A BBC Radio Play from 1928: The Betrothal
by Maurice Maeterlinck

This is a recent 'find' on e-Bay. Click on the small pictures for a readable document. This is a booklet published by the BBC just a couple of years after they first went on the air....

The Betrothal
The Blue Bird Chooses
A Fairy Play, being a sequel to The Blue Bird
Maurice Maeterlinck
Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

Maurice Maeterlinck was born at Ghent, in Belgium, on 29th August, 1862. He came of a Flemish family which had settled in the district for six hundred years. After seven unhappy years in the Jesuits' College at Ghent, he read for the Bar, but the choice of career was finally settled for him by a visit to Paris at the age of twenty-four. There he met Villiers de l'Isle Adam and other exponents of Symbolism and Modernism in art and literature, and his thoughts began to turn to wider fields than the Courts of Law in Brussels. For three more years he compromised with himself and his ambitions, practising at the Bar and also writing poetry, until, in 1889, his first book of poems was published and he finally severed his connectiion with the Law.

In the same year Maeterlinck's first play appeared: La Princesse Maleine, which inspired the somewhat unfortunate compliment from a Parisian critic that it was comparable or even superior in beauty to the most beautiful in Shakespeare. The title 'Belgian Shakespeare' has clung to Maeterlinck's reluctant shoulders ever since and has proved a millstone around the neck of the shy and sensitive poet, who knows better than any other the unfairness of the comparison.

Several plays for the stage and for marionettes followed, and then in 1896 Maeterlinck left Belgium and settled in Paris.

From that time the flow of work was unceasing. Play after play came out, and in 1901 appeared Life of the Bee, an exquisite work of art and observation.Only a person whose heart was in the soil could have gathered the facts over the years, and only a poet could have written the book.

Monna Verna, written in 1902, is in a different vein from his mystical and symbolical dramas. It is a play about men and women, about history and humanity. But Maeterlinck was not attached to Realism and everyday things. His next play was romantic and allegorical; and then, as if to bewilder everyone by his brilliant versatility of mind and hand, he published two books of essays on such things as a motor car, boxing, chrysanthemums, and other worldly subjects.

It is of this versatility that Mr. W.L.Courtney wrote many years ago in the Daily Telegraph: 'We have seen him in many disguises - the same idyllic, dreaming, imaginative individuality, although the external form and show were different in each case. First, as the somewhat crude and unppolished manipulator of veritable puppets, as in the Princess Maleine, then as the weaver of delicate spiritual symbolisms, as in Pelléas and Mélisande and Aglavaine andSelysette. We have known of his suggestive mysticism, his tender sense of beauty, his odd power of realizing the shadowy and seeing the insubstantial, as in L'Intruse. Again, we have seen him as the Essayist, the author of Studies - by no means always successful -somewhat after the manner of Emerson, in The Treasure of the Humble, and achieving a manner of his own in Wisdom and Destiny. Once more he has appeared before us as the poetical interpreter of Nature, the inheritor of Virgil's mantle in the wonderfully beautiful study The Life of the Bee. And now he is the writer of libretti to be set to music.'

In 1909 was published the most famous of all his works, The Blue Bird, the allegory of humanity's search for the wisdom which leads to happiness. For a long time it was not acted in France or Belgium, mainly owing to the elaborate staging and scenery necessary for its production. It was, however, quickly translated into several European languages, was acted in Russia, and in 1910 was arranged by Herbert Trench for the English stage and produced at the Haymarket Theatre.

Maeterlinck attended the dress rehearsal, and was so enthusiastically received by the select company in the theatre that he became too nervous to attend the first night.

It ran for two hundred nights.

Finally, here's an advert for batteries, which appeared on the back cover.
Take a look at the specification (60 volts and 100 volts), and the prices.
In those days the average wage was about 20/- (£1) a week.


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