Category Archives: Theater

Item of the Day: The Relapse: or, Virtue in Danger (1777)

Full Title: The Relapse: or, Virtue in Danger. A Comedy. As written by Sir John Vanbrugh. Distinguishing also the Variations of the Theatre, as performed at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden. Regulated from the Prompt Book. By Permission of the Managers, by Mr. Wild, Prompter. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter-Exchange, in the Strand, MDCCLXXVII. [1777]*


TO go about to excuse half the defects this abortive brat is come into the world with, would be to provoke the town with a long useless preface, when it is, I doubt, sufficiently soured already by a tedious play.

I do therefore (with the humility of a repenting sinner) confess, it wants every thing — but length; and in that, I hope, the severest critic will be pleased to acknowledge I have not been wanting. But my modesty will sure atone for every thing, when the world shall know it is so great, I am even to this day insensible of those two shining  graces in the play, (which some part of the town is pleased to compliment me with) blasphemy and bawdy.

For my part, I cannot find them out: if there were any obscene expressions upon the stage, here they are in the print; for I have dealt fairly, I have not sunk a syllable, that could (though by racking of mysteries) be ranged under that head; and yet I believe with a steddy (sic) faith, there is not one woman of a real reputation in town, but when she has read it impartially over in her closet, will find it so innocent, she will think it no affront to her prayer-book, to lay it upon the same shelf. So to them (with all manner of deference) I entirely refer my cause; and I am confident they will justify me against those pretenders to good manners, who at the same time have so little respect for the ladies, they would extract a bawdy jest from an ejaculation, to put them out of countenance. But I expect to have these well-bred persons always my enemies, since I am sure I shall never write any thing lewd enough to make them my friends.

As for the saints (your thorough-paced ones, I mean, with skrewed faces and wry mouths) I despair of them; for they are friends to nobody: they love nothing but their altars and themselves; they have too much zeal to have any charity; they make debauchees in piety, as sinners do in wine; and are as quarrelsome in their religion, as other people are in their drink: so I hope nobody will mind what they say. But if any man (with flat plod shoes, a little band, greasy hair, and a dirty face, who is wiser than I, at the expence of being forty years older) happens to be offended at a story of a cock and a bull, and a priest and a bull-dog, I beg his pardon with all my heart; which, I hope, I shall obtain, by eating my words, and making this public recantations. I do therefore, for his satisfaction, acknowledge I lied, when I said, they never quit their hold; for in that little time I have lived in the world, I thank God I have seen them forced to it more than once; but next time I will speak with more caution and truth, and only say, they have very good teeth.

If I have offended any honest gentleman of the town, whose friendship or good word is woth the having, I am very sorry for it; I hope they will correct me as gently as they can, when they consider I have had no other design, in running a very great risk, than to divert (if possible) some part of their spleens, in spite of their wives and their taxes.

One word more about the bawdy, and I have done. I won the first night this thing was acted, some indecencies had like to have happened; but it was not my fault.

The fine gentleman of the play, drinking his mistress’s health in Nants brandy, from six in the morning to the time he waddled on upon the stage in the evening, had toasted himself up to such a pitch of vigour, I confess I once gave Amanda for gone, and am since (with all due respect to Mrs. Rogers) very sorry she escaped for I am confident a certain lady (let no one take it to herself that is handsome) who highly blames the play, for the barrenness of the conclusion, would then have allowed it a very natural close.


 *Found In: Bell’s British Theatre, Consisting of the most esteemed English Plays. Volume the Eleventh. Being the Fifth Volume of Comedies. Containing: The Refusal, by Colley Cibber. The Way of the World, by W. Congreve. Amphitryon, altered from Dryden by Dr. Hawkesworth. The Drummer, by Mr. Addison. The Relapse, by Sir John Vanbrugh. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter Exchange, in the Strand, MDCCLXXVII. [1777]


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Filed under 1770's, Culture, Drama, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Theater

Item of the Day: A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1776)

Full Title: A Bold Stroke for a Wife. A Comedy, as written by Mrs. Centlivre. Distinguishing also the Variations of the Theatre, as performed at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. Regulated from the Prompt-Book, by Permission of the Managers, by Mr. Hopkins, Prompter. Bell’s Edition. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter-Exchange, in the Strand, and C. Etherington, at York, MDCCLXXVI [1776].

In: Bell’s British Theatre, consisting of the most esteemed English Plays. Volume the Sixth. Being the Third Volume of Comedies. Containing –A Bold Stroke for a Wife, by Mrs. Centlivre. –The Miser, by Henry Fielding, Esq. –The Provok’d Husband, by Sir John Vanburgh, and Colley Cibber, Esq. –Love Makes a Man, by C. Cibber, Esq. –She Wou’d, and She Wou’d Not, by Colley Cibber, Esq. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter Exchange, in the Strand, and C. Etherington, at York, MDCCLXXVI [1776].

To his Grace PHILIP, Duke and Marquis of Wharton, &c.

My Lord,

It has ever been the custom of poets, to shelter productions of this nature under the patronage of the brightest men of their time; and ’tis observed, that the uses always met the kindest reception from persons of the greatest merit. The world will do me justice as to the choice of my patron; but will, I fear, blame my rash attempt, in daring to address your grace, and offer at a work too difficult for our ablest pens, viz. an encomium on your grace. I have no plea against such reflections, but the disadvantage of education, and the privilege of my sex.

If your grace discovers a genius so surprising in this dawn of life, what must your riper years produce! Your grace has already been distinguished in a most peculiar manner, being the first young nobleman that ever admitted into a house of peers before he reached the age of one and twenty: but your grace’s judgment and eloquence soon convinced that august assembly, that the excellent gifts of nature ought not to be confined to time. We hope the example that Ireland has set, will shortly be followed by an English house of lords, and your grace made a member of that body, to which you will be so conspicuous an ornament.

Your good sense, and real love to your country, taught your grace to persevere in the principles of your glorious ancestors, by adhering to the defender our our religion and laws; and the penetrating wisdom of your royal master saw you merited your honours e’re he conferred them. It is one of the greatest glories of a monarch to distinguish where to bestow his favours; and the world must do ours justice, by owning your grace’s titles most deservedly worn.

It is with the greatest pleasure imaginable, the friends of liberty see you pursuing the steps of your noble father: your courteous affable temper, free from pride and ostentation, makes your name adored in the country, and enables your grace to carry what point you please. The late lord Wharton will be still remembered by every lover of his country, which never felt a greater shock than what his death occasioned: their grief had been inconsolable, if heaven, out of its wonted beneficence to this favourite isle, had not transmitted all his shining qualities to you, and phoenix-like, raised up one patriot out of the ashes of another.

That your grace has a high esteem for learning, particularly appears by the large progress you made therein: and your love for the muses shews a sweetness of temper, and generous humanity, peculiar to the greatness of your soul; for such virtues reign not in the breast of every man of quality.

Defer no longer then, my lord, to charm the world with beauty of your numbers, and shew the poet, as you have done the orator; convince our unthinking Britons, by what vile arts France lost her liberty: and teach them to avoid their own misfortunes, as well as to weep over Henry IV. who (if it were possible for him to know) would forgive the bold assassin’s hand, for the honour of having his fall celebrated by your grace’s pen.

To be distinguished by persons of your grace’s character, is not only the highest ambition, but the greatest reputation to an author; and it is not the least of my vanities, to have it known to the public, I had your grace’s leave to prefix your name to this comedy.

I wish I were capable to cloathe the following scenes in such a dress as might be worthy to appear before your grace, and draw your attention as much as your grace’s admirable qualifications do that of all mankind; but the muses, like most females, are least liberal to their own sex.

All I dare say in favour of this piece, is, that the plot is entirely new, and the incidents wholly owing to my oven invention; not borrowed from our own, or translated from the works of any foreign poet; so that they have a t least the charm of novelty to recommend them. If they are so lucky, in some leisure hour, to give your grace the least diversion, they will answer the utmost ambition of,

My Lord,

Your Grace’s most obedient, most devoted,

And most humble Servant, Susannah Centlivre.





To-night we come upon a bold design,

To try to please without one borrow’d line;

Our plot is new and regularly clear,

And not one single tittle from Moliere.

O’er bury’d poets we with caution tread,

And parish sextons leave to rob the dead.

For you, bright British fair, in hopes to charm ye,

We bring to-night a lover from the army;

You know the soldiers have the strangest arts,

Such a proportion of prevailing parts,

You’d think that they rid post to women’s hearts.

I wonder whence they draw their bold pretence;

We do not chuse them sure for our defence:

That plea is both impolitic and wrong,

And only suits such dames as want a tongue.

Is it their eloquence and fine address?

The softness of their language? –Nothing less.

Is it their courage, that they bravely dare

To storm the sex at once? Egad! ‘tis there,

They act by us as in the rough campaign,

Unmindful of repulses, charge again:

They mine and countermine, resolv’d to win,

And, if a breach is made, –they will come in.

