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), pp. 167-168

Production: Antoine de la Fosse, Manlius Capitolinus and Marc-Antoine Legrand, L’Aveugle Clairvoyant, Comédie-Française, Paris, 6 July 1818

Text: Monday, July 6th. — M. de Duras gave us tickets for this week in the box of the gentlemen in waiting. I arrived in time to see the last scene’ of Talma, in ‘Manlius.’ It was the night of his return to the theatre after rather a long absence. On the curtain falling, they called loudly for him, with a noise and a disturbance much more like London than Paris. Three times they in vain began the second piece; it was impossible to hear a word. Three times the two actresses who had to commence the piece took refuge in the side scenes. At last, whilst Baptiste Cadet came forward to address the audience, some officer of the police, in his scarf of office, announced that, by an order of the police, the actors were forbidden to appear upon the stage out of their parts. One might well ask why this rule? which prevents the audience from showing, and the actor from receiving, these marks of approbation. They have much to learn in this country upon the ne quid nimis in the way of government. At last the audience was asked if they would have the second piece, ‘L’Aveugle Clairvoyant.’ Upon the reiterated ‘Ouis’ from the pit, they replied, ‘Vous l’aurez quand ces misérables criards ont cesses.’ On this the noise was renewed for some minutes, after which we had the piece very well acted and very amusing.

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. François-Joseph Talma (1762-1826) was the leading French actor of the period. One of his most celebrated roles was than of Manlius in Manlius Capitolinus, the 1698 Roman tragedy by Antoine de La Fosse. L’Aveugle Clairvoyant was written by the prolific French playwright Marc-Antoine Legrand.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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’.

A General History of the Stage

Source: William Rufus Chetwood, A General History of the Stage, from its origin in Greece down to the present time. With memoirs of most of the principal performers on the English and Irish stage for these last fifty years (London: W. Owen, 1749), pp. 43-44

Text: I remember, above twenty Years past, I was one of the Audience, at a new Play: Before me sat a Sea-Officer, with whom I had some Acquaintance-, on each Hand of him a Couple of Sparks, both prepar’d with their offensive Instruments vulgarly term’d Cat-calls, which they were often tuning, before the Play began. The Officer did not take any Notice of them till the Curtain drew up; but when they continued their Sow-gelder’s Music (as he unpolitely call’d it), he beg’d they would not prevent his hearing the Actors, tho’ they might not care whether they heard, or no; but they took little Notice of his civil Request, which he repeated again and again, to no Purpose: But, at last, one of them condescended to tell him, If he did not like it, be might let it alone. Why, really, reply’d the Sailor, I do not like it, and would have you let your Noise alone; I have paid my Money to see and hear the Play, and your ridiculous Noise not only hinders me, but a great many other People that are here, I believe, with the fame Design: Now if you prevent us, you rob us of our Money, and our Time; therefore I intreat you, as you look like Gentlemen, to behave as such. One of them seem’d mollified, and put his Whistle in his Pocket; but the other was incorrigible. The blunt Tar made him one Speech more. Sir, said he, I advise you, once more, to follow the Example of this Gentleman, and put up your Pipe. But the Piper sneer’d in his Face, and clap’d his troublesome Instrument to his Mouth, with Cheeks swell’d out like a Trumpeter, to give it a redoubled, and louder Noise but, like the broken Crow of a Cock in a Fright, the Squeak was stopt in the Middle by a Blow from the Officer, which he gave him with so strong a Will, that his Child’s Trumpet was struck thro’ his Cheek, and his Companion led him out to a Surgeon; so that we had more Room, and less Noise; and not one that saw or heard the Affair, but what were well pleased with his Treatment; and, notwithstanding his great Blustering, he never thought it worth his while to call upon the Officer, tho’ he knew where to find him.

Comments: William Rufus Chetwood (?-1766) was an English author, playwright and publisher, whose A General History of the Stage, published in 1749, is a valuable eyewitness account of fifty years of English and Irish theatre.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive