O’Neill, Eugene: Signed letter written from Bermuda regarding a play

Playwright Eugene O’Neill writing from Bermuda about a play
Playwright Eugene O’Neill writing from Bermuda about a play

O’Neill, Eugene: Signed letter written from Bermuda regarding a play

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O’Neill, Eugene (1888 – 1953)

Playwright Eugene O’Neill writing from Bermuda about a play

Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning American playwright. Autograph letter signed. (“Eugene O’Neill”) Hamilton, Bermuda. 31 May [no year, but likely late 1920s]. 1 page, 4to. (8.5 × 11 inches). To Mr. Gatz, an aspiring playwright who sent O’Neill a script for his feedback.

Dear Mr. Gatz, I read your play a long time ago and meant to send the script back you then. Just now I have been looking over it again briefly. The one criticism that hits me at a glance, as it did when I read it, is that your dialogue is stilted and ‘written’ – that is, meant to be read and not to be heard. This is a serious fault. You’ve got to write by ear, the spoken word, in a play. There’s a great intangible difference in rythym [sic] and quality between written conversation and spoken. For example, the talks in even the finest novels – there are exceptions, of course – would sound absolutely artificial and unnatural if heard in the theatre. The theme of your play struck me as excellent, I remember, and the construction seemed good. And that ’s about all I can say. You must face the fact that there is a lot of work to be done on it if you ever hope to get it into theatrical (in the good sense) shape. All best wishes. I meant to write you from New York but didn’t get the chance. Sincerely, Eugene O’Neill

O’Neill led a dissolute life from the time he left college until he made the decision to become a dramatist. From 1907, when he was suspended from Princeton, to 1913, O’Neill worked as a seaman, panhandled, drank, frequented prostitutes, and contracted malaria and tuberculosis. However, when he made the decision to focus on the theater, he found his true calling. In 1916, he joined the Provincetown Players, which staged many of his plays and launched his career. His output was prolific and included such masterpieces as The Iceman Cometh, Desire under the Elms, Mourning Becomes Electra, Beyond the Horizon, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. He won four Pulitzer Prizes and the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature for his work. In the 1920s O’Neill lived in Bermuda with his second wife. At his home at Spithead in Warwick Parish, he worked on The Great God, Lazarus Laughed, and Strange Interlude.

Mailing folds. Near fine. In a half morocco green slipcase with gilt titles on the pine and marbled paper interior. From the James S. Copley collection.

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