You’ll think by what we have of soldiers said,

Our female wit was in the service bred:

But she is to the hardy toil a stranger,

She loves the cloth indeed, but hates the danger:

Yet to this circle of the brave and gay,

She bid one, for her good intentions say,

She hopes you’ll not reduce her to half-pay.

As for our play, ‘tis English humour all:

Then will you let our manufacture fall?

Would you the honour of our nations raise,

Keep English credit up, and English plays.



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Filed under 1770's, Great Britain, London, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Theater

Item of the Day: All for Love (1692)

Full Title: All for Love: or, World well Lost. A Tragedy, as it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal, and Written in Imitation of Shakespeare’s Stile. Written by Mr. Dryden. In the Savoy: Printed for H. Herringman, and sold by R. Bently, J. Tonson, F. Saunders, and T. Bennet, 1692.


The death of Anthony and Cleopatra, is a Subject which has been treated by the greatest Wits of our Nation, after Shakespear; and by all so variously, that their Example has given me the confidence to try my self in this Bowe of Ulysses amongst the Crowd of Sutors; and, withal, to take my own measures, in aiming at the Mark. I doubt not but the same Motive has prevailed with all of us in this attempt; I mean the excellency of the Moral: for the chief Persons represented, were famous Patterns of unlawful Love; and their end accordingly was unfortunate. All reasonable Men have long since concluded, That the Heroe of the Poem, ought not to be a Character of perfect Virtue, for, then, he could not, without injustice, be made unhappy; nor yet altogether wicked, because he could not then be pitied: I have therefore steer’d the middle course; and have drawn the character of Anthony as favourably as Plutarch, Appian, and Dion Cassius wou’d give me leave: the like I have observ’d in Cleopatra. That which is wanting to work up the pity to a greater heighth, was not afforded me by the story: for the crimes of Love which they both committed, were not occasioned by any necessity, or fatal ignorance, but were wholly voluntary; since our passions are, or ought to be, within our power. The Fabrick of the Play is regular enough, as to the inferior parts of it; and the Unities of Time, Place and Action, more exactly observ’d, than, perhaps, the English Theatre requires. Particularly, the Action is so much one, that it is the only of the kind without Episode, or Underplot; every Scene in the Tragedy conducing to the main design, and every Act concluding with a turn of it. The greatest error in the contrivance seems to be in the person of Octavia: For, though I might use the privilege of a Poet, to introduce her into Alexandria, yet I had not enough consider’d, that the compassion she mov’d to her self and Children, was destructive to that which I reserv’d for Anthony and Cleopatra; whose mutual love being founded upon vice, must lessen the favour of the Audience to them, when Virtue and Innocence were oppress’d by it. And, though I justified Anthony in some measure, by making Octavia’s departure, to proceed wholly from her self; yet the force of the first Machine still remain’d; and the dividing of pity, like the cutting of a River into many channels, abated the strength of the natural Stream. But this is an Objection which none of my Criticks have urg’d against me; and therefore I might have let it pass, if I could have resolv’d to have been partial to my self. The faults my enemies have found, are rather cavil concerning little, and not essential Decencies; which a Master of the Ceremonies may decide betwixt us. The French Poets, I confess, are strict Observers of these Punctilio’s: They would not, for example, have suffer’d Cleopatra and Octavia to have met; or if they had met, there must only have pass’d betwixt them some cold civilities, but not eagerness of repartee, for fear of offending against the greatness of their Characters, and the modesty of their Sex. This Objection I foresaw, and at the same time contemn’d: for I judg’d it both natural and probable, that Octavia, proud of her new-gain’d Conquest, would search out Cleopatra to triumph over her; and that Cleopatra, thus attack’d, was not of a spirit to shun the encounter: and ’tis not unlikely, that two exasperated Rivals should use such Satyr as I have put into their mouths; for after all, though the one were a Roman, and the other a Queen, they were both Women. ‘Tis true, some actions, though natural, are not fit to be represented; and broad obscenities in words, ought in good manners be avoided: expressions therefore are a modest cloathing of our thoughts, as Breeches and Petticoats are of our bodies. If I have kept my self within the bounds of modesty, all beyond it is but nicety and affectation; which is no more but Modesty deprav’d into a Vice: they betray them selves who are too quick of apprehension in such cases, and leave all reasonable Men to imagine worse of them, than of the Poet. . . .


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Item of the Day: The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

Full Title: The Beggar’s Opera. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincolns-Inn-Fields. Written by Mr. Gay. The Second Edition, to which is Added, The Ouverture in Score; And the Musick prefix’d to each Song. London: Printed for John Watts, at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, near Lincolns-Inn-Fields, MDCCXXVIII.



