Review of Robert Morss Lovett's Cowards, 1914

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Mr. Lovett's play, as its title indicates, places its emphasis upon the cowardice of parents and moral teachers in regard to the one subject upon which every young boy and girl most needs instruction. The play, like Wedekind's "Awakening of Spring", draws a contrast between the imaginary realm of mystery and romance in which children themselves live and the dry, hard world inhabited by their elders. The gulf between their two worlds is never crossed, and the high school girl in Mr. Lovett's play, like the German children, rushes on to tragic death, [although] she might so easily have been saved.

The New England parents in Mr. Lovett's play are not only afraid of a public scandal, but affectionate as they are and solicitous for the happiness of their daughter they seem utterly unable to overcome what the English call "parental modesty", and in every crisis fail to speak the words which would bring comfort and enlightenment to the bewildered girl. The only advice given to the tragic young creature is that tendered by a man of the world and the advice he gives is of the basest sort. The contrast is sharply drawn between the reticence of the good people who love her and mean to protect her and the untrammelled speech of the careless, coarse acquaintance. It is of course an epitome of what constantly occurs when parents act upon the old assumptions that ignorance is innocence.

Whether or not we agree with the dictum of the Swedish dramatist, August Strindberg, that the "play-wright should be a lay-priest preaching on vital topics of the day, in a way to make them intelligible to mediocre intellects", we are grateful that Mr. Lovett's tragedy is given in Chicago at the present moment, and we can but hope that it will prove a valuable aid in the effort to promote the teaching of personal purity in the public schools, as Wedekind's powerful drama helped to bring the teaching of the physiology of sex into the leading schools of Germany.

 

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David Ashenhurst

I've re-transcribed this, and I'd be glad to discuss it further. I'm Robert Morss Lovett's great-grandson, and I've been promoting some interest in producing this play again, 105 years after its first presentation.

Best,

DRA

*****

Mr. Lovett's play, as its title indicates, places its emphasis upon the cowardice of parents and moral teachers in regard to the one subject upon which every young boy and girl most needs instruction. The play, like Wedekind's "Awakening of Spring", draws a contrast between the imaginary realm of mystery and romance in which children themselves live and the dry, hard world inhabited by their elders. The gulf between their two worlds is never crossed, and the high school girl in Mr. Lovett's play, like the German children, rushes on to tragic death, altho [sic] she might so easily have been saved.

The New England parents in Mr. Lovett's play are not only afraid of a public scandal, but affectionate as they are and solicitous for the happiness of their daughter they seem utterly unable to overcome what the English call "parental modesty", and in every crisis fail to speak the words which would bring comfort and enlightenment to the bewildered girl. The only advice given to the tragic young creature is that tendered by a man of the world and the advice he gives is of the basest sort. The contrast is sharply drawn between the reticence of the good people who love her and mean to protect her and the untrammelled speech of the careless, coarse acquaintance. It is of course an epitome of what constantly occurs when parents act upon the old assumptions that ignorance is innocence.

Whether or not we agree with the dictum of the Swedish dramatist, August Strindberg, that the "play-wright should be a lay-priest preaching on vital topics of the day, in a way to make them intelligible to mediocre intellects", we are grateful that Mr. Lovett's tragedy is given in Chicago at the present moment, and we can but hope that it will prove a valuable aid in the effort to promote the teaching of personal purity in the public schools, as Wedekind's powerful drama helped to bring the teaching of the physiology of sex into the leading schools of Germany.

Reply

David Ashenhurst

Please forgive me, I was just trying to help out. Consider the previous submission a "Contact Us" message, not a "Comment." Same for this.

Best,

DRA

Reply

Cathy Moran Hajo

Hi David, Thanks so much for cleaning up this transcript! I'm glad that you are seeking to revive Cowards--it sounds like a fascinating piece. Would you happen to have a photograph of your great-grandfather that we could use with his biography? If so, please get in touch at chajo@ramapo.edu.

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