20 MAY 1922, Page 23

A Short History of the British Drama. By Benjamin Brawley.

Harrap. 7s. 6d. net.)—" This book," says the author in his preface, " makes no special effort to be original or profound. It aims simply to set forth in brief compass the main facts that one might wish to have at hand in his first course in the English Drama." It contains a mass of useful information drawn from a variety of authorities, of whom Mr. Brawley gives a selective bibliography. But the fact remains that, to be supremely good, even a book of this description must aim at being original, and this is the more obvious, though not the more true, when we refer to the portion which deals with con- temporary dramatists, for where so small a space is devoted to each individual, superficial details of biography with a sketch of one or two plots has a very limited value ; indeed, plot in itself reveals almost nothing. The only possible method is to give a vivid and penetrating critical summary of each dramatist as seen in his work, and this demands a very considerable originality. We do not mean to assert that Mr. Brawley has used the first method exclusively ; he has not, but he has allowed it too much scope at the expense of the second. But the ideal book on this subject does not, so far as we know, exist, and meanwhile we can recommend Mr. Brawley's work as a comprehensive and useful guide.