Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Bronson Howard is remembered primarily as a dramatist. Given his place as the first American to make a profession of writing plays, his comments on playwriting and the theater in America are important for the student of American dramatic literature. In 1906, for example, he surveyed, in New York’s Sunday Magazine, the accomplishments of American playwrights and their critics after 1890 in an essay entitled “The American Drama.” He commented on the art of acting in “Our Schools for the Stage,” which appeared in Century Magazine in 1900. In one of the most revealing contemporary articles on late nineteenth century American dramatists—“American Playwrights on the American Drama,” appearing in Harper’s Weekly on February 2, 1889—Howard described his own approach to drama. Howard was a man of very definite opinions, and his most significant explanation of his theory of the “laws of dramatic composition” was first given as a lecture before the Shakespeare Club at Harvard College in March, 1886. This speech, in which he discussed at some length the origin and development of his play The Banker’s Daughter, was repeated for the Nineteenth Century Club in New York in December, 1889, and was printed by the American Dramatists Club in New York and published as The Autobiography of a Play in 1914. This volume also included “Trash on the Stage and the Lost Dramatists of America,” in which Howard outlined his approach to the theater and expressed his optimism regarding the future of American drama.