Very successful when first performed in London in 1908, Diana of Dobson’s introduces its audience to the overworked and underpaid female assistants at Dobson’s Drapery Emporium, whose only alternative to their dead-end jobs is the unlikely prospect of marriage. Although Cicely Hamilton calls the play “a romantic comedy,” like George Bernard Shaw she also criticizes a social structure in which so-called self-made men profit from the cheap labour of others, and men with good educations, but insufficient inherited money, look for wealthy wives rather than for work.
This Broadview edition also includes excerpts from Hamilton’s autobiography Life Errant (1935) and Marriage as a Trade (1909), her witty polemic on “the woman question”; historical documents illustrating employment options for women and women’s work in the theatre; and reviews of the original production of the play.
“This beautifully prepared edition of Cicely Hamilton’s comic gem offers readers and performers a new understanding of the complexities of the Edwardian period. The introduction carefully historicizes the social, political, and sexual forces that lie at the heart of the play and at the center of England’s entry to modernity. The text’s annotations and historical appendices give readers a context for understanding the play’s treatments of class, political privilege, and sexuality as expressions of the Edwardian moment.” — Kate E. Kelly, Texas A&M University