  1.  Through all the Employments of Life.

  2. ‘Tis Woman that seduces Mankind.

  3. If any Wench Venus’s Girdle wear.

  4. If Love the Virgin’s Heart invade.

  5. A Maid is like the golden Oar.

  6. Virgins are like the fair Flowere in its Lustre.

  7. Our Polly is a sad slut!nor heeds what we have thought her.

  8. Can Love be controul’d by Advice?

  9. O Polly, you might have toy’d and kist.

  10. I, like a Ship in Storms, was tost.

  11. A Fox may steal your Hens, Sir.

  12. Oh, ponder well! be not severe.

  13. The Turtle thus with plaintive crying.

  14. Pretty Polly, say.

  15. My Heart was so free.

  16. Were I laid on Greenland’s Coast.

  17. O what Pain it is to part!

  18. The Miser thus a Shilling sees.


  1. Fill ev’ry Glass, for Wine inspires us.

  2. Let us take the Road.

  3. If the Heart of a Man is deprest with Cares.

  4. Youth’s the Season made for Joys.

  5. Before the Barn-door crowing.

  6. The Gamesters and Lawyers are Jugglers alike.

  7. At the Tree I shall suffer with pleasure.

  8. Man may escape from Rope and Gun.

  9. Thus when a good Huswife sees a Rat.

  10. How cruel are the Traytors.

  11. The first time at the Looking-glass.

  12. When you censure the Age.

  13. Is then his Fate decreed, Sir?

  14. You’ll think e’er many Dasy ensue.

  15. If you are at an Office solicit your Due.

  16. Thus when the Swallow, seeking Prey.

  17. How happy could I be with either.

  18. I’m bubbled.

  19. Cease your Funning.

  20. Why how now, Madam Flirt.

  21. No Power on Earth can e’er divide.

  22. I like the Fox shall grieve.


  1. When young at the Bar you first taught me to score.

  2. My Love is all Madness and Folly.

  3. Thus Gamesters united in Friendship are found.

  4. The Modes of the Court so common are grown.

  5. What Gudgeons are we Men!

  6. In the Days of my Youth I could bill like a Dove, fa, la, la, &c.

  7. I’m like a Skiff on the Ocean tost.

  8. When a Wife’s in a Pout.

  9. A Curse attends that Woman’s Love.

  10. Among the Men, Coquets we find.

  11. Come, sweet Lass.

  12. Hither, dear Husband, turn your Eyes.

  13. Which way shall I turn me? –How can I decide.

  14. When my Hero in Court appears.

  15. When he holds up his Hand arraign’d for his Life.

  16. Our selves, like the Great, to secure a Retreat.

  17. The Charge is prepar’d; the Lawyers met.

  18. O cruel, cruel, cruel Case.

  19. Of all the Friends in time of Grief.

  20. Since I must swing, –I scorn, I scorn to wince or whine.

  21. But now again my Spirits sink.

  22. But Valour the stronger grows.

  23. If thus  ———- A Man can die.So I drink off this Bumper. –And now I can stand the Test.

  24. But I can leave my pretty Hussies.

  25. Their Eyes, their Lips, their Busses.

  26. Since Laws were made for ev’ry Degree.

  27. Would I might be hang’d!

  28. Thus I stnad like the Turk, with his Dexies around.

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Item of the Day: Dunlap’s Memoirs of the life of George Frederick Cooke (1813)

Full Title: Memoirs of George Fred. Cooke, Esq. late of The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. By William Dunlap, Esq. Composed principally from the personal knowledge of the author, and from the manuscript journals left by Mr. Cooke. Comprising original anecdotes of his theatrical contemporaries, his opinions on various dramatic writings, &c. Vol. I. London: Printed for Henry Colburn, British and Foreign Public Library, Conduit-Street, Hanover-Square; and sold by George Goldie, Edinburgh; and John Cumming, Dublin, 1813.


The following work was undertaken by me with reluctance, but has increased upon me in interest, very far beyond what I could have conceived at the commencement.

In the month of May, 1811, Mr. Cooke asked me, rather sportively, to be his Biographer, and I, in the same spirit, promised. Hen then said, that he had several manuscript journals, which he would put into my hands; but as nothing further passed, and the subject was not recurred to, I thought no more of it.

After his death, which happened during a visit I was making to New Jersey, the business was pressed upon me, and three manuscripts put into my hands. His “Chronicle,” or a retrospect of his theatrical life, including the first dramatic impressions made upon his mind, with their growth and consequences, was the most important of the three. This work is brought up to 1807. Accompanying it, were two books of diary, kept at different periods, after his coming to London; without connexion, and at first view, not very intelligible, or interesting. These were the materials upon which I was to build. I knew, however, that I could obtain every information, relative to his American engagement, and the subsequent events of his life; and that I possessed a fund of knowledge, derived from my connexion with the New York theatre, and my intercourse for many months with the subject of the work.

