The Angel and the Author
[The Lady and the Problem.]
She is a good woman, the Heroine of the Problem Play, but accidents will happen, and
other people were to blame.
Perhaps that is really the Problem: who was responsible for the heroine's past? Was it her
father? She does not say so--not in so many words. That is not her way. It is not for her,
the silently- suffering victim of complicated antecedent incidents, to purchase justice for
herself by pointing the finger of accusation against him who, whatever his faults may be,
was once, at all events, her father. That one fact in his favour she can never forget. Indeed
she would not if she could. That one asset, for whatever it may be worth by the time the
Day of Judgment arrives, he shall retain. It shall not be taken from him. "After all he was
my father." She admits it, with the accent on the "was." That he is so no longer, he has
only himself to blame. His subsequent behaviour has apparently rendered it necessary for
her to sever the relationship.
"I love you," she has probably said to him, paraphrasing Othello's speech to Cassio; "it is
my duty, and--as by this time you must be aware--it is my keen if occasionally somewhat
involved, sense of duty that is the cause of almost all our troubles in this play. You will
always remain the object of what I cannot help feeling is misplaced affection on my part,
mingled with contempt. But never more be relative of mine."
Certain it is that but for her father she would never have had a past. Failing anyone else
on whom to lay the blame for whatever the lady may have done, we can generally fall
back upon the father. He becomes our sheet-anchor, so to speak. There are plays in which
at first sight it would almost appear there was nobody to blame--nobody, except the
heroine herself. It all seems to happen just because she is no better than she ought to be:
clearly, the father's fault! for ever having had a daughter no better than she ought to be.
As the Heroine of a certain Problem Play once put it neatly and succinctly to the old man
himself: "It is you parents that make us children what we are." She had him there. He had
not a word to answer for himself, but went off centre, leaving his hat behind him.
Sometimes, however, the father is merely a "Scientist"--which in Stageland is another
term for helpless imbecile. In Stageland, if a gentleman has not got to have much brain
and you do not know what else to make of him, you let him be a scientist--and then, of
course, he is only to blame in a minor degree. If he had not been a scientist--thinking
more of his silly old stars or beetles than of his intricate daughter, he might have done
something. The heroine does not say precisely what: perhaps have taken her up stairs
now and again, while she was still young and susceptible of improvement, and have
spanked some sense into her.
[The Stage Hero who, for once, had Justice done to him.]