The Diary of Sylas Neville

Source: Basil Cozens-Hardy (ed.), The Diary of Sylas Neville 1767-1788 (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), pp. 15-16

Production: Anon., The Taylors, a Tragedy for Warm Weather, Haymarket Theatre, London, 2 July 1767

Text: Thurs. July 2. Dined at St Clement’s Eating house. ½ past 6 went to the Haymarket Theatre, but could not get into the Pit or first Gallery, so stood on the last row of the shilling Gallery, tho’ I could see little, to see how ‘The Taylors’, a new Tragedy for warm weather, would go off, being the first night of its performance. 3rd Act hissed – the Gods in the shilling Gallery called for the ‘Builders Prologue’ – hissed off the part of the old Maid twice and Davies, who came to make an excuse. The Gentlemen, many of whom were there, cried ‘No Prologue’, but to no purpose. At last Foote said if he knew their demands he would be ready to comply with them. The noise ceasing, after some time he was told the Builders Prologue was desired. He said he had done all in his power to get the Performers, having seen them. After some time he came and informed them that he had got the performers together and if the house would be pleased ‘to accept the prologue in our dresses as we are you shall have it’. This was followed by a great clapping, which shows the genius of our English Mobility, ever generous after victory.

Comments: Sylas Neville (1741-1840) was an English gentleman of unclear origins, who had studied medicine but spent much of his adult life travelling while being continually short of money. His surviving diary frequently mentions visits to the theatre in London. Samuel Foote (1720-1777) was an English actor, dramatist and theatre manager. The Taylors, a Tragedy for Warm Weather, later also known as The Quadrupeds, was a burlesque of the manners of tragic dramas, set among the world of tailors, with Foote playing Francisco and Thomas Davis playing Bernardo (some sources give Foote as the author, but the evidence is unclear). The ‘Builder’s Prologue’ was another name for a popular piece by Foote, An Occasional Prologue in Prose-Laconic, written to celebrate the Haymarket Theatre gaining its royal patent to perform spoken drama in 1766. ‘Mobility’ was a vogueish term for ‘mob’.

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott

Source: Walter Scott, The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, 1825-1832 (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1910 [orig. pub. 1890]), p. 280

Production: Edward Fitzball, The Pilot, Adelphi Theatre, London, 21 October 1826

Text: October 21, 1826
We returned to a hasty dinner, and then hurried away to see honest Dan Terry’s house, called the Adelphi Theatre, where we saw the Pilot, from the American novel of that name. It is extremely popular, the dramatist having seized on the whole story, and turned the odious and ridiculous parts, assigned by the original author to the British, against the Yankees themselves. There is a quiet effrontery in this that is of a rare and peculiar character. The Americans were so much displeased, that they attempted a row – which rendered the piece doubly attractive to the seamen at Wapping, who came up and crowded the house night after night, to support the honour of the British flag. After all, one must deprecate whatever keeps up ill-will betwixt America and the mother country; and we in particular should avoid awakening painful recollections. Our high situation enables us to contemn petty insults and to make advances towards cordiality. I was, however, glad to see honest Dan’s theatre as full seemingly as it could hold. The heat was dreadful, and Anne was so very unwell that she was obliged to be carried into Terry’s house, – a curious dwelling, no larger than a squirrel’s cage, which he has contrived to squeeze out of the vacant spaces of the theatre, and which is accessible by a most complicated combination of staircases and small passages. Here we had rare good porter and oysters after the play, and found Anne much better. She had attempted too much; indeed I myself was much fatigued.

Comments: Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a Scottish novelist and poet, whose historical novels such as Ivanhoe, Rob Roy and The Heart of Midlothian were immensely popular and influential. The Pilot was a burlesque of James Fenimore Cooper‘s American 1824 novel of the same name, by Edward Fitzball, an English playwright who specialised in nautical dramas. Fenimore Cooper’s The Pilot is based on the adventure of John Paul Jones and his naval raids on the British and Irish coasts during the American revolution. The play ran for 200 performances at the Adelphi Theatre, London, co-owned by Scott’s friend the actor Daniel Terry, who had dramatised a number of Scott’s novels. Anne was Scott’s daughter.

Links: Copy at Project Gutenberg