James Bridie, pseudonym of Osborne Henry Mavor Biography
(1888–1951), pseudonym of Osborne Henry Mavor, The Sunlight Sonata, Tobias and the Angel
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography
Scottish playwright, born in Glasgow, the son of an engineer, educated at Glasgow University. Bridie became a prominent physician and did not begin seriously to write for the theatre until he was 40, when The Sunlight Sonata was performed in his home city of Glasgow. Thereafter he became enormously prolific; by his death he had completed forty-two plays, and was regarded as Scotland's leading dramatist. He saw the purpose of his quirky, genial drama as primarily to entertain, but secondarily and importantly to leave his audience, not with any firm conclusions, but ‘whirling with speculations’, often about metaphysical matters. Accordingly, he turned to biblical themes in several colloquial plays: most successfully in Tobias and the Angel (1930), in which the protagonist, accompanied by Raphael, is transformed by his adventures from an unassuming ‘little worm’ into a young man of genuine courage and spirit; but also in the lively Jonah and the Whale (1932) and Susannah and the Elders (1937). Other work with religious implications includes A Sleeping Clergyman (1933), in which a cleric symbolizing God snoozes while an exemplary family works out its and the world's destiny; Mr Bolfry (1943), in which a Calvinist minister is visited by an intellectually plausible devil; and the dramatic biography John Knox (1947). Other plays, notably The Anatomist (1930), about anti-scientific prejudice at the time of Burke and Hare; the thriller Dr Angelus (1947); Daphne Laureola (1949), a portrait of loneliness; and the unwontedly dark morality The Baikie Charivari (1950), serve to emphasize Bridie's abiding intellectual curiosity and diversity of interest. Among his other public activities, he helped establish the Glasgow Citizen's Theatre in 1943 and founded the first College of Drama in Scotland in 1950.