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Wills, William Gorman

WILLS, WILLIAM GORMAN (1828-1891), Irish dramatist, was born at Kilmurry, Ireland, on the 28th of January 1828, the son of James Wills (1790- 1868), author of Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen (1839-1847). The son was educated at Waterford Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin. After several years of journalistic and literary work in Dublin, he settled in London, where he wrote stories for the magazines. In 1868 he determined that he could make a better living at portrait-painting, for which, though his art education had been meagre, he had always had talent. He soon made a fair income, though in the long run his excessive Bohemianism, coupled with persistent absent-mindedness, lost him many sitters. Meanwhile he had begun to write for the stage. His first original work was the Man o'Airlie, produced at the Princess's theatre, London, in 1867. Early in 1872 he was engaged by Colonel Bateman as " dramatist to the Lyceum " at an annual salary. Under the terms of his agreement he wrote Medea in Corinth, Charles I. and Eugene Aram, all of which were produced at the Lyceum in 1872-1873. With Charles I., in which Mr (afterwards Sir Henry) Irving confirmed the reputation he had earned by his performance in The Bells, Wills made a popular success, which he repeated in Olivia (adapted from Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield) in 1873. From this date onwards Wills wrote continuously, and till 1887 his name was practically never absent from the bill of some London theatre. His work never, however, quite came up to the expectations which were based on his genuine ability.

and much of it is of an inferior quality. In Claudian (Princess's Theatre, 1883) and Faust (Lyceum Theatre, 1885) he merely supplied the text to a variety of dramatic situations. In 1887 his mother, whom he had supported for many years, died, and after her death he seemed to have less incentive for work. Wills was a painter by choice, and never put his whole heart into his dramatic work. He had some skill in ballad-writing, shown in the well-known " I'll sing thee songs of Araby." He died on the 13th of December 1891.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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