Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 April 2021
This chapter focuses on the early British reception of Ibsen. It begins with Edmund Gosse’s early initiatives and Ibsen’s introduction to the English-speaking world. The next phase involves a group of socialists and feminists who in the 1880s made Ibsen their own, including Eleanor Marx, Olive Schreiner and George Bernard Shaw. Towards the end of that decade Ibsen experienced surprising success in book form, not least through William Archer’s translations. His breakthrough on the British stage came in 1889 and was followed by a number of intense years with many productions and publications. One notable feature of Ibsen’s stage success was the strong involvement of a number of actresses, who even took on the stage-management of his plays, not least Janet Achurch, Elizabeth Robins and Marion Lea. The most notorious event involved the 1891 performance of Ghosts at the Independent Theatre and involved brushes with the censor, while the production of Hedda Gabler was celebrated as a critical success. After the fierce cultural battles over Ibsen in the early 1890s, a swift canonization followed. The last part of the chapter briefly charts Ibsen’s association with the independent theatre sector, his place within the commercial London theatre and key publishing ventures.