MILNE, Alan Alexander, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts



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MILNE, Alan Alexander (1882-1956). Novelist and playwright.
The Autograph Manuscript of his "Introduction" to the American edition of Four Plays, 10 separate pages 8vo with numerous corrections [1932].
Milne notes that, to the author of a play, 'no actor, no producercan be too good for it, for only perfect production, perfect acting, can reveal its truth'. He suggests that a playwright starts work by thinking '... this is not going to be a very good play, because I am not a very good writer. Nothing like so good as Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's plays are never properly acted - according to all the criticisms of Shakespearean productions which I have ever read...'. However Milne notes that the author 'must assume, at the moment of writing anyhow, that, in the persona of the ideal cast, they will come to life exactly as he saw them ...' He suggests that 'the author, then, is going to lose something in the personality of his players. Obviously also, he is going to lose something in the acting: that is to say, all the acting is not going to be of the very highest class ...'
In performance, Milne states, only the author can really know the abilities of the actors, and he recounts two examples of his plays in rehearsal and performance, one actor apparently stating 'If ever an actor ruined an author's play for him, I'm the man.' Likening plays to children, Milne notes 'the author, of course, feels to his play as most mothers feel to their children. I have met many children who (in my opinion) would definitely have been improved if they could have been given different faces, different voices, different manners, and, in some cases, different parents: but I have never found that their mothers agree with me. They prefer their children, with all their faults, as they are. In the same way an author prefers his play with all its faults "as it is": i.e. in the printed book.' Concluding his argument, Milne states: 'the plays, then, in this book are, to use the hackneyed quotation, poor things but mine own. If you have seen any of them acted, you will hear the words said in the voices of the actors, see the characters again in the persons of the actors, and, as you liked or disliked the production, so you will like or dislike the play. But if you have not seen them acted, then in your mind you will project them on the stage, giving all the characters their perfect representation. After which, having applauded the production (yours) and the acting (yours), you can call the author in front of the curtain and throw things at him.'
Ann Thwaite (A.A. Milne, His Life, 1990) notes that the English edition of Four Plays was published without an introduction ('very unusually for AAM'). Writing to Frank Swinnerton, Milne apparently explained: 'I keep tearing them up. I am in a state of being bored to death, not with writing plays, but with talking about them... and, in fact, having anything to do with them after I've written them ...'
[No: 20494]


The image is of the sixth page only.


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