LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
1. From Kristin Morrison, Associate Professor of English, Boston College, May 30, 1979:
I am concerned about the inaccuracy of a statement in the January 1979 Newsletter. In the abstract of Eugene K. Hansen's dissertation, reported on p. 24, reference is made to O'Neill's mother as "a devout Irish Catholic who left the convent to marry O'Neill's father." Has the word "school" been omitted? To be enrolled in a convent school is quite different from entering a convent (and surely the whole focus of Mary Tyrone's cherished fantasy/disappointment is the fact that she was not encouraged by Mother Elizabeth to become a nun.) Ella Quinlan was a student in parochial school and at St. Mary's Academy; she was never a postulant in a religious order. In O'Neill's Irish Catholic world that distinction would not have been a trivial one.
2. From LeRoy Robinson, Professor of Basic English Conversation, Nagasaki University, June 10, 1979:
Patrick Bowles' piece on The Hairy Ape May 1979 issue, pp. 2-3] reminded me of a sort of coincidence. In a play called Standards (apparently begun in 1915--but maybe in 1914--and produced in 1916 in upstate New York), John Howard Lawson briefly brings on stage a deus ex machina burglar called the Figure. (His given name is John.) He is of "gigantic build." His hair is unkempt; he is unshaven; he seems a "huge animal." Yet in his "fierce ruggedness" there is a "certain dignity." A Lawyer describes the Figure: "He's the Caveman. The caveman, the monster butting his shoulder against civilization." At this, the Figure utters the only word he speaks in the play: "Fools!"
When I summarized Standards [in the first published summary of that unpublished play--Ed.] in "John Howard Lawson: The Early Years II," Keiei to keizai, Vol. 57-2, No. 147, December 1977, I footnoted: "Lawson's Figure, the Caveman, predates Eugene O'Neill's Yank, an inarticulate'20th century Neanderthal Man' in The Hairy Ape." Rudimentarily.
On the other hand, I think O'Neill introduced a character like Yank in a short story of 1915. Was that story published where Lawson could have read it? Or is it possible that in the fall of 1916 O'Neill could have seen Standards in Utica or Syracuse, or read reviews of it? (Which I haven't.) [Readers with information that would help answer these intriguing questions are urged to submit it for inclusion in the next issue of the Newsletter or for forwarding to Mr. Robinson. --Ed.]
I have been reading some plays that Lawson wrote in 1914, '15, '16, never produced, never published, and one of them, called Souls, uses techniques and ideas similar to those in Strange Interlude, and a reading of it throws new light on Lawson's chapter on O'Neill in Theory and Technique of Playwriting. Does any of this interest you? [It does indeed, and I herewith offer space in any future issue of the Newsletter for the sharing of that new light with its readers! --Ed.]
3. From Jacob H. Adler, Head, Department of English, Purdue University, July 23, 1979:
"In Educational Theatre Journal for December 1978, Elinor Fuchs has an excellent article pointing out the extensive resemblances between A Touch of the Poet and The Wild Duck (and also some less extensive resemblances to Hedda Gabler). [See an abstract of the Fuchs article in this issue. --Ed.] I had long thought of the Wild Duck resemblances and as a Wild Duck aficionado wish I had written the article, though the very convincing resemblances to Hedda Gabler would, I am afraid, never have occurred to me.
Ms. Fuchs naturally points out that this is the second play in O'Neill's late period owing a debt to The Wild Duck, the other of course being Iceman. And she suggests that while there is no conclusive proof that Ibsen was one of the causes for O'Neill's dramaturgy changing so greatly in his later period, the evidence is certainly considerable.
I would like to suggest, briefly, that Ibsen's shadow lies not only on the later period. Louis Sheaffer says, and no doubt rightly, that the major influence upon Strange Interlude was Man and Superman. But might there not be a modicum of influence from Ibsen also? In The Wild Duck, a weak man must be protected in his illusion that he fathered his wife's child, as he must, indeed, be protected from any serious disillusionment. The sources of his protection from disillusionment are his wife and a doctor. Obviously, though in a quite different way, all of these things are also a part of Strange Interlude. And as The Wild Duck, Iceman, and A Touch of the Poet all show, Strange Interlude also shows that there are people for whom illusion is absolutely essential. Further detailed resemblances would be difficult to find, though Gregers, like Sam Marsden, is emotionally crippled and quite possibly homosexual. But the parallel is at least an interesting coincidence--perhaps too interesting to be a coincidence.
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