The Diary of an Invalid

Source: Henry Matthews, The Diary of an Invalid, being the Journal of a Tour in pursuit of health; in Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and France, in the years 1817, 1818, and 1819, vol. 2 (London: J. Murray, 1824, 4th edition), pp. 216-217

Production: Alexandre Duval, Édouard en Écosse, Toulouse, 22 January 1819

Text: 22d. In the evening to the theatre. The play was Edouard en Ecosse; founded on the adventures of the Pretender in England, the work of M. Duval, who is fond of dramatising English story. The part of Charles Edward was admirably played by Beauchamp. His face and appearance, when he first comes in, pale and worn out with fatigue, presented a striking resemblance of Napoleon. The political allusions with which the play abounds, were eagerly seized throughout, and applied to the Ex-Emperor.—“Je n’ai fait que des ingrats” was long and loudly applauded. In the last act of the play the air of “God save the King” was incidentally introduced; which afforded the audience an opportunity of manifesting their feeling towards England, which they did not neglect — and an universal hiss broke out. A pantomime followed, but a very faint imitation of the inimitable entertainment which is called by that name in England. The first dancer is called Harlequin, without his wand or his tricks; the first female dancer is Columbine; and the unfortunate Pantaloon, in addition to his own part, is Clown also; so that besides the kicks on the breeches which he receives in quality of the first character, he has also to endure the slaps of the face which fall to the lot of the second. His mock dance was excellent; and his animated sack, for he jumps into a sack and displays wonderful locomotive powers therein, was worthy of Grimaldi himself.

Comments: Henry Matthews (1789-1828) was a British judge. On account of ill health, he went on a recuperative tour of Europe over 1817-1819. The published diary of his travels, The Diary of an Invalid (1820), was very popular and went through a number of editions. The two-volume diary has several entries on theatregoing. Alexandre-Vincent Pineux Duval was a French actor, dramatist and theatre manager. His three-act play Édouard en Écosse, on Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’), was published in 1801. I am unsure of the precise theatre in Toulouse, and of the identity of the actor Beauchamp.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Travels with Herodotus

Source: Ryszard Kapuściński (trans. Klara Glowczewska), Travels with Herodotus (Lonson: Allen Lane, 2007 [orig. pub. Podróże z Herodotem, 2004]), pp. 241-243

Text: Theatrical performances abound in the streets and squares. African theater is not as formalistic as the European. A group of people can gather someplace extemporaneously and perform an impromptu play. There is no text, everything is the product of the moment, of the passing mood, of spontaneous imagination. The subject can be anything: the police catching a gang of thieves, merchants fighting to keep the city from taking away their marketplace. wives competing among themselves for their husband, who is in love with some other woman. The subject matter must be simple. the language comprehensible to all.

Someone has an idea and volunteers to be director. He assigns roles and the play begins. If this is a street, a square, or a courtyard, a crowd of passersby soon gathers. People laugh during the performance, offer running commentary, applaud. If the action unfolds in an interesting way, the audience will stand there attentively despite the punishing sun: if the play does not jell, and the ad hoc troupe proves unable to communicate and move the action forward effectively, the performance is soon over and the spectators and actors disperse, making way for others who may have better luck.

Sometimes I see the actors interrupt their dialogue and begin a ritual dance, with the entire audience joining in. It can be a cheerful and joyous dance, or the opposite—with the dancers serious, focused, and collective participation in the common rhythm an evidently profound experience for them, something meaningful touching their core. But then the dancing ends, the actors return to their spoken parts, and the spectators, for a moment still as if entranced, laugh once again, happy and amused.

Street theater includes not just dance. Its other important, even inseparable element is the mask. The actors sometimes perform in masks, or, because it is difficult in this heat to wear one for long, simply hold them near—in their hands, under their arms, even strapped to their backs. The mask is a symbol. a construct full of emotion and resonance that speaks of the existence of some other universe, whose sign, stamp, or presence it is. It communicates something to us, warns us about someone; seemingly lifeless and motionless, it attempts by means of its appearance to arouse our feelings, put us under its spell.

