The Second Mrs Tanqueray



  • A serious 'problem play' by A. W. Pinero, first performedin 1893 at St James's Theatre with Mrs Patrick Campbell asPaula Tanqueray. Although Pinero thought the subject (a mother andstepdaughter having an affair with the same man) likely to cause offence,the play was an overwhelming success. Mrs Pat became famous overnight,entering what George Bernard Shaw called "the heyday of herTanqueradiance". She later toured in the role and, accordingto the critic James Agate, "burst upon the provincial darkness".

    Gladys Cooper starred in a 1922 revival at the Old Vic withMrs Pat in the wings as drama critic of the Daily Mail. Anotherrevival at the Haymarket in 1950 had Eileen Herlie as Paula and LeslieBanks as her husband, with sets by Cecil Beaton. Mrs Pat's daughterrefused an invitation to the premiere, having been badly treated byher mother and not wishing to be reminded of her.

    The plot concerns Aubrey Tanqueray's second marriage, to Paula.Eileen, his 18-year-old daughter from his first marriage, comes hometo announce her engagement to Captain Hugh Ardale. To protect her,Paula is obliged to tell her husband that she also had an affair with the man many years ago. As a result, the marriage is forbidden and all three membersof the family become alienated from one another. Paula finally kills herself, convinced that she cannot escape her past: "I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate."