The Title – The Play Pictorial no. 198 1918
A Comedy in Three Acts
J.E. VEDRENNE and DENNIS EADIE.
PRUSSIA has her Iron Cross–England the Order of the British Empire. Prussia can’t help it–England can’t help it. It had to be–a bit of ribbon with a vertical or horizontal coloured stripe blesseth the giver and the receiver. ‘Tis the one touch of Nature that makes the whole world kin. Arnold Bennett in this very play points that moral. He may have a bit of ribbon ” on his own ” by-and-bye. He knows it. That’s why he wrote ” The Title.” It’s his apologia. Mr. Culver is Mr. Bennett and Mr. Bennett is Mr. Culver. Mr. Bennett is a distinguished slave in a Government office–without emolument. That’s what Arthur Culver says he is. Arthur Culver is married. Is Arnold Bennett married ? If he is, and his wife is at all like Eva Moore, his worldly destiny is fixed. He will join the isolated Barrie in baronetage. And a good thing, too. ” For he himself has said it “–” Literature’s always a good card to play for Honours. It makes people think that Cabinet Ministers are educated.” That in itself is a fine achievement.
° ° °
The trend of events–and domestic tranquillity–made a cat’s-paw of Arthur Culver. I believe he was quite sincere in his desire to avoid a New Year’s Honour. Sincere, at all events, to the extent that he objected to his company in the Honours List, but he was in a house divided against itself. A great authority has informed us that is fatal. So the highly respectable and conscientious objector, Arthur Culver, found it. The ayes-Mrs. Culver, his private secretary and his prospective son-in-law-have it. The noes-Miss Hildegarde and Master John Culver-come out of the lobby with their tails down.
In the debate on the third reading, John, being a mere schoolboy, did not count for much, but Hildegarde was a horse (really a filly) of another colour. She was an energetic, bright young thing with a mind and a will of her own. She was a contributor to Mr. Tranto’s daily paper, The Echo, and signed her articles ” Sampson Straight.” And straight to the point they were, and quite Samsonian, without the p. As a matter of fact, she was the sociological viper on the domestic hearth. She stung her father’s mental disposition towards honours into an acute consciousness. She bit the gentle breast that had nourished her. But her poisonous darts were conquered by Nature’s healing. Human Nature declares for honours–and Human Nature is all-powerful. W’hen Miss Starkey says : ” Yes, Sir Arthur,” Culver unctuously whispers to himself : ” I suppose I do like being called ‘Sir Arthur.”‘ And Mrs. Culver was dying to hear her maid address her as ” my lady.” Who can blame the dear woman ? ” Yes, my lady,” instead of ” Yes, ma’am.” From the euphuistic point alone it sounds infinitely better. Have I a lady reader who will deny it ? And between ourselves, dear men-at-arms, don’t you think that–don’t you ? I do.
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As a theatrical piece Mr. Bennett’s play is unpretentious and simplicity itself. He neither startles nor intrigues you. He provides good characterisation and pointed dialogue. He allows us to share with himself a detached air of superiority. We sit in stalls or pit and cast a benignant eye on his mimes.
Hildegarde Culver (MISS JOYCE CAREY). Tranto (MR. MARTIN LEWIS). John Culver (MR. LESLIE HOWARD).
JOHN: “At school, it’s just because we are interested in the war that we’ve no time for newspapers.”
MISS EVA MOORE as Mrs. Culver.
“A woman is never shocked, though, of course, at times it may suit her to pretend to be.”
Photo, Foulsham & Banfield.
MISS STARKEY: “My self-respect would not allow me to remain with a gentleman who had refused a title. Oh, Mr. Culver, to be the private secretary to a baronet has been my life’s dream.”
MISS JOYCE CAREY as Hildegarde. MISS GERTRUDE STERROLL as Miss Starkey.
HILDEGARDE: “If the truth about Sampson Straight is to come out, I must leave home–quietly, but firmly, leave home. Do you forget that Sampson Straight, being a young woman of advanced ideas, has written about everything, everything? Yes, and several other subjects besides! You don’t know, Mamma!”
“I only wanted to hear the parlour-maid call me ‘my lady.'”
MRS. CULVER: “Dearest, you needn’t continue. I know you’re wiser and stronger than me in every way. But I love that; most women wouldn’t, but I do. Oh! I’m so glad you’ve at last seen the force of my argument about the title.”
MR. CULVER: “I also see the force of mine, and I’m bound to say that yours aren’t in it with mine.”
“I suppose I do like being called ‘Sir Arthur.'”
Miss Starkey (MISS GERTRUDE STERROLL).
CULVER: “Which is the refusal?” MISS STARKEY: “This one.”
CULVER: “Put it in the fire. Give me the acceptance. I’ll go to the post myself.”
“Mater, you really are a bit too thick. Knighthoods do come to an end. Baronetcies go on for ever.”
JOHN: “I’ve told the dad, and I’ll tell you, that I will not have my political career ruined by any baronetcy. And if you insist, may I respectfully inform you what I shall do? I shall chuck Siege and go into the Flying Corps. If you really want to shorten my life, all you have to do is to stick to that bally baronetcy.”
TRANTO: “Terrible news. I’ve just heard and I’ve just rushed back to tell you. Sampson Straight has died very suddenly in Cornwall.”
MRS. CULVER: “Now this just shows how the most absurd rumours do get abroad. Here is Mr. Sampson Straight.”
Photo, Foulsham & Banfield.
MR. ARNOLD BENNETT
Photo E. O. Hoppe.