Clyde Fitch Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Clyde Fitch’s nondramatic works have never been collected. He wrote one novel, A Wave of Life, which appeared in Lippincott’s magazine in February, 1891, and which was later published by Mitchell Kennerley, with a foreword by Montrose J. Moses. Before the novel was published, Fitch had served his literary apprenticeship by writing short stories for a variety of commercial and church-related magazines. In 1889 alone, The Independent, The Christian Union, The Churchman, Puck, Life, and the children’s magazine Young Hearts had accepted his stories, and in 1891, Fitch gathered a number of his vignettes of childhood into a volume entitled The Knighting of the Twins, which was published by Roberts Brothers in Boston; one of the stories, “An Unchronicled Miracle,” was dedicated to Walter Pater. Known for his association with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, that author of Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873) answered Fitch’s whimsical verse that suggested that “even a cat may look on a king” with a pleasant, congratulatory note. Some Correspondence and Six Conversations (1896) and The Smart Set (1897), both collections of letters and discussions, were published by Stone and Kimball in Chicago. Fitch’s nondramatic works are out of print and difficult to obtain; some of the short stories in such magazines as Puck and Life have not been identified.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although Clyde Fitch was awarded no prizes or honors, he deserves mention as one of the first American playwrights to achieve popular success on his home ground. Indeed, the theatrical climate was ripe for his combination of romance and realism with purely American settings; most Broadway plays were either comedies of manners imported from England or farces translated from the French or German. Fitch wrote, then, when many serious as well as satiric publications were concerned not only with “Anglomania” but also with the development of a national literature. Given such a receptive audience, Fitch frequently produced a number of plays within one season.

To be sure, he was criticized for his “artificial” plotting, for tailoring his plays to available actresses, and for both borrowing from successful foreign plays and taking poetic license with history. Nevertheless, his development from farce to drama was sure and steady, and his careful attention to scenic detail and acting method earmarked him as a major influence on the realistic stage. Fitch’s later experimentation, notably in The City, would make him memorable.

Fitch’s works generally met with wildly enthusiastic responses from audiences but were often less generously received by critics, many of whom felt that his mechanical, well-made plots were indicative of a superficial point of view. Others, however, believed that his carefully tailored dramatic structures were foils for a social consciousness that would not be accepted in an undisguised form. In one sense, at least, such negative criticism...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Andrews, Peter. “More Sock and Less Buskin: In the Hands of a Rococo Yankee Named Clyde Fitch the American Stage Came of Age with a Gasp of Scandalized Shock.” American Heritage 23 (April, 1972): 48-57. Written for the general public, this essay follows a chronological order in describing the playwright’s role in the American theater. Photographs of the flamboyant Fitch and some of the stars he directed make the work appealing.

Mordden, Ethan. “Clyde Fitch, Mrs. Fiske, Shaw, and Barrie.” In The American Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. This historical survey attempts to identify the American characteristics of Fitch’s theater. In the chapter on comedy from 1900-1915, Mordden examines the plays and contrasts them to those of George Bernard Shaw. He also compares Fitch to Eugene O’Neill and provides an informative chapter on satire.

Wattenberg, Richard. “Taming the Frontier Myth: Clyde Fitch’s The Cowboy and the Lady.” Journal of American Culture 16, no. 2 (Summer, 1993): 77. An examination of Fitch’s portrayal of the West and the frontier in The Cowboy and the Lady.