HL Deb 04 July 1923 vol 54 cc785-801

LORD ERSKINE rose to call attention to the desirability of assisting the establishment of the national theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the production of Shakespeare's plays, and to ask His Majesty's Government if they can see their way to afford some financial assistance to this national object.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Notice that stands in my name is perhaps of a somewhat novel character, but I hope that what I have to say may be of interest to your Lordships and may also awaken a chord of sympathy in the heart of the Board of Education, to whom I am addressing myself this afternoon. I have not been asked by any of the governors of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon to champion their cause. I am simply speaking out of the fullness of my heart from the experience I have gained of what the governors and the founders have done for the past forty years in aid of this great scheme, the endowment of the theatre. I should like also to try to show how the country will benefit educationally under this endowment scheme.

May I read a few extracts from a statement which explains the endowment fund scheme in a far better and clearer way than I could hope to explain it? The Shakespeare Memorial Association was founded on the initiative of one family in Stratford-upon-Avon on June 29, 1875. This family had a vision of something greater and more lasting than the mere raising of a memorial in bricks and mortar to the master dramatist. Recognising that the drama of Shakespeare was one of the greatest possessions of the English-speaking race they determined to make that possession a living and real force in the world. For that to be possible they knew that there must be a theatre where the Shakespearian drama could be performed for the sake of art alone and without thought of profit. For the fitting presentation of the plays they saw that there must be opportunity for intensive study of Shakespearian lore. Thus they designed to have a library and a gallery of pictures and sculpture of Shakespearian interest. … The generosity of a few Stratford-upon-Avon people together with some outside assistance—valuable in its spirit, though not great in capital amount—made possible the laying of the foundation stone of the Memorial Theatre buildings on April 23, 1877. These were completed in 1879 and a large part of the dream of the founders became reality. The governors were now in possession of a block of buildings suitable for many of their immediate needs. To-day, besides the theatre dedicated to the memory of the poet, the foundation includes a library containing nearly 15,000 volumes of Shakespearian literature, with a spacious reading-room, a gallery of pictures and sculpture of Shakespearian interest, and a lecture hall. … Great an accomplishment as was the provision of the edifice itself, yet still greater, considering all the difficulties which lack of endownment has entailed, is the work that has since been accomplished there. Beginning its work at a time when only a few of the poet's masterpieces were at all frequently performed upon the English stage, the governors have during the last 46 years kept alive the love and study of Shakespearian drama and have restored to the modern theatre the plays which, neglected in the poet's own country, could only be seen performed in the subsidised theatres of Germany. The production of the whole cycle of the poet's historical plays in their chronological order in one week, with their noble and patriotic ardour, has stimulated interest in our English history and national development … To the Memorial Theatre have come some of the greatest British and other actors and actresses of the last fifty years. … Around the festivals have grown up various activities connected with the drama, and not a year passes without lectures, conferences, schools of elocution and dancing, and exhibitions connected with the art of the theatre being held either in the town or in the buildings of the Memorial.

That, I think, is a very strong point in favour of the educational side of this scheme. I have had the pleasure, as I expect a great many of your Lordships have had, of attending these festivals; indeed, I do not think I have missed one for the last twenty-five years. And it is, I maintain, a great pleasure and a great education to be present at these memorial festivals. Not only that, but one meets there many interesting and learned people from all quarters of the globe. One cannot come in contact with these, people without learning something from them, and no doubt they learn something from us as well. This meeting together twice a year of all these people from the distant parts of the Empire and from outside the Empire to compare notes and to learn things from each other is a great educational asset. And it is a cheap form of education too, because if this endowment fund can be once established the festival can be carried on year after year, and carried on even on a finer basis than it is at present. That would be an enormous help to education in this country. The statement from which I have quoted says— Almost the whole of the financial burden of this great achievement has been borne by the people of Stratford-upon-Avon and its neighbourhood. "When it is remembered that the entire population of the town is only somewhat over 9,000 and that its public-spirited inhabitants have given money, land, and buildings to the value of £100,000 the result appears amazing. From outside sources only some £20,000 has been contributed. At the present moment a guarantee fund raised by the townspeople is making it possible to continue the festivals. It has been suggested that the corporation should subsidise the Theatre. Even if this were just, and they obtained the necessary powers they could give no adequate assistance for the town is so small that a penny rate would not produce £200 a year. An adequate subsidy would be an impossible burden on the town and, after all, the Memorial belongs not to Stratford-upon-Avon, but to the entire world. That is the story to-day. Appeals for funds have been addressed to the people of this country and to those of the United States of America, and although certain sums have been received, money is not coming in as fast as could be desired.

