The recent death of J. B. Priestley, in the same year as that of the finest exponent of his plays, Sir Ralph Richardson, seems to signal the close of an era. We had hoped in an early issue of New Theatre Quarterly to arrange an interview with the playwright to coincide with his ninetieth birthday, and although generous tributes have been paid to Priestley's work in the theatre, two aspects of this work (incidentally of crucial importance to the policy of this journal) have been somewhat neglected. After the end of the Second World War, during the discussions and plans for building the new Britain (and by extension Europe) from the ruins of the old, Priestley stood for a particular kind of integrity in the British theatre: and his role in the creation of the International Theatre Institute and his own conception of the British Theatre Conference of 1947 raised many interesting questions about the social, national, and international role that theatre could play. If the intervening years have not seen developments to match that vision, our theatre nevertheless owes a great deal to the various reforms that have followed from such initiatives, and in future issues we intend to return to those ideals and ideas – to see what basis they constitute for a critique of our own time, and to assess what continuing relevance they have for our future. Any theatre journal today also owes a debt to Priestley for his pioneering championship and criticism of the various forms of popular entertainment in which he so delighted, and in which he discerned strong social values – essentially, the inspiration for a line of criticism carried forward brilliantly by Raymond Williams and others over the last three decades. Tragically, two of the great comedians who earned his admiration, Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe, departed before him, too far short of his own fullness of years. The world's stock of laughter has slumped since their passing and, as Priestley showed us, we have lost two innovators in the art of theatre. Tommy Cooper's deconstruction, if not demolition, of the stage was a masterly exposure of the polished sales techniques of showbusiness, and his exploitation of the art of anti-climax showed new ways through which to hold an audience and relate to them. Eric Morecambe, equally ruthless and proficient at puncturing the pretensions and posturings of glib naturalism and pseudo-aestheticism, had also the self-deflating wisdom of the true philosopher. One day, when we have grown over-familiar with the reruns of the reruns of the shows he has left behind, a retrospective examination of all the work of Morecambe and Wise will surely show that, underlying the technical brilliance of the comic playing, there is also a serious progression through the process of ageing, as brash optimism is tempered by the disillusionment of experience in the struggle to survive and extract what advantages one can from life. We learned a great deal about theatre from Tommy Cooper, and a lot about living and growing older from Eric Morecambe: they have gone leaving that education unfinished, but to commemorate them in the power of their effect, and to remind us of our debt to Priestley, we reproduce here the two pieces he wrote about them as living performers in the collection of essays Particular Pleasures, published in 1975 by Heinemann (to whom our grateful acknowledgements are extended).