Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Scott, Clement William

SCOTT, CLEMENT WILLIAM (1841–1904), dramatic critic, born at Christ Church vicarage, Hoxton, on 6 Oct. 1841, was son of William Scott (1813–1872) [q. v.], then perpetual curate of Christ Christ, Hoxton, by his wife Margaret, daughter of William Beloe [q. v.]. After attending a private day-school at Islington, Scott was at Marlborough College from August 1852 until December 1859. On the nomination of Sidney Herbert, Lord Herbert of Lea [q. v.], a friend of his father, he entered the war office in May 1860 as a temporary clerk; was appointed a junior clerk on the establishment in January 1862, and retired on a pension in April 1879, without receiving any promotion during his service. Devoted to athletics in youth and middle age, he in 1874 played at Prince's Grounds, Hans Place, London, in the first game of lawn-tennis, together with Major Wingfield, the inventor, Alfred Thompson, and Alfred Lubbock.

From boyhood Scott had been interested in light literature and the drama. On the introduction of Thomas Hood the younger [q. v.], a colleague at the war office, he while very young assisted Frederick Ledger, editor of the 'Era.' In 1863 he became dramatic writer for the 'Sunday Times,' but retired after two years owing to the frankness of his pen, being succeeded by Joseph Knight (1829-1907) [q. v. Suppl. II]. He then wrote for the ’Weekly Despatch' and for the comic weekly paper ’Fun,' of which his friend Hood became editor in 1865; his colleagues included H. J. Byron, (Sir) Frank Burnand, and (Sir) William Schwenck Gilbert, with all of whom he grew intimate. In 1870 he joined the staff of the 'London Figaro,' contributing caustic criticism of the drama over the signature of Almaviva,

Scott began in 1871 a long connection with the 'Daily Telegraph.' He then became assistant to the dramatic critic, Edward Laman Blanchard [q. v. Suppl. I], whom he shortly afterwards succeeded. With the 'Daily Telegraph' he was associated till 1898, becoming the best known dramatic critic of his day, and largely leading popular opinion in theatrical matters. For a time in 1893 he was also dramatic critic for the 'Observer,' and later of the 'Illustrated London News.' From 1880 to 1889 he edited the monthly periodical called 'The Theatre.'

Scott also tried his hand at the drama. On 1 April 1871 John Holhngshead produced anonymously at the Gaiety Theatre his 'Off the line,' a popular farce from the French. In March 1877 he adapted at (Sir) Squire Bancroft's suggestion, for the Prince of Wales's Theatre, Octave Feuillet's 'Le Village' under the title of 'The Vicarage.' But his chief dramatic successes were won in the adaptation of comedies of Victorien Sardou, also for the Bancroft management. With B. C. Stephenson, Scott based 'Peril' on Sardou's 'Nos Intimes' (October 1876) and 'Diplomacy' on Sardou's 'Dora' (January 1878). The joint adapters called themselves 'Bolton Rowe and Saville Rowe.' ’Diplomacy' was parodied by Burnand at the Strand Theatre in 'Diplunacy.' In 1882, when the Bancrofts had removed to the Haymarket Theatre, Scott anonymously produced 'Odette,' a third adaptation of Sardou.

Lightly written accounts of holiday tours which Scott contributed serially to the 'Daily Telegraph' and other newspapers he collected into volumes under such titles as 'Round about the Islands' (1873), and 'Poppy Land,' a description of scenery of the east coast (1885; often reissued). An account of a journey round the world, which he made in 1893, was similarly issued as 'Pictures round the World' (1894). He also showed fluency as a versifier. After his friend (Sir) Frank Burnand became editor of 'Punch' in 1880, he occasionally contributed effective verse of sentimental flavour to that periodical, some of which he collected in ’Lays of a Londoner' (1882), 'Poems for Recitation' (1884), and 'Lays and Lyrics' (1888).

After his withdrawal from the 'Daily Telegraph' in 1898, Scott founded in 1901 a penny weekly paper, the 'Free Lance,' which obtained no recognised position. He died in London, after a long illness, on 25 June 1904, and was buried in the chapel of the Sisters of Nazareth at Southend. He married (1) on 30 April 1868, at Brompton Oratory, Isabel Busson du Maurier, sister of the artist, by whom he had four sons (two dying in infancy) and two daughters; she died on 26 Nov. 1890; and (2) in April 1893 Constance Margarite, daughter of Horatio Brandon, a London solicitor. A portrait by Mordecai belongs to his widow.

Despite the popular influence of his dramatic criticism, Scott's habit of mind was neither impartial nor judicial. Against modern schools of acting and of realistic drama of the Ibsen type he nursed a prejudice which involved him latterly in frequent controversy. In the van when he began to criticise, he never moved beyond the ideals of Robertson and Sardou. Yet he was a pioneer in the picturesque style of dramatic criticism in the daily press, which superseded the earlier method of bare reporting and owed something to the example of his fellow writer on the 'Daily Telegraph,' George Augustus Sala [q. v.].

Besides the books mentioned, Scott published numerous volumes chiefly collecting his newspaper criticisms of the drama; these include:

  1. 'Thirty Years at the Play,' 1892.
  2. 'From "The Bells" to "King Arthur": a critical record of the productions at the Lyceum Theatre from 1871 to 1895,' 1896.
  3. 'The Drama of Yesterday and To-day,' 1899.
  4. 'Ellen Terry: an Appreciation,' 1900.
  5. 'Some Notable Hamlets of the Present Time,' 1900; 2nd edit. 1905.

[The Times, and Daily Telegraph, 26 June 1904; Marlborough Coll. Reg.; War Office Records; The Bancrofts: Recollections of Sixty Years, 1909, passim; Joseph Knight, Theatrical Notes, 1893, pp. 156, 198; Sir F. C. Burnand, Records and Reminiscences, 1904, 2 vols.; Hollingshead, My Lifetime, 1895, and Gaiety Chronicles, 1898; Scott, The Drama of Yesterday and To-day, 1899; Spielmann's History of Punch, 1895, pp. 388-9; Cat. Max Beerbohm's Caricatures, May 1911, No. 25 (caricature of Scott).]

L. M.