Henry Arthur Jones Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Henry Arthur Jones, a prolific dramatist, was also an energetic theater critic and polemicist. His prose writings include The Renascence of the English Drama (1895), The Foundations of a National Drama (1913), and The Theatre of Ideas (1915). Jones’s polemics are found in his attacks on H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw in Patriotism and Popular Education (1919) and My Dear Wells: A Manual for the Haters of England; Being a Series of Letters upon Bolshevism, Collectivism, Internationalism and the Distribution of Wealth, Addressed to Mr. H. G. Wells (1921, 1922). Jones actively campaigned for the abolition of theatrical censorship. The Renascence of the English Drama brings together the essays in which he argues that drama has definite artistic forms, that it is a serious literary genre, and that a national theater should be established. He calls for copyright laws to be reformed and plays printed—at the time, radical ideas meeting with much opposition. The Foundations of a National Drama continues Jones’s advocacy for the establishment of a national theater, argues for a more intelligent theater, and attacks contemporary theatrical frivolity. Jones believed that art has a social value—that the theater should educate audiences and bring beauty and culture to otherwise impoverished ordinary lives.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Arthur Henry Jones is regarded as one of the most important English dramatists and men of the theater during the last decades of the nineteenth century. The Silver King, hailed as a masterpiece of melodramatic stage craftsmanship, ran for 289 performances—a lengthy run by the standards of the time. In subsequent plays, Jones turned his attention to such serious themes as the exposure of hypocrisy and deceit and the depiction of the emerging “new woman.” At his best, Jones was a master craftsman, a superb manipulator of theatrical dialogue and writer of problem plays. After the turn of the century and the success of Mrs. Dane’s Defence in 1900, Jones, while continuing to write prolifically, began merely to rework well-tried formulas and melodramatic successes. Repetitious melodrama, social comedy, and problem plays made him a theatrical back-number. His energies turned to the attempt to influence the course of subsequent theatrical literature through the dissemination of his ideas in books, pamphlets, and lectures. The 1982 publication by the Cambridge University Press of three of Jones’s plays—The Silver King, The Case of Rebellious Susan, and The Liars—demonstrates that he is not an obscure late-Victorian dramatist of merely historical interest. Jones’s reputation as a consummate dramatic craftsperson stands secure, as does his place in the English theatrical renaissance of the last decades of the nineteenth century.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Booth, Michael R. Theatre in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Contains a discussion of Jones, one of the two most popular writers of melodrama (the other being Arthur Wing Pinero, with whom he is always linked). Examines his interest in the themes of the exploitation of the working class, the conflict between capital and labor, and the struggle between faith and doubt.

Foulkes, Richard. Church and Stage in Victorian England. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1997. This examination of the relationship between the church and the theater in Victorian England examines, among other plays, Jones’s Michael and His Lost Angel.

Griffin, Penny. Arthur Wing Pinero and Henry Arthur Jones. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. A biographical work that examines the lives and literary output of Jones and Arthur Wing Pinero, along with the times in which they lived. Bibliography and index.

Jones, Doris Arthur. Taking the Curtain Call: The Life and Letters of Henry Arthur Jones. New York: Macmillan, 1930. Originally published in England as The Life and Letters of Henry Arthur Jones. This authorized biography, written by the playwright’s daughter, consists of a compilation of letters to friends and family. It gives the reader a vivid picture of...

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