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William Archer (critic)

William Archer (23 September 1856 – 27 December 1924) was a Scottish critic and writer.


He was born in Perth, the son of Thomas Archer. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he received the degree of M.A. in 1876.

Archer became a leader-writer on the Edinburgh Evening News in 1875, and after a year in Australia returned to Edinburgh. In 1878 he took up residence in London.[1] In 1879 he became dramatic critic of the London Figaro, and in 1884 of the World, where he remained until 1905. In London he soon took a prominent literary place.

Archer had much to do with introducing Ibsen to the English public by his translation The Pillars of Society, produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, 1880. He also translated, alone or in collaboration, other productions of the Scandinavian stage: Ibsen's A Doll's House (1889), The Master Builder (1893, with Edmund Gosse); Edvard Brandes's A Visit (1892); Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1892, with Charles Archer); Little Eyolf (1895); and John Gabriel Borkman (1897); and he edited Henrik Ibsen's Prose Dramas vols., 1890–1891).[citation needed]

In 1897 Archer, along with Elizabeth Robins, H. W. Massingham, and Alfred Sutro, formed the Provisional Committee to organize an association to produce plays of high literary intrinsic merit, such as Ibsen's. The association was called the "New Century Theatre" but was a disappointment by 1899, although it continued until at least 1904.[citation needed] In 1899, a more successful association, called the Stage Society, was formed to replace it.[2]

Archer was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, and arranged for his plays to be translated into German. An attempted collaboration on a play, Widower's Houses, did not work, however, and Archer was often critical of Shaw's drama. For a time, Archer lived at 27 Fitzroy Square in central London, while Shaw lived at number 29.[citation needed]

During World War I, Archer wrote a series of open letters on behalf of Wellington House, arguing Germany's culpability in starting the conflict. He viewed the Allies (including England) as innocent bystanders, forced into defending the world against German militancy.[citation needed]

His play, The Green Goddess, was produced by Winthrop Ames at the Booth Theatre in New York. It was a melodrama, and a popular success, although relatively of much less importance to the art of the drama than his critical work.[citation needed]

He was one of the founders of the Simplified Spelling Society in 1908.[3]


Critical works




  1. ^ "Archer, William". Who's Who, 59: p. 51. 1907. 
  2. ^ Woodfield, James (1984). English theatre in transition, 1881-1914. pp. 56–58. 
  3. ^ Spelling Society: Inaugural Minutes 1908.
  4. ^ William Archer (1912). Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship. Small, Maynard. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Google Books


External links

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