William Archer Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains the personal papers of William Archer. It includes bound volumes of his published articles, his publications, press cuttings, correspondence and notebooks as well as some of his research material.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Archer (23 September 1856 - 27 December 1924) was born in Perth, son of Thomas Archer, Agent-General of Queensland in Australia. He was to emerge at the forefront of a new school of dramatic critics in Victorian England and remained an important figure in British theatrical circles into the 20th century. Beginning as a writer on the Edinburgh Evening News in 1875, he went on to become the dramatic critic of the London Figaro 1879-1881, and then The World 1884-1905. From 1905-1908 he was dramatic critic of The Tribune, and 1910-1911 of The Nation.

In 1889, he reworked the existing translation of Ibsen's A Doll's House for its first London production. This led to a complete translation of Ibsen's works under Archer's supervision. Among his own published plays are War is War (1919) and The Green Goddess (1920). An attempted collaboration on a play with his friend George Bernard Shaw did not come to fruition. He published many critical studies, pamphlets and articles concerning the theatre. He also had a long held ambition to see a national theatre established for England.

William Archer spent some of his childhood in Norway, and in 1908 he was made a Knight of the Order of St. Olav. He was called to the Bar in 1883, but never practised. He was a member of the Rationalist Press Association; and worked in the cause of the League of Nations.

William Archer married Frances Elizabeth Trickett, with whom he had a son Thomas who was killed in action during the First World War.


This collection is divided into ten series:

  • THM/368/1 - William Archer publications and writings
  • THM/368/2 - Other manuscripts
  • THM/368/3 - Material relating to theatrical productions and translations
  • THM/368/4 - Correspondence
  • THM/368/5 - Images, photographs and plans
  • THM/368/6 - Playbills and programmes
  • THM/368/7 - Ephemera
  • THM/368/8 - Material relating to a proposed National Theatre and endowed theatres abroad
  • THM/368/9 - Material relating to censorship
  • THM/368/10 - Material Ancillery to the William Archer Collection

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

This collection was formerly owned by the British Theatre Association Library, and was subsequently acquired in its entirety by the V&A Theatre Museum in 1991.

Separated Material

Archer's book collection has been removed and added to the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance library collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

Appraised according to Collection Policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also V&A Department of Theatre & Performance Core Collections: material relating to William Archer may be found in several collections, including the biographical and production files, and the library collections. Please ask for details.