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A COLONIAL PLAYWRIGHT., Issue 8046, 24 October 1889
A COLONIAL PLAYWRIGHT.
TO THE EDITOR. Sir,—For months past we have been constantly hearing something highly eulogistic of that remarkable play 'Captain Swift,' and colonials naturally evince a pleasurable interest in its brilliant success in England, since its author was, until the advent of the play, a comparatively obscure colonial writer. In this colony, however, little seems to be known of the clever young dramatist's early life, and as there are doubtless many of your readers who would be glad of a brief insight into it, may I ask if you will favor me by publishing the subjoined extract ? I take it from the introduction to an interesting little collection of tales by Australian authors entitled ' In Australian Wilds.'—l am, etc., Charles Umbers. Dunedin, October 23. " The name of C. Haddon Chambers was comparatively unknown two or three years ago. To-day it is familiar to all. This circumstance is mainly attributable to the production in June of last year, at the Haymarket Theatre, of this young writer's original four • act play ' Captain Swift,' which, splendidly played by Mr BeerbohmTree and a carefully-selected company, secured the emphatic approval of the critics and a success with the playgoing public almost unoxatnpled in this generation. The success of' Captain S wif t' is often compared to that of Sir Charles Young's ' Jim the Penman *; and when it is remembered, that at the time the latter play was produced its author was past middle age and a dramatist of manyyearß' standing, whereas the author of « Captain Swift' is, to employ the language of one of the critics, ' scarcely more than a boy,' it it) not Bur-
prising that in these latter days, in which people complain of the decadence of the English drama, and of the too persistent appearance of adaptations from the French and German on the English stage, tho youthful author of so powerful, polished, human, and interesting a play as ' Captain Swift' should reoeivo bo warm and enthusiastic a welcome from critics and lovers of the drama as Mr Haddon Chambers has experienced. Charles Haddon Chambers is a son of the lite John Ritchie Chambers, a North Irish gentleman of Scotch descent, who for the last twenty years of his life held a high position in the New South Wales Civil Service. The future dramatist went to the public schools in Sydney, and at the age of sixteen qualified for the Civil Servioe by passing the necessary examinations at the Sydney University. Since then he has played many parts, all of which doubtless helped to qualify him for the career he has finally adopted, and in which he is already so eminently successful. He has been, among other things, a clerk in the New South Wales Civil Service, a land agent, a boundary a miner, and a journalist. He has lived in most of the Australian colonies, and has been in Cape Colony and Egypt. Mr Haddon Chambers, who landed in London four or five years since with only a quill pen in his pocket, proved in a short time that he could succeed both as a journalist and a novelist. His contributions to Bocioty papers in London and to the Sydney 'Bulletin' (which paper ho represented for some time) were much esteemed, and the many short and serial stories he wrote found a ready market among the magazines; but a tentative effort at dramatio writing in the Bhape of a one-act play proved so successful that characteristically he abandoned everything for the writing of plays. The result has more than justified his pluck and judgment, and to-day, on the success of almost one great play alone, Mr Haddon Chambers, though still in his twenties, stands in the first rank of contemporary dramatists. Many moving and successful plays from his pen may be expected; but readers of his early stories still hope also to find his name on the covers of some novels."
A COLONIAL PLAYWRIGHT., Issue 8046, 24 October 1889
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