N.B.--There is a point of some technical interest to be noted in this play. The
customary division into acts and scenes has been disused, and a return made to
unity of time and place, as observed in the ancient Greek drama. In the foregoing
tragedy, The Doctor's Dilemma, there are five acts; the place is altered five times;
and the time is spread over an undetermined period of more than a year. No
doubt the strain on the attention of the audience and on the ingenuity of the
playwright is much less; but I find in practice that the Greek form is inevitable
when drama reaches a certain point in poetic and intellectual evolution. Its
adoption was not, on my part, a deliberate display of virtuosity in form, but simply
the spontaneous falling of a play of ideas into the form most suitable to it, which
turned out to be the classical form. Getting Married, in several acts and scenes,
with the time spread over a long period, would be impossible.
On a fine morning in the spring of 1908 the Norman kitchen in the Palace of the
Bishop of Chelsea looks very spacious and clean and handsome and healthy.
The Bishop is lucky enough to have a XII century palace. The palace itself has
been lucky enough to escape being carved up into XV century Gothic, or shaved
into XVIII century ashlar, or "restored" by a XIX century builder and a Victorian
architect with a deep sense of the umbrella-like gentlemanliness of XIV century
vaulting. The present occupant, A. Chelsea, unofficially Alfred Bridgenorth,
appreciates Norman work. He has, by adroit complaints of the discomfort of the
place, induced the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to give him some money to
spend on it; and with this he has got rid of the wall papers, the paint, the
partitions, the exquisitely planed and moulded casings with which the Victorian
cabinetmakers enclosed and hid the huge black beams of hewn oak, and of all
other expedients of his predecessors to make themselves feel at home and
respectable in a Norman fortress. It is a house built to last for ever. The walls and
beams are big enough to carry the tower of Babel, as if the builders, anticipating
our modern ideas and instinctively defying them, had resolved to show how much
material they could lavish on a house built for the glory of God, instead of
keeping a competitive eye on the advantage of sending in the lowest tender, and
scientifically calculating how little material would be enough to prevent the whole
affair from tumbling down by its own weight.
The kitchen is the Bishop's favorite room. This is not at all because he is a man
of humble mind; but because the kitchen is one of the finest rooms in the house.
The Bishop has neither the income nor the appetite to have his cooking done
there. The windows, high up in the wall, look north and south. The north window
is the largest; and if we look into the kitchen through it we see facing us the south
wall with small Norman windows and an open door near the corner to the left.