The White Cockade, the second of the tragic comedies, is a play about the flight of King James II after the Battle of the Boyne, and it, too, is lifeless and mechanical in so far as it is historical. King James himself is a good comic figure of a conventional sort, as he is discovered hiding in the barrel; but Sarsfield, who is meant to be heroic, is all joints and sawdust; and the mad Jacobite lady is a puppet who might have been invented by any writer of plays. “When my White Cockade was produced,” Lady Gregory tells us, “I was pleased to hear that Mr. Synge had said my method had made the writing of historical drama again possible.” But surely, granted the possession of the dramatic gift, the historical imagination is the only thing that makes the writing of historical drama possible. Lady Gregory does not seem to me to possess the historical imagination. Not that I believe in archaeology in the theatre; but, apart from her peasant characters, she cannot give us the illusion of reality about the figures in these historical plays. If we want the illusion of reality, we shall have to turn from The White Cockade to the impossible scene outside the post-office and the butcher’s shop in Hyacinth Halvey. As for the third of the tragic comedies, The Deliverer, it is a most interesting curiosity. In it we have an allegory of the fate of Parnell in a setting of the Egypt of the time of Moses. Moses himself—or the King’s nursling, as he is called—is Parnell; and he and the other characters talk Kiltartan as to the manner born. The Deliverer is grotesque and, in its way, impressive, though the conclusion, in which the King’s nursling is thrown to the King’s cats by his rebellious followers, invites parody. The second volume of the Irish Folk-History Plays, even if it reveals only Lady Gregory’s talent rather than her genius, is full of odd and entertaining things, and the notes at the end of both of these volumes, short though they are, do give us the franchise of a wonderful world of folk-history.
MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM
Mr. Cunninghame Graham is a grandee of contemporary literature. He is also a grandee of revolutionary politics. Both in literature and in politics he is a figure of challenge for the love of challenge more than any other man now writing. Other men challenge us with Utopias, with moral laws and so forth. But Mr. Graham has little of the prophet or the moralist about him. He expresses himself better in terms of his hostilities than in terms of visionary cities and moralities such as Plato and Shelley and Mazzini have built for us out of light and fire. It is a temperament, indeed, not a vision or a logic, that Mr. Graham has brought to literature. He blows his fantastic trumpet outside the walls of a score of Jerichos:—Jerichos of empire, of cruelty, of self-righteousness, of standardized civilization—and he seems to do so for the sheer soldierly joy of the thing. One feels that if all the walls of all the Jerichos were suddenly to collapse before his trumpet-call he would be the loneliest man alive. For he is one of those for whom, above all, “the fight’s the thing.”