August 13th, 1909.
MR FORBES-ROBERTSON’s evidence before the Parliamentary Committee that is inquiring into the censorship of plays will be welcomed by all those who fear lest the present agitation against a censorship might result in undue liberty. The public has a particular esteem for Mr Forbes-Robertson; by some instinctive choice he is set apart in the general playgoing mind as an actor with ideals. Mr Forbes-Robertson said quite plainly that in his opinion the censorship ought to be retained, but that the overhanging political authority ought not to influence decisions. He admitted that in certain details of working the censorship might be improved, for he regarded it as unfortunate that such a play as “The Devil” should have been licensed recently. He regarded control as very necessary in the case of plays which deal with a Scriptural character, and once again he protested that “The Passing of the Third-Floor Back” did not contain a Scriptural character at all. Very remarkable, too, was his plea that music-halls should be permitted to produce stage plays, and that the demarcation between theatres and music-halls should be legally maintained no longer. Altogether the evidence before the Committee is revealing views of which the world had no idea. We were led to suppose that Mr Bernard Shaw’s troubles, and those of the writers of what may be called ob-
stetric plays, had aroused the theatre world to fierce anger with the censorship. Apparently it is not so. Indeed, there is reason to believe that an extension of the idea of censorship is necessary, for the fiction of the day is growing more and more corrupt. We have just laid down a novel in which the heroine is lauded for her loyal self-sacrifice, because she left a millionaire husband to consort with a poor man. There are signs to-day, in more realms of art than one, that the intellectuals are becoming confused with the immorals.