James Herne

James Herne

James A. Herne (February 1, 1839 – 1901), an American playwright, born James Ahern. Considered by some critics to be the "American Ibsen," his controversial play "Margaret Fleming" is often credited with having begun modern drama in America.

James Ahearn was born in Cohoes, New York. His parents were poor Irish immigrants who removed him from school at age thirteen to work in a brush factory.

tage Actor

Herne decided to become an actor the next year but was twenty before he could join a traveling troupe. He enjoyed modest success as a young actor, appearing in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. with the John Thompson Ford company in the early 1860s. He was the leading man for the Lucille Western Touring Company from 1865"-"1867. He was briefly married, in the early 1860s, to Lucille's sister Helen Western an actress who later became romantically involved with John Wilkes Booth. He managed the Grand Opera House at 23rd and 8th Avenue in New York City for a season. He then moved to San Francisco in 1870 to manage several other theaters. In San Francisco, he met David Belasco, with whom he collaborated on at least three of his plays. He also met and married his second wife, actress Katherine Corcoran. The couple had two daughters, Julie Herne and [http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult.cfm?parent_id=526314&word= Katherine Chrystal Herne] who usually went by the name [http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=44991 Chrystal] .


Herne was the first American playwright to incorporate dramatic realism. He ventured away from nineteenth century dramatic romance and melodrama. Much of Herne's work faded into obscurity in the twentieth century. However, he exerted a profound influence, directing American dramatic literature toward the depiction of complex socially realities. This was illustrated in his controversial play "Margaret Fleming" (1890). The work singled him out as an influential figure in 19th century drama.

Herne's first successful play, "Hearts of Oak", was written and produced with Belasco in 1879. After this, Herne focused mostly on writing. Ironically, of his later plays, only a handful saw financial success in his lifetime. He continued to act, often in his own works, but also in the plays of others. In 1897 Herne played "Nathaniel Berry" in "Shore Acres"at the Harlem Opera House. It was the sixth consecutive season that he portrayed this character.


James A. Herne died in New York in 1901.

Principal works

* "Within an Inch of his Life" with David Belasco 1879
* "Marriage by Moonlight" with David Belasco 1879
* "Hearts of Oak" with David Belasco 1879
* "The Minute Man" 1886
* "Drifting Apart" 1888
* "Margaret Fleming" 1890
* "Shore Acres" 1893
* "Art for Truth's Sake" (essay) 1897
* "The Reverent Griffith Davenport" 1899
* "Sag Harbor" 1900

External Links

[http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/hernejamesa.htm James Herne biography] with photo.


Literature Resource Center. "James Ahearn Herne." http://www.galegroup.com/LitRC/

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