I may be told that in due course an endowment fund will be raised and that some wealthy man or men will be found to complete the work that the governors of the Theatre have in view. But in my humble opinion such a scheme as this should not be left entirely to the generosity of private individuals, either here or in America, as has been the case up to the present time. Shakespeare and his works are the proud possession of these Islands, and it is, I venture to think, to the Government of this country that our people should look for that financial assistance that will both advance the honour and glory of our great national dramatist and the cause of education which every man, woman and child should be only too ready to foster and encourage. Again, I may be told that were the Government to help this endowment scheme other theatres might make similar appeals. In my humble opinion there is only one Shakespeare and only one Stratford-upon-Avon, and there is no like festival in any other part of the world. This is, I think, a sufficient answer to that objection.

A letter appeared in The Times on April 23 of this year, in which it was said— It is the people of England above all others whose pride it should be to prove to the world that they prize at its full value the greatness of the common heritage. Quietly and patiently this handful of Stratford's citizens have borne the burden and heat of the day. It is time that the load of financial anxiety should be lifted from their shoulders, and their work developed on a stable basis as a National Trust. In conclusion, I humbly suggest that the Board of Education should be asked to contribute £5,000 towards this endowment fund. If my appeal receives a favourable reply the Government will know that they have helped to create a centre of education that will confer far-reaching and inestimable benefits upon the present and rising generations, and give to Shakespeare and his works that commanding position which the genius of the man entitles him to hold for all time.


My Lords, I desire to advocate on all occasions, especially at the present time, all reasonable and necessary economies. I also admit the complete novelty in our politics of a proposal such as that which has been made to your Lordships by my noble friend who has just sat down. I hope to show your Lordships before I sit down that it is by no means a novelty elsewhere and in other societies which claim to know quite as much about art, whether dramatic, or musical, or other art, as we do here. But I hope that nothing will be said by the Minister who replies to this Question to-day which takes too great advantage of the fact that this is a novel proposal or, on the other hand, negatives entirely the idea that it is a permissible principle to give a subsidy of this kind. This is not merely a matter of economy of material wealth or an inroad upon material savings. The mere fact that this Question is about to be answered by a noble Lord who discharges with great ability the functions of responding not only for the Board of Education but for the Ministry of Health, shows that though there are material assets which are valuable, other which are not less valuable are moral and spiritual assets in the life of a nation.

This subject touches the question of education and, not merely artistic, or literary, or technical education alone. It would help, as some of us think, to impart that civic education which is the root of all our national spirit, our national refinement, our national courage and all those great elements which go to make up the character of which Shakespeare wrote so splendidly nearly 400 years ago. The admissibility of such a subsidy as this flows from a deeper principle still, and that is the principle that in matters of art the commercial and economic principle fails as a test of excellence or a guide to popular taste. You may search the records of Parliament in vain for any but the scantiest allusion in past years to subjects such as this.

