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Brown, John Mason, Jr. (03 July 1900–16 March 1969), critic, author, and lecturer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of John Mason Brown, a lawyer, and Caroline Carroll Ferguson; they divorced when Brown was two. John and his older sister were brought up by their mother and maternal grandmother. Brown became stagestruck at the age of eight, when he saw the aging ...

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Eaton, Walter Prichard (24 August 1878–26 February 1957), critic, theater educator, and author, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of Warren Everett Eaton, a schoolmaster, and Mary Prichard. His lifelong involvement in theater arts was kindled in his formative years by viewing performances of actors such as ...

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Freedley, George (05 September 1904–11 September 1967), curator of the New York Public Library theater collection, drama critic, and author, was born George Reynolds Freedley in Richmond, Virginia, the son of George Washington Jacoby Freedley, a manufacturing executive, and Maude Reynolds. He grew up in Richmond, where his grandfather and father were prominent in the city’s commercial life; he attended Richmond Academy and John Marshall High School, from which he graduated in 1920. He received a B.A. from the University of Richmond in 1925 and studied with ...

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Gassner, John Waldhorn (30 January 1903–02 April 1967), critic, educator, and author, was born in Szeged, Hungary, the son of Abraham Gassner, a furrier, and Fanny Weinburger. Until age eight he was educated at home while the family moved to Budapest, Vienna, and Rotterdam, emigrating to the United States in 1911....

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Hamilton, Clayton (14 November 1881–17 September 1946), educator and drama critic, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of George Alexander Hamilton, a merchant, and Susan Amelia Corey. Christened Clayton Meeker Hamilton, he deleted his middle name before he reached age twenty-one. His interest in a life of letters began during his youth. He received a B.A. from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1900 and an M.A. from Columbia University in 1901. Hamilton married Gladys Coates in 1913; they had two children....

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Macgowan, Kenneth (30 November 1888–27 April 1963), drama critic, director/producer, and theater educator, was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Stainforth Macgowan and Susan Arletta Hall. Before he graduated from Harvard in 1911 he was already working as an assistant drama critic for the ...

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Matthews, Brander (21 February 1852–31 March 1929), author, scholar, and teacher, was born James Brander Matthews in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Matthews, a prosperous broker in cotton, real estate, and railroads, and Virginia Brander. Educated privately in Europe and in New York City, where his father settled the family when Matthews was seven, he received his B.A. (1871) and M.A. (1874) from Columbia College. In 1873 Matthews married British actress Ada S. Smith; they had one daughter. That same year, he completed a law degree at Columbia, in preparation for managing the fortune he would inherit. However, when the financial panic of 1873 destroyed the family wealth, Matthews was left largely free to pursue his literary interests, particularly his enthusiasm for the theater. Although he worked for several years as a lawyer in his father’s New York City office, he devoted what time he could to studying, writing, and reviewing drama. “From my youth up, my strongest literary ambition was to write plays,” Matthews recalled in his autobiography, ...

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Price, William Thompson (17 December 1846–03 May 1920), author, teacher, and drama critic, was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the son of Joseph Crocket Price, an attorney, and Susan Meade. He left public school in his teens to join the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War, serving with the raiders of ...

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...