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William Archer (critic)


William Archer (23 September 1856 – 27 December 1924) was a Scottish critic and writer.

He was born in Perth, the son of Thomas Archer. He spent large parts of his boyhood in Norway where he became acquainted with the works of Henrik Ibsen, and was later educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he received the degree of M.A. in 1876.

Archer became a leader-writer on the Edinburgh Evening News in 1875, and after a year in Australia returned to Edinburgh. In 1878 he took up residence in London. In 1879 he became dramatic critic of the London Figaro, and in 1884 of the World, where he remained until 1905. In London he soon took a prominent literary place and exercised much influence.

Archer had much to do with introducing Henrik Ibsen to the English public with his translation of The Pillars of Society, produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, 1880. It was the first Ibsen play to be produced in London but made little impression. He also translated, alone or in collaboration, other productions of the Scandinavian stage: Ibsen's A Doll's House (1889), The Master Builder (1893, with Edmund Gosse); Edvard Brandes's A Visit (1892); Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1892, with Charles Archer); Little Eyolf (1895); and John Gabriel Borkman (1897); and he edited Henrik Ibsen's Prose Dramas vols., 1890–1891).

In 1897 Archer, along with Elizabeth Robins, Henry William Massingham, and Alfred Sutro, formed the Provisional Committee to organize an association to produce plays of high literary intrinsic merit, such as Ibsen's. The association was called the "New Century Theatre" but was a disappointment by 1899, although it continued until at least 1904. In 1899, a more successful association, called the Stage Society, was formed to replace it.



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