Arthur Wing Pinero

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Sir Arthur Wing Pinero
Arthur Wing Pinero in 1919.jpg
BornArthur Wing Pinero
(1855-05-24)24 May 1855
Died23 November 1934(1934-11-23) (aged 79)
Resting placeNorthchapel, West Sussex
OccupationPlaywright, actor
Years active1874-1934
Spouse(s)Myra Wood Hamilton Pinero

Sir Arthur Wing Pinero (24 May 1855 – 23 November 1934) was an English actor and later an important dramatist and stage director.

Personal life[edit]

Pinero was born in London, the only son of Lucy (née Daines, d. 1905) and John Daniel Pinero, a solicitor.[1] He had two sisters, Frances Pinero (b. 1852) and Mary Ross Pinero (1865-1944). His paternal grandfather was from a Portuguese Sephardic Jewish family which settled in England, while his other grandparents were from a Christian English background.[2] He studied law at Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution before going on the stage.

In 1883, he married Myra Emily Wood (1851/2-1919), who had acted under the stage name of Myra Holme, a widow with two children, Angus and Myra, from her first marriage. In 1887, Pinero was elected a member of the Garrick Club.

Pinero was knighted in 1909 at the insistence of fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, becoming the second man to be knighted for services to drama alone after W.S. Gilbert.[3] In June 1913, his journalist step-son, Angus Hamilton, committed suicide in New York City. Six years later, his wife Myra died. Increasingly socially and professionally isolated, Pinero yet remained close to his step-daughter, Myra Hamilton Hughes.

Pinero died in London in 1934 following complications from an operation for a strangulated hernia.

Stage career[edit]

Arthur Wing Pinero

In 1874 Pinero joined R. H. Wyndham's company at the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh. After also acting in Liverpool, Pinero joined Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre company in London in 1876, where he acted in supporting roles for five years, and later played under the Bancrofts' management at the Haymarket Theatre. He received good notice in Sheridan's The Rivals, in 1884, which he had revised himself.[4]

Pinero began writing plays in the late 1870s while at the Lyceum, including Daisy's Escape in 1879 and Bygones in 1880.[4] He became a prolific and successful playwright, authoring fifty-nine plays. These include serious social dramas, some dealing with social hypocrisy surrounding attitudes to women in second marriages, including:

He is best known for his comedies, of which the most notable are:

Poster from Pinero's play The Schoolmistress at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1886

His farce The Amazons was adapted into the 1917 film of the same name, starring Marguerite Clark. His 1923 romance The Enchanted Cottage was successfully filmed in 1924 and 1945. His House in Order was made into a 1928 silent film starring Tallulah Bankhead, but the film is lost.[7] Both The Magistrate and Dandy Dick were made into films starring Will Hay.

His opera in the style of a medieval morality play, The Beauty Stone, (with Arthur Sullivan and J. Comyns Carr) has grown somewhat in popularity in recent years, having gained a recording, but the dialogue is often heavily abridged. In Pinero's 1888 play Sweet Lavender, which was so popular that it ran for an extraordinary (for the time), 683 performances,[8] the character Horace utters the famous line, "While there is tea, there is hope."

While tremendously popular in his day, his plays are rarely revived. Even in his final years he saw his work starting to go out of style. However, The Magistrate was newly produced by the Royal National Theatre and ran from November 2012 – January 2013, in the Olivier Theatre starting John Lithgow and Nancy Carroll among others.

Pinero was one of the few dramatists of his time, apart from William Gillette and Oscar Wilde, who wrote strong parts for leading ladies, but many powerful actresses had their own ideas about how to play certain scenes, quite differently from how he had visualised them. After much trial and error, he eventually hit on a solution to this recurring problem. At rehearsal, he would explain loudly and clearly how he wanted the scene played. Then he would take his place in the stalls, to watch the woman playing it her own way, not his. Immediately he would rush up and shout, "Perfect, perfect! Play it exactly like that on the night!" And for some reason, on the night, they would play it his way, not theirs.[citation needed]

Pinero caricatured in Vanity Fair, 7 March 1891

"Loyalty letters"[edit]

Following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by German U-boat on 7 May 1915, Pinero wrote to The Times calling on naturalised British citizens of German origin to make public statements of their loyalty to the King and reject Germany's methods of warfare:

"Sir—The sinking of the Lusitania, involving the cruel murder of hundreds of helpless and innocent non-combatants, affords those Germans who are naturalised British citizens holding prominent positions in this country an opportunity of performing an act which, even in the opinion of many who bear them no particular ill-will, is long overdue. We are in the tenth month on a war which has from the beginning been carried on by Germany with almost unspeakable treachery and vileness; but up to the present time not a single one of the distinguished Germans in our midst has thought fit to make a public avowal of his disagreement with the deliberate policy of barbarism pursued by the German Powers or to utter a word of indignation and disclaimer. Surely the moment has arrived when these gentlemen, in their own interests, if for no higher reason, should break silence and individually or collectively raise their voices against the infamous deeds which are being perpetrated by Germany. I venture to suggest that they might with propriety band together and present a loyal address to the King embracing an expression of their detestation of Germany's methods of warfare; but perhaps this may be better left to their own discretion and good feeling. What I would emphasise, however, is that continued silence on their part lays them open to the supposition that, thinking that the fate of England is hanging in the balance, they are—to use the common phrase—sitting on the gate. A word of warning, therefore, is neither gratuitous nor unfriendly. The temper of this country, slow to rouse, is becoming an ugly one. The gate may fall from its hinges.

Your obedient servant,

115A, Harley-street, W., May 10."[9]

In the following days, numerous letters were received by the newspaper from naturalised Britons stating individually or collectively their loyalty including public figures Sir Ernest Cassel, Sir George Henschel, Sir Carl Meyer and Sir Felix Schuster.


  1. ^ George Rowell Ed. (1986) Plays by A. W. Pinero, Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-24103-0
  2. ^ Wilbur Dwight Dunkel (1941) University of Chicago Press
  3. ^ Watson, E. Bradlee (1976). "Pinero, Sir Arthur Wing". In William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation. p. 56.
  4. ^ a b Stedman, Jane W. "General Utility: Victorian Author-Actors from Knowles to Pinero", Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 24, No. 3, October 1972, pp. 289–301, The Johns Hopkins University Press
  5. ^ The Squire (1905) Samuel French (Google e-book)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lobenthal, Joel (2004). Tallulah: the life and times of a leading lady. HarperCollins. p. 130. ISBN 0-06-039435-8.
  8. ^ Clark, Barrett H. The British and American Drama of Today, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915, pp. 10–13
  9. ^ "Where Protest is Due. Letters to the Editor". The Times (40851). 11 May 1915. p. 9. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  • Pinero: A Theatrical Life, John Dawick. University of Colorado Press (1993) 434pp.
  • Dawick,John. Pinero:A Theatrical Life. University of Colorado Press (1993), 434pp.

External links[edit]