This passage appears in Housman's autobiography, The Unexpected Years. — George P. Landow. Housman created the decorated initial for his The Field of Clover (1898) — George P. Landow.

Our few years of waiting in our New Milton cottage before that final settlement were uneventful; but release from the interruptions of London life made me more pro ductive, and my interest turned to the writing of one-act plays of which I have written since then more than a hundred. It was especially as the means to a play-cycle — chapters of dramatic biography — with one character as the main subject that the form of the one-act play began more and more to attract me. This involves a certain diminution of high lights in the treatment, since the curtains of a one-act play series can seldom be as poignantly dramatic, or be led up to with such excitement of sustained interest as in a three-act or four-act play those curtains, being but punctuation marks in a whole series of scenes, are never quite final in their effect; for which reason the plays become more a commentary on life and character than a mere plot effectively staged to a definite finish. On the other hand the slower and more gradual treatment makes truth to life and intimacy of touch more possible. The crude demand on time made by an historical three-act play almost necessarily involves exaggeration and over-emphasis; and though these things make for dramatic effectiveness, they are biographically untrue; and it has been my aim in my two play-cycles the Franciscan and the Victorian to show that one can get dramatic interest without exaggeration.

The first series of my Little Plays of St. Francis, finished in 1921, was published in 1922; by which time my Victorian series had, in Angels and Ministers, already begun.

Curiously enough, this latter series owed its origin, not to my interest in the personality of Queen Victoria, but in that of Benjamin Disraeli. I had written His Favourite Flower first, not as a play but as a narrative. I then turned it into a dramatic monologue, and with Disraeli still as my main interest, followed this up with The Queen: God Bless Her. So, with Angels and Ministers as a send-off, the rest followed. [332-33]


Housman, Laurence. The Unexpected Years. London: Jonathan Cape, 1936.

Last modified 19 November 2012