Borrowing from various museums, Senghor collected thousands upon thousands of such masks. When seen in the aggregate, they evoke a separate, mysterious world. Walking through that collection was a singular experience. One began to understand how masks acquired such power over people, how they could hypnotize, overwhelm, or lead people into ecstasy. It became clear why the mask—and faith in its magical efficacy—united entire societies, enabled them to communicate across continents and oceans, gave them a sense of community and identity, constituted a form of tradition and collective memory.

Walking from one theatrical performance to another, from one exhibit of masks and sculptures to others, I had the sense of being witness to the rebirth of a great culture, to the awakening of its sense of distinctness, importance, and pride, the consciousness of its universal range. Here were not only masks from Mozambique and Congo, but also lanterns for macumba rituals from Rio de Janeiro, the escutcheons of the guardian deities of Haitian voodoo, and copies of the sarcophagi of Egyptian pharaohs.

Comments: Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007) was a Polish journalist and travel writer. Travels with Herodotus is an account of his early years as a journalist in India, China and Africa, interwoven with his reading of the Histories of Herodotus. The book includes an account of his visit to Senegal in 1966, when the president Léopold Senghor hosted a festival of worldwide black art in Dakar, the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Negres.

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 29 October 1666

Production: George Etheredge, The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub, Whitehall Palace, London, 29 October 1666

Text: About five o’clock I took my wife (who is mighty fine, and with a new fair pair of locks, which vex me, though like a foole I helped her the other night to buy them), and to Mrs. Pierces, and there staying a little I away before to White Hall, and into the new playhouse there, the first time I ever was there, and the first play I have seen since before the great plague. By and by Mr. Pierce comes, bringing my wife and his, and Knipp. By and by the King and Queene, Duke and Duchesse, and all the great ladies of the Court; which, indeed, was a fine sight. But the play being “Love in a Tub,” a silly play, and though done by the Duke’s people, yet having neither Betterton nor his wife, and the whole thing done ill, and being ill also, I had no manner of pleasure in the play. Besides, the House, though very fine, yet bad for the voice, for hearing. The sight of the ladies, indeed, was exceeding noble; and above all, my Lady Castlemayne.

The play done by ten o’clock. I carried them all home, and then home myself, and well satisfied with the sight, but not the play, we with great content to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. The comedy The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub (1664) was the first play of Sir George Etherege. The performance seen by Pepys featured the actors Thomas Betterton and his wife Mary Saunderson. Barbara Villiers, or Lady Castlemaine, was one of the mistresses of King Charles II, frequently mentioned by Pepys.

Links: www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1666/10/29

Letters of Anna Seward

‘Mrs. Siddons as Rosalind’, via Folger Shakespeare Library under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence

Source: Anna Seward, letter to Sophia Weston, in Letters of Anna Seward: written between the years 1784 and 1807 (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), pp. 165-266

Production: William Shakespeare, As You Like It,

Text: Lichfield, July 20, 1876 … For the first time, I saw the justly celebrated Mrs Siddons in comedy, in Rosalind :—but though her smile is as enchanting, as her frown is magnificent, as her tears are irresistible, yet the playful scintillations of colloquial wit, which most strongly mark that character, suit not the dignity of the Siddonian form and countenance. Then her dress was injudicious. The scrupulous prudery of decency, produced an ambiguous vestment, that seemed neither male nor female. When she first came on as the princess, nothing could be more charming; nor than when she resumed her original character, and exchanged comic spirit for dignified tenderness. One of those rays of exquisite and original discrimination, which her genius so perpetually elicits, shone out on her first rushing upon the stage in her own resumed person and dress; when she bent her knee to her father, the Duke, and said—

“To you I give myself—for I am yours”

and when, falling into Orlando’s arms, she repeated the same words,

“To you I give myself—for I am yours!

The marked difference of her look and voice in repeating that line, and particularly the last word of it, was inimitably striking. The tender joy of filial love was in the first; the whole soul of enamoured transport in the second. The extremely heightened emphasis on the word yours, produced an effect greater than you can conceive could re sult from the circumstance, without seeing and hearing it given by that mistress of the passions.

Comments: Anna Seward (1742-1809) was an English poet, known as the ‘Swan of Lichfield’. Sarah Siddons was on a tour of regional theatres and it is unclear in which town Seward saw her performing in As You Like It.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Travels in England in 1782

1783 drawing of the original Haymarket Theatre, via Charles John Smith, Historical and Literary Curiosities (1847)

Source: Charles P. Moritz [Karl Philipp Moritz], Travels in England in 1782 (London: Cassell, 1886), pp. 73-74, orig. pub. Reisen eines Deutschen in England im Jahre 1782 (1783) and in English as Travels, chiefly on Foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend (1795)

Productions: Samuel Foote, The Nabob and Samuel Arnold/John O’Keefe, The Agreeable Surprise, Haymarket Theatre, London, 4 June 1782; and George Colman (the elder), The English Merchant and The Agreeable Surprise, 15 June 1782

Text: Last week I went twice to an English play-house. The first time “The Nabob” was represented, of which the late Mr. Foote was the author, and for the entertainment, a very pleasing and laughable musical farce, called “The Agreeable Surprise.” The second time I saw “The English Merchant:” which piece has been translated into German, and is known among us by the title of “The Scotchwoman,” or “The Coffee-house.” I have not yet seen the theatres of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, because they are not open in summer. The best actors also usually spend May and October in the country, and only perform in winter.

A very few excepted, the comedians whom I saw were certainly nothing extraordinary. For a seat in the boxes you pay five shillings, in the pit three, in the first gallery two, and in the second or upper gallery, one shilling. And it is the tenants in this upper gallery who, for their shilling, make all that noise and uproar for which the English play-houses are so famous. I was in the pit, which gradually rises, amphitheatre-wise, from the orchestra, and is furnished with benches, one above another, from the top to the bottom. Often and often, whilst I sat there, did a rotten orange, or pieces of the peel of an orange, fly past me, or past some of my neighbours, and once one of them actually hit my hat, without my daring to look round, for fear another might then hit me on my face.

All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the season, sees oranges to sell; and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny; or, in our money, threepence. At the play-house, however, they charged me sixpence for one orange, and that noways remarkably good.

Besides this perpetual pelting from the gallery, which renders an English play-house so uncomfortable, there is no end to their calling out and knocking with their sticks till the curtain is drawn up. I saw a miller’s, or a baker’s boy, thus, like a huge booby, leaning over the rails and knocking again and again on the outside, with all his might, so that he was seen by everybody, without being in the least ashamed or abashed. I sometimes heard, too, the people in the lower or middle gallery quarrelling with those of the upper one. Behind me, in the pit, sat a young fop, who, in order to display his costly stone buckles with the utmost brilliancy, continually put his foot on my bench, and even sometimes upon my coat, which I could avoid only by sparing him as much space from my portion of the seat as would make him a footstool. In the boxes, quite in a corner, sat several servants, who were said to be placed there to keep the seats for the families they served till they should arrive; they seemed to sit remarkably close and still, the reason of which, I was told, was their apprehension of being pelted; for if one of them dares but to look out of the box, he is immediately saluted with a shower of orange peel from the gallery.

In Foote’s “Nabob” there are sundry local and personal satires which are entirely lost to a foreigner. The character of the Nabob was performed by a Mr. Palmer. The jett of the character is, this Nabob, with many affected airs and constant aims at gentility, is still but a silly fellow, unexpectedly come into the possession of immense riches, and therefore, of course, paid much court to by a society of natural philosophers, Quakers, and I do not know who besides. Being tempted to become one of their members, he is elected, and in order to ridicule these would-be philosophers, but real knaves, a fine flowery fustian speech is put into his mouth, which he delivers with prodigious pomp and importance, and is listened to by the philosophers with infinite complacency. The two scenes of the Quakers and philosophers, who, with countenances full of imaginary importance, were seated at a green table with their president at their head while the secretary, with the utmost care, was making an inventory of the ridiculous presents of the Nabob, were truly laughable. One of the last scenes was best received: it is that in which the Nabob’s friend and school-fellow visit him, and address him without ceremony by his Christian name; but to all their questions of “Whether he does not recollect them? Whether he does not remember such and such a play; or such and such a scrape into which they had fallen in their youth?” he uniformly answers with a look of ineffable contempt, only, “No sir!” Nothing can possibly be more ludicrous, nor more comic.