That leads me to say that I believe I am connected with about the only piece of Parliamentary literature which bears upon the subject. Some twenty years ago when I was, comparatively speaking, young and more ardent, in my House of Commons days, there was a discussion going on outside the House on subjects such as this and it occurred to me to move what is called an Address for a return from His Majesty's representatives abroad of all subsidies and grants given either by the State or by municipalities to any form of dramatic, or operatic or musical representation. I persuaded the House of Commons to make an Order for that Return, which eventually materialised in the form of a White Paper which is known as Command Paper No. 1838 of the year 1903. I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Lansdowne in his place, because it brings to my mind the recollection that whereas at that time, in 1903, I was hoping that in my humble person I was going to receive some of the credit of this Return, the fact was that my noble friend's great reputation, enjoying, as he did then, the great office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, attracted to him all the notice of that favourable Press which I hoped was going to be mine. He, no doubt fully conscious of all that was done in his name, sent out circulars to His Majesty's representatives abroad asking for this information. They responded and sent in a whole lot of information, which was issued in the White Paper. As a result he was complimented upon his never-ceasing vigilance in the search for knowledge of that kind. If I did not get all the share of the credit that was due to me on that occasion, no doubt my noble friend Lord Lansdowne gave me no more and no less than he thought was good for art and for this country.

That leads me to remind your Lordships of some of the things that are going on in the way of creating new precedents, continuing existing precedents, and consolidating and confirming old precedents in the matter of grants of this kind elsewhere than in this country. My own connection with this Return is only to be found in obscure entries in the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Commons on March 2, 1903. Assistance of this kind is bound to take one or two of various forms. There are cases of mere exemptions from taxation of theatres. I mention them especially because it is not only to the ancient monarchies of the old Courts of Europe that you go for instances of that kind, but you find that sort of thing also in Buenos Aires, in a quite new Republic in Latin America. There are also the gift of State sites, the erection of State buildings at State cost, and the providing of repairs at State cost. There are existing instances of State management with State-chosen directors, which we must assume is on account of the confidence in their skill and taste in the management of dramatic or operatic representations. There is another common form of assistance, and that is the grant of a State indemnification against the deficits which are only too likely to happen in the case of some dramatic representations, and not by any means the least because they are the best representations that can be given.

I am very far from suggesting that I should take your Lordships through the long catalogue of reports which form this White Book, but I will take some of the principal cases. If we go to Central Europe we find that at Vienna an opera house was erected at the cost of the equivalent of £500,000 some time before 1903; at any rate, it was in existence in 1903. Besides that, at Vienna there was the Burg Theatre which seems to have cost the equivalent of £13,700, and was erected like the opera house upon State land. Both these institutions, the Report says, were the property of the Emperor's Treasury, and were maintained and administered by the Lord Chamberlain's Department. In Hungary, on the other hand, at Budapest, large sums were spent on like objects. The opera house and the National Theatre at Budapest alone seem to have cost very close upon £50,000 in the year 1903 in the shape of recurring charges for the representations there.

Now we come to the three most conspicuous cases in Germany. Let us take Munich, Berlin and Dresden. Munich has its National Theatre which is sometimes called the Court and National Theatre. That was built by the State, repaired by the State, and occupied without rent being paid to the State. There is also the Residenz Theatre. That was kept and administered by what was called the Civil List. I shall recur to this point directly. In Munich the Civil List gave aggregate subventions equivalent to £12,500 a year, besides making good any deficit which might result from the performances. In Berlin there are two houses, one the Royal Opera, the other the Royal Playhouse. Together they seem to get, or were getting in 1903, no less than the equivalent of £54,000 sterling from what was called the private revenue of the Crown. They were also built on land which was the property of the Prussian State, and the cost of repairs to them was met by the Prussian State.

Besides a long list of municipal aids to provincial theatres, which list of municipal aids covers even large villages, and in the special case of Leipzig shows a financial connection between the municipality and three great theatres, there were in Dresden an opera house, a theatre, and an orchestra, all managed by the King's own director, and costing in subsidies in 1902 an equivalent of £41,000. In addition to the State grants which I have mentioned, help took the form of so-called Royal grants in many of the cities both of Germany and of Austria. There were, in 1902 and 1903, municipal grants from many cities in Austria, Hungary and Germany. I could cite other instances in Germany. There were the Wurtemberg, the Darmstadt, Baden and Weimar theatres and many others, in which the Courts or the taxes or both provided subsidies of the same kind.

I am aware that it may occur to your Lordships to say that these are nothing but survivals from the old Court system in which all art was regarded as little more than a decoration of the Court life, and the only patronage that art got was from the monarchies and the adherents of the monarchies, and that their life rested upon them. You may say that all these subsidised institutions are nothing but a continuation of the old epoch and that the burden still falls in the same place. I dispute that proposition. I say that we do not know what is meant by a Civil List, and it is quite clear that in many cases it is not entirely made of grants from the private revenues of the Crown nor is it clear what you can call private revenues of the Crown in any particular case. But there is an element of contribution from the taxes in many of the instances so that in reality you find these great theatres continued by sacrifices at the cost of the taxpayers in part; or at all events, there were in 1903, subsidies of the kind for which my noble friend behind me has asked.

I can quote two other and more conclusive and significant cases. We find that a new State like Belgium, which has not yet existed for a century, has its State and municipal aids to drama and music. There was a good municipal subsidy to a theatre in Sofia in Bulgaria. It had existed for some time. There is a Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, and there is a municipal aid in Denmark, though I admit that it is only given to concerts. Under British tutelage in Egypt I find that, somehow or other, nearly £10,000 a year was being given to drama and music. There was a good municipal Return was made. In Norway a site was given by the State for a theatre, and there were municipal aids in the provinces. I find instances in Rumania, while in Russia there were no less than six theatres, three in St. Petersburg and It had existed for some time. There is three in Moscow, to which some very large sums are mentioned as having been given. In connection with this I may read a passage from the Return which says, dealing with the year 1903— In Russia the theatre is looked upon as being on educational institution, and the Government aims at making it within the reach of all. It is possible to visit the opera for 5d., and to see Russian pieces for 3d., and French or German pieces for 9d. or 10d. Those are the European cases. There are other cases in Latin America, though I cannot quote a case from the United States of North America.

There is also the still more interesting case of France. In France, however, it falls in the class for Parliamentary grants, in the class of what you may call a modern State organisation, but I must admit that there is in it something of Napoleonic inspiration. I believe that tradition says that even amongst the frightful preoccupations of his stay in Moscow the great Napoleon was actually engaged in looking to the details of the constitution of the Comédie Française. Anyhow, I have here the regulations which affect the constitution of the theatres in Paris and elsewhere in France, in which the State regulates the number of artistes engaged, which means a higher standard of excellence in the representation, and also looks to the quality and attainments of those artistes by stipulating that some at least should have received their education at the National Conservatoire. It shows that it is not content with providing these financial links between the State and these artistic representations. So much for foreign precedents. I admit that times then were different, and possibly the constitution of these States was different. It may be some time before we get any information at all as to what is going on now in regard to subsidies of this kind in States which have suffered such frightful trials.

I think the Government will do well not to close the door for ever, or to give any negative answer—I hope they will not do so—except upon purely temporary and opportunist grounds. I said that this is partly educational and partly due to the fact that the commercial principle fails you as a principle in matters of art. When I moved for my Return twenty years ago I remember being told by a leading member of the then Labour Party in the House of Commons, who subsequently received Office under the Crown, that he should certainly not object to a subsidy such as those which I had hinted at in my Motion because he regarded it as a form of technical education of the highest and most valuable kind.

I ask your Lordships to receive the introduction of this subject with favour and to use your influence with the Government in the direction which is indicated by the terms of the Question. If you leave an unrestricted operation to what may be called the commercial and advertising spirit in relation to dramatic art, the prizes and the profits will probably go to the loudest shouters, to the thickest skinned seekers of the thing which is denoted by that base word "publicity," and in the end the highest inspirations and the best productions will probably disappear through starvation and the cause of the best art will surely suffer.


My Lords, as a Warwickshire man whose home is not very many miles from Shakespeare's birthplace, although, like a great many other Warwickshire men, I have never been inside Shakespeare's birthplace—most of our visitors from elsewhere do themselves and us the honour of going there—I should like to support the appeal which the noble Lord has made to the Government. I am not responding for the Government this afternoon, but I can anticipate very fairly what the Government reply will be. My noble friend will receive an exceedingly polite and consoling answer. He will get every consolation except the consolation of a cheque. But in spite of that I associate myself with what Lord Stuart of Wortley has just said, and I feel sure that the Government will not turn down unsympathetically the idea which has been placed before your Lordships.

The noble Lord who introduced the subject has a particular title to speak to your Lordships on such a matter. He is connected with a family who have done perhaps more for Shakespeare- than anybody else in the United Kingdom. There have been at least four generations of the Flower family at Stratford-upon-Avon who have endowed and sustained the theatre there in which Shakespeare's plays have been consistently played. To the single-minded and generous efforts of the Flower family this country really owes a deep debt of gratitude; they have created a cult and a home for Shakespearian performances. My noble friend, I am sure, will agree with me that in his appeal one cannot get away from a consideration of the general arguments for and against a national theatre, and it seems to me that the House of Lords is a very convenient place in which to offer one or two remarks about it. We can do so without any financial responsibility whatever. We shall get the best opinions as to whether we ought to have a national theatre in this country or not; and not the slightest notice will be taken of the debate outside. In that respect it will be highly characteristic of some of the discussions we have had; for instance, the discussion with regard to Socialism.

The question of a national theatre is really a very serious one for the life of this country, and the arguments for and against it can be very briefly stated. If your Lordships will allow me I will try to place before you one or two considerations. To my mind the arguments in favour of a national theatre and a national school of dramatic art are these. If you have a national school of acting and a national theatre, to which the pupils from that school have the right of access after having obtained certain diplomas, you give to young actors and actresses the chance of displaying their talents and interpreting the drama of this country; an opportunity which they think, perhaps rightly and perhaps wrongly, they do not possess at the present. You take them away from the caprice or passing humour of the moment, from the choice of the actor manager of the day, and place them in a secure position and enable them to have some sort of opportunity of displaying their art before the British public. At the same time, if you have a national theatre you give yourselves the opportunity of cultivating the national taste and sustaining great national authors of this country, such as Shakespeare. Many of your Lordships are well aware that when the Colonial troops came here at the beginning of the war they were much astonished and aggrieved that in the very capital of England there was no representation at that time of any single one of Shakespeare's plays. At that time Shakespeare's plays were being played to crowded houses in the very country with which we were at war.

Not only would a national theatre give a chance to actors and actresses, but it would also give a chance to the author. I know it is very easy to say: "Why should you subsidise a national institution in order that an author may have a chance of being displayed? Surely he can write a play without any great expense." That is true. You can write a book and produce it, you can paint a picture or create a piece of sculpture, without incurring any very great expense, but you have to do more than merely write a play—I am not speaking as an author myself, because I have never written one, but I know some of their troubles—you have also to go to the expense of getting the play produced. Consequently, the dramatic author does not stand on quite the same level as regards getting his work presented as the author of a book which does not take the dramatic form.

In considering the advantages and disadvantages of a national theatre, we have to ask ourselves (1) whether it is a desirable thing; and (2) whether we can afford it. There are a great many arguments against a national theatre. The subsidised theatres in foreign countries, to which my noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley referred just now, have from time to time been rather severely criticised. It is said that if you start a national school of acting you tend to stereotype a certain class of acting, to preserve gestures and styles of acting which in time become old-fashioned, hidebound, and archaic, with the result that you do not make any real progress. To judge from certain things that one hears, I am not at all sure that human nature behind the scenes in a State-subsidised theatre is not pretty much the same as human nature behind the scenes in any other theatre, and we hear of what, by a euphemism, is called the artistic temperament, which is English for a first-class row, making itself heard behind the scenes of the Comédie Française just as much as that class of temperament tends to make itself felt in a privately-owned theatre in this country.

The other objection which is constantly urged against a national theatre is that we are not a theatrical race. I believe that is not an ill-founded criticism, and perhaps its best justification would be found in the House of Lords this afternoon, where a comparatively small attendance is discussing such a very important matter as the establishment of a national theatre at the very birthplace of our national poet. But surely we cannot be said to be a wholly untheatrical race. We have produced Shakespeare and Sheridan, Garrick and Irving, to take only four names, and in the poet Gay we have produced the author of a play which has the immortal honour of lasting almost as long as, or, I believe, a little longer than, a masterpiece like "Chu Chin Chow"—and, after all, that is not so bad. When it is said of us that we are not a theatrical race, do not your Lordships think that what people really mean is that the English people as a whole do not care about what is known on the Continent as an academy? I think Mr. William Archer, who, as your Lordships are well aware, is one of the leading critics of the theatre, once said that we shrink from idealism. In this country, instead of having an activity subsidised by the State, we prefer to rely upon individual effort and individual achievement.

It was only this morning that I met in the street an actor-manager whose name, which I do not mention, is well known to your Lordships. He has received a distinction from his Sovereign as being one of the best actors that we have ever produced and a great authority on the drama. I asked him whether he was aware that this debate was coming on this afternoon. He said that he was. I then asked him what side I was to take on the question of whether one should declare in favour of a national theatre in the abstract, or not. He said: "I was once in favour of a national theatre, and I worked very hard for it indeed, but since I have seen the terrible hash in which all Government-run concerns ended during the war I am beginning to be very doubtful about entrusting the theatre to those same tender mercies."

It has also been said that any good play will stand upon its own merits and is bound to succeed, that all these "mute, inglorious Miltons" who are complaining about never being produced have not really written anything that its worthy of being produced. I am not at all sure whether that is absolutely true, because, to descend from Shakespeare to the author of "Charley's Aunt,' I have no doubt that some of your Lordships are aware that Brandon Thomas, the author of that play—I am speaking without the book, but I know that this is relatively true—had to take that play round London—a play which has run longer, I believe, than any other play except the "Beggar's Opera" and "Chu Chin Chow"—for weeks and even for months before he could find a manager to accept it. It is not at all certain, therefore, that there are not authors of unproduced plays nowadays whose talent we might evoke and exploit by placing it at the disposal of the nation by means of a national theatre.

Looking at the question in the abstract, as one who has taken some interest in the drama and who is himself the owner of a London theatre—though I am not responsible for the productions at that theatre—


Which theatre is it?


I will tell you afterwards, my Lords. I will place my box at your disposal whenever your Lordships desire it. In the abstract, I am certainly in favour of what is called a national theatre, and I hope that my noble friend will not appeal in vain for public support. But at the back of it all there is that spectre of the cost. Now that we are discussing the subject, it may be interesting to your Lordships to recall that two separate attempts have been made to estimate the cost of a successful national theatre. In the year 1904 the whole question of expense was thoroughly examined by such supreme authorities as Sir Henry Irving, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, Mr. Pinero—as he then was—and, I think, the late Sir George Alexander, together with all the heads of the dramatic profession, acting in concert with leading critics, such as Mr. William Archer, and an exceedingly interesting book was published. They arrived at the conclusion that you could not sustain a national theatre in this country unless you were prepared to spend at least £70,000 or £80,000 a year That means a capital sum of something like £2,000,000.

