Archer, William, 1856-1924

Alternative names
Birth 1856-09-23
Death 1924-12-27

Biographical notes:

Scottish dramatic critic and playright, and a close friend of George Bernard Shaw.

From the description of ALS, 1893 November 24, 40, Queen Square, W.C., [London], to Mrs. Charrington. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63936001

English journalist and writer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : 26 Gordon Square, W.C., [London], to Robert Browning, 1888 June 25. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270125331

William Archer was a Scottish drama critic, translator, and author. Educated as a lawyer, his fascination with the theater led him to journalism, and he became an eminent and important critic and commentator. Erudite and scholarly, he was friendly with many of the leading authors of his day. He is probably best known for advocating the acceptance of Henrik Ibsen's plays in English, which changed the course of English drama. He wrote several plays, the most popular of which was The Green Goddess.

From the description of William Archer letters, 1892-1921. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 57188179

William Archer (23 September 1856 - 27 December 1924) was born in Perth, son of Thomas Archer, Agent-General of Queensland in Australia. He was to emerge at the forefront of a new school of dramatic critics in Victorian England and remained an important figure in British theatrical circles into the 20th century. Beginning as a writer on the Edinburgh Evening News in 1875, he went on to become the dramatic critic of the London Figaro 1879-1881, and then The World 1884-1905. From 1905-1908 he was dramatic critic of The Tribune, and 1910-1911 of The Nation.

In 1889, he reworked the existing translation of Ibsen's A Doll's House for its first London production. This led to a complete translation of Ibsen's works under Archer's supervision. Among his own published plays are War is War (1919) and The Green Goddess (1920). An attempted collaboration on a play with his friend George Bernard Shaw did not come to fruition. He published many critical studies, pamphlets and articles concerning the theatre. He also had a long held ambition to see a national theatre established for England.

William Archer spent some of his childhood in Norway, and in 1908 he was made a Knight of the Order of St. Olav. He was called to the Bar in 1883, but never practised. He was a member of the Rationalist Press Association; and worked in the cause of the League of Nations.

William Archer married Frances Elizabeth Trickett, with whom he had a son Thomas who was killed in action during the First World War.

From the guide to the William Archer Collection, 1868-1990, (V&A Department of Theatre and Performance)


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  • Theater Critics--Great Britain
  • Theater--History--19th century
  • Theater critics--Correspondence


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