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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
William Winter (1836–1917)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Richard Burton (1861–1940)
WILLIAM WINTER was a graceful poet and essayist, and a dramatic critic who was conspicuous in his profession in the United States. His work in the latter capacity was marked for a long term of years for its literary eloquence, and its insistence upon ideal standards. And in his more general contributions to belles lettres, whether in prose or verse, the qualities of sympathy and imagination have always been apparent. Mr. Winter, as a writer upon the drama, past or contemporaneous, brought philosophic principles and a wide knowledge of literature to bear upon his judgments of actors and the art of acting; and this gave his critiques perspective and atmosphere. He had strong prejudices; but no one could question his earnestness and honesty, or misunderstand his position as a student of the practical drama, who claimed that, in all which pertains to dramaturgy, moral health is as important as artistic merit.  1
  Mr. Winter was a New-Englander; drawing thence, perhaps, his tendency to “moral on the time.” He was born at Gloucester, Massachusetts, July 15th, 1836; was educated in Boston, and was a graduate of the Harvard Law School. In 1859 he went to New York, and did book reviewing for the Sunday Press, and other writing for Vanity Fair, the Albion, and the Weekly Review. In 1865 he became the dramatic critic of the New York Tribune, a position he held until August 14th, 1909. A number of his books, studying the personalities or events of the current drama, have been drawn from or based upon his contributions to that newspaper.  2
  Mr. Winter began to publish poetry in 1854, with the maiden volume ‘The Convent and Other Poems’; and half-a-dozen books of verse have come from his pen. The latest collection, ‘Author’s Edition’ (1909), contains what he deemed most worthy of preservation. These poems, in purity of diction and form, suggest the influence of the standard older singers, and outbreathe a sweet and true lyric spirit. They deal with friendship and love, with the bitter-sweet of life and death. Many are elegiac or commemorative, and these are among the most felicitous. Mr. Winter, in a preface, expressed the hope that his verse may prove “a not altogether unworthy addition to that old school of English Lyrical Poetry, of which gentleness is the soul and simplicity the garment,”—and this describes not ill his accomplishment as well as his aim in poetry.  3
  His prose falls into two main classes: the biographies and studies of stage celebrities, and the essays in which the wanderings in the storied British islands are chronicled. Of the latter, ‘English Rambles,’ ‘Gray Days and Gold,’ ‘Old Shrines and Ivy,’ and ‘Shakespeare’s England,’ are representative. Winter wrote these sketches picturesquely, mingling fact and sentiment in a way to make very pleasant and stimulating reading. To the critical studies belong carefully wrought sketches of Booth, Jefferson, Mary Anderson, Henry Irving, and Richard Mansfield and briefer appreciations of many other noteworthy players. In these critiques, Mr. Winter’s views on the technique of the actor’s art are set forth with much of literary attraction. In his daily dramatic criticism, he often indulges in trenchant satire when attacking what he considers the latter-day fads of the drama,—the problem play, the Ibsen craze, and the like; and is never more vigorous and amusing, though hardly fair to some of the newer literary forces. But Mr. Winter’s preaching is both sane and wholesome, and no doubt it is needed in a day of so much literary confusion. Altogether, he may be described as a versatile, charming, high-motived writer, whose influence in his sphere has been decided and salutary.  4
  In recent years Mr. Winter has written various books of reminiscences: among these are ‘Other Days—Chronicles and Personal Memories of the Stage’ (1908), ‘Old Friends—Personal Literary Recollections’ (1909), ‘The Wallet of Time—Theatrical Criticism and Reminiscence’ (1913), and ‘Vagrant Memories’ (1915). His long life, indeed, crowded his later years with a rich store of memories. He began writing regularly for the press in 1852 and his pen was as eager as ever in celebrating the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death. No one has known the American stage so well as he; and few have spent longer and happier hours under the spell of Shakespeare. He died June 30, 1917.  5

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