St. John Ervine Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

St. John Greer Ervine was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland on December 28, 1883. He did not take a university degree but was writing plays by age twenty-four. In 1911, he married Leonora Mary Davis and became associated with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He served for a brief time as manager of the Abbey Theatre and, in that capacity, produced his best play, John Ferguson. His British sympathies caused an estrangement between him and the theater players, and on May 29, 1916, the actors declared their unwillingness to work under Ervine’s direction. The resultant break with the Abbey Theatre, combined with the escalation of World War I, led Ervine to turn away from Ireland and exclusively Irish subject matter. His service in a regiment of the British Household Battalion and, later, with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers ended in 1918, when he was severely wounded and suffered the loss of a leg.

After the war, Ervine settled in London. His first London success was in 1929, when his play, The First Mrs. Fraser, enjoyed an extended run. That success was repeated the next year in New York. His career expanded to include novels, essays on political and ethical subjects, drama criticism, and biographies. He was drama critic for The Sunday Observer of London, and in 1929, he was guest drama critic for The World in New York. His criticism was controversial, which is usually attributed to Ervine’s plainspoken, even harsh criticism...

(The entire section is 480 words.)