"THERE will be some trouble about 'biography' because I have never troubled myself to supply particulars of my early life to any writer." This quotation is from a letter written by Sir Arthur to that able and friendly commentator, Clayton Hamilton. Nevertheless, we know the things that are most interesting: that his practice in writing was, not to conceive a theme and fit his characters to its exposition, but rather to gather together in his mind a group of everyday characters and watch their reactions to each other; that, when not absorbed in writing a play he was the friendliest of men; and, finally, that it was his achievements in the field of drama that in 1909 were recognized with knighthood.
Arthur Wing Pinero was in race, part Jew and part Gentile; in blood, part Latin and part Anglo-Saxon; in name, Portuguese. His father was a solicitor and he himself was educated for the law. He preferred, however, at 19, to get himself a job as an actor and made connection with the theater in Edinburgh at the munificent salary of one pound a week. Two years later he arrived at the Globe Theater, London, and it was not a great while before he saw a brief one-act play of his performed as a "curtain raiser." The success of that and subsequent short plays emboldened him to give up acting and to devote his time to dramatic writing.
His fortune and contemporary fame were secured by that sentimental success, Sweet Lavender, and the very playable farce, The Magistrate. His enduring fame, if he be so fortunate, will very probably rest on The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. Following its production in 1893 there were other serious plays . . . Trelawney of the Wells, The Notorious Mrs. Ehbsmith, Iris, The Thunderbolt and Midchannel. None of these, however, was accorded the public acclaim which greeted The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
It was Sir Arthur's custom to direct all rehearsals and literally train each actor in the interpretation of his or her part, but such was his shyness that nothing could persuade him to attend "first nights." He had made one visit to America in the eighteen eighties to direct the rehearsals of The Magistrate. When, in 1910, he was urged by Mr. Hamilton to make a second visit, he replied:
"I'd like to see America but I'm afraid to risk it. As soon as I got over Mr. Frohman might request me to sit in a box at the performance of one of my plays."
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