whatever one’s reactions may be from the play as a whole, there can be no debate as to the vividness of Miss Dane’s characterization. No one can lay this little book down after even a most cursory reading without being thankful that the younger generation has been introduced to us in the person of Sydney Fairfield. The final scene in the last act, between Sydney and her father, is worth reading many times, and every reading of it ought to make clear to us of the older generation the inherent nobility and soundness of the baffling Sydneys we all know and love and fear and speculate about. MACGREGOR JENKINS.
In response to requests from many librarians, the reviews printed each month in this department of the magazine will be reprinted separately in pamphlet form. Copies may be had by any librarian, without charge, on application to the Atlantic Monthly, 8 Arlington St., Boston.