by George J. Dance


Maurice Browne & Ellen Van Volkenberg. Courtesy Un Site Powys.

Frederick Maurice Browne[1] (February 12, 1881 - January 21, 1955)[2] was an English poet, actor, and theatre manager.[3]


Browne was born in Reading, England, to Marsie and Frederick Herbert Browne, headmaster of a preparatory school in Ipswich. He was educated in boarding schools from the age of 11. When he was 14, his father committed suicide, after which his mother opened and ran a succession of private schools. At school, Browne distinguished himself as a classical scholar. He served in the Boer War.[2]

Browne entered the University of Cambridge in 1900, graduating in 1903. At university he developed a passion for poetry and began writing his own. After graduation he became a teacher and tutor.[2] In 1907 he and Harold Monro founded Samurai Press, which published a number of his books.

Browne also did a great deal of travelling and lecturing.[2] In India in 1904, he met and befriended poet Arthur Davison Ficke. Browne published Ficke's first collection, From the Isles at Samuri press in 1907.[4]

Travelling in Italy in 1910, he met and fell in love with an American girl, Ellen Van Volkenburg (an actress who used the stage name Nelly Van), and followed her to Chicago, where they were married.[5]

In 1912 Browne and Van Volkenburg founded the Chicago Little Theater, a repertory and experimental arts theatre, which operated until 1917. The Theater became became famous for its experimental plays and its influence in the 1930's.[6]

During the years of the Little Theatre, Browne met and befriended English poets John Cooper Powys, and renewed contacts with Ficke.[5]

Between 1912 and 1920 the Little Theater movement snowballed in the United States, with hundreds of Little Theaters opening across the country, and Browne (despite his protests) achieved a reputation as the movement's father. After the Chicago Little Theater folded, he spent a decade travelling the United States, teaching, directing, and producing theater. He and Van Volkenberg divorced; a second marriage, to Eleanor Jansen, proved short-lived, and Browne returned to England in 1927.[2]

In 1929 he produced Sherriff's End, a commercial success, in London's West End. Following that up with other successes, he built a reputation as one of London's pre-eminent theatrical producers". He continued to produce until 1942, when he withdrew from the theater due to ill health. In his last years he became a devout Christian and wrote an autobiography, Too Late to Lament, which was published posthumously.[2]



  • Zetetes, and other poems. London: Elliot Stock, 1905.
  • Epithalanion. London: Chiswick Press, 1905.
  • Job: A dramatic poem. 1906.
  • Songs of Exile. Norwich, UK: Samurai Press, 1907.
  • Selected Poems. Norwich, UK: Samurai Press, 1907.
  • In Time of War: Poems. London: Alliance Press, 1944.
  • Road from Delavan. London: C. Edwards, 1947.


  • Wings over Europe: A dramatic extravaganza on a pressing theme. Lonon: Chatto & Windus, 1928; New York: Covici Friede, 1929;
    • also published as Wings over Europe: A play in three acts. New York, Los Angeles, & London: Samuel French, 1935.


  • Proposals for a Voluntary Nobility (with Harold Monro). Norwich, UK: Samurai Press, 1907.
  • Recollections of Rupert Brooke. Chicago: Alexander Greene, 1927.
  • The Atom and the Way. London: Gollancz, 1946.
  • Too Late to Lament: An autobiography. London: Gollancz, 1955; Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1956.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]

Poems by Maurice BrowneEdit

  1. To Her Who Passes

See alsoEdit




  1. Brown, Maurice, 1881-. The atom and the way, Catalogue of Copyright Entries, New Series: 1946 (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1947), 87. Google Books, Web, May 28, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Billy J. Harbin, Kim Marra, & Robert A. Schanke, The Gay & Lesbian Theatrical Legacy (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 73-76. Google Books, Web, May 28, 2015.
  3. Overview: Maurice Browne 1881-1955, Oxford Reference. Web, May 27, 2015.
  4. Arthur Davison Ficke,, Academy of American Poets. Web, May 28, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Maurice Browne, Un Site Powys. Web, May 27, 2015.
  6. Chicago Little Theater, Un Site Powys. Web, May 27, 2015.
  7. Search results = au:Maurice Brown, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 27, 2015.

External linksEdit

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