The entertainment, “The Agreeable Surprise,” is really a very diverting farce. I observed that, in England also, they represent school-masters in ridiculous characters on the stage, which, though I am sorry for, I own I do not wonder at, as the pedantry of school-masters in England, they tell me, is carried at least as far as it is elsewhere. The same person who, in the play, performed the school-fellow of the Nabob with a great deal of nature and original humour, here acted the part of the school-master: his name is Edwin, and he is, without doubt, one of the best actors of all that I have seen.

This school-master is in love with a certain country girl, whose name is Cowslip, to whom he makes a declaration of his passion in a strange mythological, grammatical style and manner, and to whom, among other fooleries, he sings, quite enraptured, the following air, and seems to work himself at least up to such a transport of passion as quite overpowers him. He begins, you will observe, with the conjugation, and ends with the declensions and the genders; the whole is inimitably droll:

Amo, amas,
I love a lass,
She is so sweet and tender,
It is sweet Cowslip’s Grace
In the Nominative Case.
And in the feminine Gender.

Those two sentences in particular, “in the Nominative Case,” and “in the feminine Gender,” he affects to sing in a particularly languishing air, as if confident that it was irresistible. This Edwin, in all his comic characters, still preserves something so inexpressibly good-tempered in his countenance, that notwithstanding all his burlesques and even grotesque buffoonery, you cannot but be pleased with him. I own, I felt myself doubly interested for every character which he represented. Nothing could equal the tone and countenance of self-satisfaction with which he answered one who asked him whether he was a scholar? “Why, I was a master of scholars.” A Mrs. Webb represented a cheesemonger, and played the part of a woman of the lower class so naturally as I have nowhere else ever seen equalled. Her huge, fat, and lusty carcase, and the whole of her external appearance seemed quite to be cut out for it.

Poor Edwin was obliged, as school-master, to sing himself almost hoarse, as he sometimes was called on to repeat his declension and conjugation songs two or three times, only because it pleased the upper gallery, or “the gods,” as the English call them, to roar out “encore.” Add to all this, he was farther forced to thank them with a low bow for the great honour done him by their applause.

One of the highest comic touches in the piece seemed to me to consist in a lie, which always became more and more enormous in the mouths of those who told it again, during the whole of the piece. This kept the audience in almost a continual fit of laughter. This farce is not yet printed, or I really think I should be tempted to venture to make a translation, or rather an imitation of it.

“The English Merchant, or the Scotchwoman,” I have seen much better performed abroad than it was here. Mr. Fleck, at Hamburg, in particular, played the part of the English merchant with more interest, truth, and propriety than one Aickin did here. He seemed to me to fail totally in expressing the peculiar and original character of Freeport; instead of which, by his measured step and deliberate, affected manner of speaking, he converted him into a mere fine gentleman.

The trusty old servant who wishes to give up his life for his master he, too, had the stately walk, or strut, of a minister. The character of the newspaper writer was performed by the same Mr. Palmer who acted the part of the Nabob, but every one said, what I thought, that he made him far too much of a gentleman. His person, and his dress also, were too handsome for the character.

The character of Amelia was performed by an actress, who made her first appearance on the stage, and from a timidity natural on such an occasion, and not unbecoming, spoke rather low, so that she could not everywhere be heard; “Speak louder! speak louder!” cried out some rude fellow from the upper-gallery, and she immediately, with infinite condescension, did all she could, and not unsuccessfully, to please even an upper gallery critic.

The persons near me, in the pit, were often extravagantly lavish of their applause. They sometimes clapped a single solitary sentiment, that was almost as unmeaning as it was short, if it happened to be pronounced only with some little emphasis, or to contain some little point, some popular doctrine, a singularly pathetic stroke, or turn of wit.

“The Agreeable Surprise” was repeated, and I saw it a second time with unabated pleasure. It is become a favourite piece, and always announced with the addition of the favourite musical farce. The theatre appeared to me somewhat larger than the one at Hamburg, and the house was both times very full. Thus much for English plays, play-houses, and players.

Comments: Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-1793) was a German essayist and literary critic. He visited England over June/July 1782, publishing an account of his travels as Reisen eines Deutschen in England im Jahre 1782 in 1783, which was published in English as Travels, chiefly on Foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend (1795). The above comes from this translation, though improved translations have been published subsequently. He first visited the Haymarket on 4 June 1782, where he saw Samuel Foote‘s comedy The Nabob and Samuel Arnold and John O’Keefe‘s comic opera afterpiece The Agreeable Surprise. He returned on 15 June 1782 to see George Colman the Elder‘s The Englishman Merchant, followed by a repeat performance of The Agreeable Surprise. The performers described include John Palmer, John Edwin and (presumably) James Aickin.

Links: Copy at Project Gutenberg

Ambassador Dodd’s Diary

Poster for the 1934 Oberammergau Passion Play, via www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de

Source: William E. Dodd Jr. and Martha Dodd (eds.), Ambassador Dodd’s Diary, 1933-1938 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1941), pp. 163-163

Production: Oberammergau Passion Play, Passion Play Theatre, Oberammergau, Germany, 22 August 1934

Text: August 22, Wednesday. I went with my family to the famous Passion Play at Oberammergau, escorted by the mayor who had kindly sent us tickets. The mayor gave the Hitler greeting whenever he met any acquaintance on the street. We were all seated together in the reserved section but I think few if any of our neighbours knew who we were.

The play during the morning portrayed the early life of Jesus and the Old Testament prophecies and scenes showing what the Christian churches have always claimed were the connecting links between the Old and New Testaments. I saw no Jews present. There were 6,000 people in the beautiful hall. It is open at the end where the stage is located, and one gazes constantly upon a most beautiful mountain scene. It is a wonderful setting.

The chief actor is Lang, son of the man who gave the play its present form some thirty years ago. The Lang family are masters of the town, Oberammergau having normally 3,000 inhabitants whose main income each year is from visitors, foreign and German, who go there to see the Jesus tragedy. I think Lang is an excellent actor and the choir which sings or recites interludes in a grand style is impressive.

At 2 o’clock we took our places again in the great hall and the tragedy slowly moved to its culmination: the betrayal by Judas, the trail of Jesus and the awful scene of the executions on the cross, with law officers climbing short ladders to the crucified individuals and beating them before their deaths. When Jesus was tried before the angry Jewish court, a well-dressed German, looking very solemn, said to me: “Es ist unser Hitler.” Ida Horne, a distant kinswoman of mine, sitting in another part of the hall, told me as we came out together: “A woman near me said, as Judas received his thirty pieces of silver, ‘Es ist Roehm!’” I suspect half the audience, the German part, considers Hitler as Germany’s Messiah.

Comments: William Edward Dodd (1869-1940) was an American historian and diplomat. he served as US Ambassador to Germany 1933-1937. A passion play has been performed at Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany, since 1634. The play is usually performed every ten years where the year ends in a nought, but a special 300th anniversary performance was put on for 1934. This had the support of the Nazi regime which had come to power the previous year. Ernst Röhm, or Roehm, leader of the Sturmabteilung paramilitary force, had been a close ally of Adolf Hitler but Hitler saw him as a threat and had him killed during the ‘Night of the Long Knives‘ the month before this performance. Hitler had seen the production on August 13. Anton Lang played the role of Prologue Speaker, having play the role of Christ in earlier productions.

Links: History of 1934 production on 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play site (in English)

Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain

Astley’s Amphitheatre, via V&A

Source: A French Traveller [Louis Simond], Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, during the years 1810 and 1811: with remarks on the country, its arts, literature, and politics, and on the manners and customs of its inhabitants (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1815), p. 155

Text: May 9 [1811] … Astley’s is an equestrian spectacle. I supposed that a thing of that sort would be particularly good in England, which is a sort of island of the Houyhnhnms. I found, however, that the horses were but indifferently trained, and the men performed only common feats; and, instead of equitation, we had dramatic pieces and Harlequin tricks, — battles and assaults, — Moors and Saracens. The horses performed as actors, just as at Covent Garden; they galloped over the pit, and mounted the boards of the stage covered with earth, storming walls and ramparts. The interval between the exhibitions being very long, a parcel of dirty boys (amateurs), in rags, performed awkward tricks of tumbling, raising a cloud of dust, and showing their nakedness to the applauding audience; the vociferations from the gallery were perfectly deafening, and the hoarse vulgar voice of the clown eagerly re-echoed by them. Looking round the room, meanwhile, I saw the boxes filled with decent people, — grave and demure citizens, with their wives and children, who seemed to take pleasure in all this. It is really impossible not to form an unfavourable opinion of the taste of the English public, when we find them in general so excessively low and vulgar in the choice of their amusements.

Comments: Louis Simond (1767-1831) was a French travel writer. He journeyed through Britain over 1810-11, writing his published account in English. Astley’s Amphitheatre was originally a circus (opened 1770), but later put on pantomimes and other such entertainments. It was located by Westminster Bridge and had burned down twice before it became famous in the 1800s for its equestrian spectaculars Houyhnhnms are a race of intelligent horses in Jonathan Swift’s satire Gulliver’s Travels.

Links:

‘Neath the Mask

Source: Eric Lugg, quoted in John M. East, ‘Neath the Mask: The Story of the East Family (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1967), p. 140

Text: The whole atmosphere of playgoing at the Lyric was an exciting thing. It was something I shall never forget, and an experience I have never recaptured in any other theatre. Before the curtain rose everybody shouted greetings to each other like “’Ello, Liz!” and then a “Watcher ‘Arry” would come back. There was an incomparable, yet pleasant odour about the place, a mixture of human bodies, orange-peel and tobacco-smoke, and generally a tremendous air of expectancy. Then the band would come into the pit, and begin to tune up, and finally the curtain would rise. And what stage pictures they were! What vitality! What red-blooded magnificent acting! And the incidental music, that was exciting too. “Deberterdom, deberterdom, deberterdom” accompanied the sort of “Will he get there in time?” scene, and the violins would “Der, der, der, der, der, der, der, de, la la la la la la la” we the poor mite was begging for pennies in the snow. Yes, all this added up to a wonderful might in the theatre.

Comments: Eric Lugg (1890-1979) was a British stage and film actor. He is recalling his impressions of the company of John M. East at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London (then known as the New Lyric Opera House), in the early 1900s. Lugg’s father and uncle had acted for East, a celebrated actor-producer of stage melodramas, also a silent film actor, whose grandson, the actor and broadcaster John M. East, wrote his biography.

Pepys’ Diary

Engraving of Nell Gwyn as Cupid, c.1672, a copy of which was owned by Samuel Pepys, via Wikipedia

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 2 March 1667

Production: John Dryden, Secret Love; or, The Maiden Queen, King’s House, London, 2 March 1667

Text: After dinner, with my wife, to the King’s house to see “The Mayden Queene,” a new play of Dryden’s, mightily commended for the regularity of it, and the strain and wit; and, the truth is, there is a comical part done by Nell, which is Florimell, that I never can hope ever to see the like done again, by man or woman. The King and Duke of York were at the play. But so great performance of a comical part was never, I believe, in the world before as Nell do this, both as a mad girle, then most and best of all when she comes in like a young gallant; and hath the notions and carriage of a spark the most that ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess, admire her.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. John Dryden‘s tragicomedy Secret Love; or, The Maiden Queen was a particular favourite; he records seeing the play eight times in the diary. A large part of the attraction was undoubtedly due to Eleanor ‘Nell’ Gwyn (1650-1687), the most celebrated actor of her time, and mistress to King Charles II. Pepys first saw her on 3 April 1665 in Roger Boyle‘s Mustapha, where he refers to her as “pretty witty Nell”. The performance of The Maiden Queen that he records he was the play’s debut, performed by the King’s Company at what would become the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. It was probably her most successful and celebrated role.

Links: https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1667/03/02/

Extracts of the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry

Source: Lady Theresa Lewis (ed.), Extracts of the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry, from the year 1783 to 1852 (London: Longmans, Green, 1865), p. 51

Text: The serious opera is performed in a small theatre. In the new theatre we saw the tragedy of Tamerlane, but as the piece was not printed, I could not tell whether it had any resemblance to ours of the same name; what most delighted the people was a battle upon the stage, which lasted nearly a quarter of an hour with unremitted ardour, and concluded with the slaughter of eight or ten men left dead upon the stage. All Italian actors, I am told, are very bad, because dramatic performances are not the taste of the upper ranks, who relish and encourage nothing but the opera. These were called superlatively bad; they had much less action than I expected.

Comments: Mary Berry (1763-1852) was a British editor, letter writer and diarist, known for her close association with Horace Walpole. Her published journals and correspondence include many theatregoing references. This production of an unidentified Tamerlane play took place in Bologna on 11 November 1783.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust