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James Agate Biography

(1877–1947), Manchester Guardian's, Buzz, Buzz!, Saturday Review, The Sunday Times, Ego, Cherry Orchard

critic theatre dramatic buzz

British dramatic critic, born in Pendleton, Lancashire, the son of a cotton manufacturer's agent, and educated at Manchester Grammar School. He went into his father's business, and was still working there when, in 1907, he joined the Manchester Guardian's team of reviewers. His first book of essays on the theatre, Buzz, Buzz!, was published in 1918, while he was serving as a captain in the Army Service Corps. After the war, he became theatre critic of the Saturday Review, moving to The Sunday Times in the same capacity in 1923, and remaining there until his death. He was dramatic critic for the BBC from 1925 to 1932; he also wrote novels, and from 1935 onward published his diaries annually under the title of Ego. Like Hazlitt, his model, he was most acute when it came to writing about the performers of his day and comparing them to the great actors and actresses of the past; but he also responded enthusiastically to O'Casey and to Chekhov, whose still unfamiliar Cherry Orchard he described in 1925 as ‘one of the great plays of the world’.

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