11 MAY 1901, Page 24

The Stage in America, 1897 - 1900. By Norman Hapgood. (Macmillan and

Co. 7s. 6d.)—What is a reviewer to do when the subject of a book lies wholly outside his knowledge ? He can say whether it is readable or not, and the less familiar the topic, the more whatever praise he can give on this score should count. The Stage in America is manifestly a very clever bit of work, clear, terse, brilliant. No one can find it other than entertaining, though he may know nothing about the actors criticised and little about the plays. This brings us to the second remark that may be made in the circumstances. There is no attempt to view the subject from an ethical standpoint. The consideration whether a play is moral or immoral, whether it is likely to corrupt or to elevate the audience, is non-existent. The dramatist who writes, the man or woman who acts, the spectator who looks on and listens,—all cease to be moral agents, and are held not to be responsible. This may be true; if it is, religion is false.