W[illiam] J. Lawrence

Life
1862-1940; b. Belfast; drama critic reviewing Irish plays for The Stage, 1909-16, and 1916-26; his general works include The Physical Conditions of the Elizabethan Public Playhouse (1927) and Old Theatre Days and Ways (1935); his ‘Notebooks for a history of the Irish stage’, held at Cincinnati University, is the only extant record of the contents of many documents destroyed in the Custom House fire of 1922; established that Dionysius Lardner was the father of Dion Boucicault Ireland Saturday Night (28 Oct. 1922); found Yeats deeply antipathetic. DIL DIW [FDA] DUB.

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Works
The Balfe Centenary
(1908); Barry Sullivan (1893) Life of Gust. Vaughan Brooke (1892); poss. also W. Lawrence Album of Belfast and 2 other n.d. works of that type; best known for Pre-Restoration Stage Studies (1927); The Physical Conditions of the Elizabethan Public Playhouse (1927); Shakespeare’s Workshop (1928); Those Nut-Cracking Elizabethans (1935); Old Theatre Days and Ways (Harrap 1935), cited in Burton; Speeding Up Shakespeare (1937).

Articles, ‘Irish Character in English Dramatic Literature’, in Gentlemen’s Magazine, vol. 259 (1890); ‘Annals of the Old Belfast Stage’, Unique Typescript NLI (1891); ‘Was Shakespeare Ever in Ireland?’, in Shakespeare Jahrbuch, vol. XXXV (1906); ‘Irish Types in Old Time English Drama’, in Anglia Vol. XXXV (1912); ‘Irish Allusions in Elizabethan Drama’, in Weekly Freeman, Dublin 27.3.1920; ‘Early Irish Ballad Opera and Comic Opera’, in Musical Quarterly, NY, vol. VIII (1922); [article on parentage of Dion Boucicault], Ireland Saturday Night (Oct. 28 1922); ‘The Irish Exile’s Ochone’, in Lady of the House, Dublin (Christmas 1923).

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Criticism
Hhis articles on seventeenth and eighteenth century Irish playhouses cited in William Smith Clark, The Early Irish Stage (OUP 1955) and The Irish Stage in the Country Towns (OUP 1965). See also selections of his criticism in Robert Hogan’s Journal of Irish Literature (May-Sept. 1989).

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Commentary
Edward Stephens & David Greene, J. M. Synge (1959), Lawrence objected to The Playboy, with D. J. O’Donoghue, beside whom he watched the first performance from the back of the auditorium. He met WJ Lawrence on the street in Dublin and had it out with him over the Playboy, but the bitterness had been diluted and they parted with a handshake (p.265).

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References
J. O. Bartley, Teague, Shenkin and Sawney (1954), cites ‘Irish Character in English Dramatic Literature’, in Gentlemen’s Magazine, vol. 259 (1890); ‘Annals of the Old Belfast Stage’, Unique Typescript NLI (1891);’Was Shakespeare Ever in Ireland?’, in Shakespeare Jahrbuch, vol. XXXV (1906); ‘Irish Types in Old Time English Drama’, in Anglia Vol. XXXV (1912); ‘Irish Allusions in Elizabethan Drama’, in Weekly Freeman, Dublin 27.3.1920; ‘Early Irish Ballad Opera and Comic Opera’, in Musical Quarterly, NY, vol. VIII (1922); ‘The Irish Exile’s Ochone’, in Lady of the House, Dublin (Christmas 1923).

Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985) lists Lawrence’s importance for Irish literature lies in his influence as drama critic for The Stage. For DUB he is William Lawrence; works cites including Speeding Up Shakespeare [n.d.].

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979),, calls him a theatre critic; praised Synge, O’Casey, loathed Yeats; wrote on Eliz. & Jacob. drama and was admired by Eliot.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, notes that he characterised Dublin theatre in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a ‘semi-government institution’ [Christopher Murray, ed.; p. 500.].

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Quotations
Self-reflexive?: ‘18th-century Dublin never showed any particular partiality for theatrical mirroring of its own life [...].’ (Cited in G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman, p.108).

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Notes
Son of Dionysius: It is W. J. Lawrence who established that Boucicault was the son of Dionysius Lardner, in his article in Ireland Saturday Night (Oct. 28 1922). See Rafroidi, Irish Literature, Vol. 2 (1972), p. 67.

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