Later on, if your Lordships will remember, a very able appeal was made to the nation some few years before the war, when England was really rich, and people could afford, and some of them did afford, to give large subscriptions towards a thing of this kind. I believe that all the trustees for that fund then sought to be raised are now dead, with the exception of the present Lord Lytton, who is now Governor of Bengal. I do not know what has happened to the money which they collected, and they collected a considerable sum, but I expect that the subscribers have already asked for and obtained their money lack at the door. We will let that pass. They asked for at least a sum of half a million, and therefore I am only uttering a platitude when I say that at this time of day, with the general dislike there is of any State-managed concern, with the Income Tax and national taxation generally at the present figures, it is not likely that we shall appeal to the Government with any prospect of success for a State-aided theatre—for a subsidy to the theatre. At the same time, as a Warwickshire man, and as one who has taken great interest in the theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, I thank Lord Erskine for the way in which he has brought the matter forward, and I trust that this debate will well ventilate the subject and will not have taken place entirely in vain.


My Lords, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord for having raised this Question, because it has produced a very interesting debate on a subject of interest to everybody in this House, and has also elicited two or three very illuminating speeches, from various points of view, from those who are best qualified to speak upon the subject. The noble Lord who asked this Question gave us a very interesting account, for which we are all grateful, of the activities of the society at Stratford-upon-Avon, and I am sure that anything that can be done to assist the objects which he has in view at Stratford-upon-Avon will be welcome to us all. But what he really suggests in this Question is that the Government should undertake a subsidy to the theatre. I think, although perhaps he may differ from me on this point, that that was really recognised by the two noble Lords who succeeded him in the debate.

Now a subsidised theatre, as Lord Willoughby de Broke said, is in this country a new departure altogether. I do not say it is a new departure to subsidise art. We do subsidise art in other ways, such as, for instance, the National Gallery and certain museums, but we never have yet, either nationally or municipally, given a subsidy either to the theatre or the opera, and to do it now would be a new departure. I am well aware that in most other countries this form of subsidy is commonplace. It is regularly done either from the State or from the municipality, but it has not been done in this country, at any rate up to the present moment. I venture to think, although perhaps my noble friend will not quite agree with me, that if the Government were to accede to his request and accord a subsidy to the theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, it would be quite impossible not to open the whole wide subject of a national subsidy of the theatre.

I think if the theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon were selected for subsidy my noble friend the Lord Chamberlain would receive a great many requests from theatres in London and elsewhere that similar treatment should be accorded to the theatres in London, and also requests from the London playgoing public, because, of course, although I admit all the historical and sentimental value of the theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, theatres in larger centres are perhaps more convenient. I am not going to follow Lord Willoughby de Broke into the argument for or against a national theatre, or a national subsidy, but I would remind your Lordships that this is a new departure, and that the present moment, as Lord Willoughby de Broke foreshadowed in a reference to my probable reply, is not a time in which we really could embark upon new forms of expenditure. Although I am very sorry to give so discouraging an answer to my noble friend, I think your Lordships will agree that it would be impossible really to consider a new avenue of expenditure which this would open up, and therefore I am afraid it will not be possible to entertain the request which he has put forward.


My Lords, I have no wish to prolong the discussion, and what I wish to say I will say in a few words. Probably it will be felt difficult to meet the point made by the noble Earl, but I think there are other ways in which public expenditure may assist the objects which the noble Lord who asked this Question has in view. Ultimately, the drama of the country must reflect the public taste, and public taste in dramatic art, as in other forms of art, depends upon the education of the people. There is, at the present moment, as your Lordships know, a most interesting kind of experiment being gone through in our elementary schools, and in many other schools throughout the country, with a view to making the drama an essential and integral part of the public education of the boys and girls of the country. The results that have already been obtained by the use of the drama as an instrument of education are most interesting and promising. Ultimately, if such education is extended, it will, I hope, mean that there will be an increasing number of people, not only in London or in Stratford-upon-Avon, but throughout the country, who have been trained to value good dramatic art for its own sake. If public expenditure is to be used for the purpose of improving the quality of the drama in this country, in my judgment it can be aptly expended both by the State and by the local authorities in encouraging, wherever possible, the development of these experiments of making drama part of the normal curriculum in our secondary and elementary schools.