Under these circumstances, I undertook my labour, with the determination to exhibit a faithful picture of this extraordinary man, the events of whose varied life cannot but prove an impressive lesson to every reader. The man of genius will see that he must not rely upon genius along; and the man who is conscious of mediocrity, will be taught that he must keep a strict watch over his conduct, when he sees, that even the most brilliant talent, cannot avail to produce usefulness or happiness, without virtue and prudence.

If I have succeeded in portraying the image formed in my mind, by the knowledge I possess of Mr. Cooke, I have rendered service to the cause of morality, and consequently promoted human happiness.

Actors, and drastic writers, as connected with the subject of my book, necessarily form a part of it. I have given Mr. Cooke’s opinions upon them, as I found those opinions: my own, according to the extent and accuracy of my critical judgment.

An actor, as a subject of biography, is not important because he is an actor, but because he is a man who has been placed in situations interesting to his fellow men; and because his conduct, through an eventful life, if faithfully related, excites attention, interests the feelings, and strikingly indicates to others, the path they should pursue for the attainment of the world’s, and their own approbation. Much dramatic biography is censurable, as frivolous, or worthless, or hurtful to the reader; but there are respectable and valuable works of the kind, which though not perfect, add to the mass of innocent amusement, and useful information. In this last class, I would place Davis’s and Murphy’s Lives of Garrick, and Kirkman’s Life of Macklin. I hope the life of Cooke will at least rank as high, in a moral point of view, it must be my fault, if, from the character of the subject, it does not rank higher, as a work of entertainment.

After commencing my work, I found several other manuscripts of Mr. Cooke’s writing, of an earlier date than those I possessed, and of a more energetic and interesting character. These, with his books, and the parts from which he studied, marked by him in the hour of application, formed a rich mass, not only for the ornament, but for the more essential purpose of strengthening my fabric, and rendering it permanently useful.

By publishing my work both in England and America, I present to the many thousands, who have received delight from witnessing Mr. Cooke’s unrivalled talents, a mass of facts, which could not be given to them by any other person; and I have presumed that there is, throughout Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, much curiosity respecting a man so eccentric in his conduct, and so eminent in his profession. The closing scenes of such a man’s life, are more interesting and impressive than the preceding acts. These scenes have come immediately under my observation, and the description of them is more peculiarly the gift which I could, alone, make to the public.

What value will be set upon it, is yet to be determined; I doubt not that it will be a fair one. When the public forms an unbiased decision on the merits of a literary work, it is seldom, if ever, erroneous.


August 1st, 1813.


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Item of the Day: A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, &c.

Full Title: A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, &c. Being a Reply to Mr. Congreve’s Amendments, &c. And to the Vindication of the Author of the Relapse. By Jeremy Collier. London: Printed for S Keble, R. Sace, and N. Hindmarsh, 1699.

To the READER.

Since the publishing my late View, &c. I have been plentifully rail’d on in Print: This give me some reason to suspect the Answerers and the Cause, are not altogether unlike. Had there been nothing but plain Argument to encounter, I think I might have ventured my Book with them: But being charged with mis-citations and unfair Dealing, ‘twas requisite to say something: For Honesty is a tender point, and ought not to be neglected.Mr. Congreve and the Author of Relapse, being the most eager Complainants, and Principals in the Dispute, I have made it my choice to satisfie them. As the Volunteers, they will find themselves affected with the Fortune of their Friends; and besides, I may probably have an opportunity of speaking farther with them hereafter.

Notwithstanding the singular Management of the Poets and the Play-House, I have had the satisfaction to perceive, the Interest of Virtue is not altogether Sunk, but that Conscience and Modesty have still some Footing among us. This consideration makes me hope a little farther Discovery of the Stage may not be unacceptable. The Reader then may please to take notice, that The Plot and no Plot swears at length, and is scandalously Smutty and Profane. The Fool in Fashion for the first four Acts is liable to the same Imputation: Something in Swearing abated, Caesar Borgia, and Love in a Nunnery, are no better Complex’d than the former. As lastly. Limberhan, and the Soldier’s Fortune, are meer prodigies of Lewdness and Irreligion. If this general Accusation appears too hard, I am ready to make it good. ‘Twere easy to proceed to many other Plays, but possibly this Place may not be so proper to enlarge upon the Subject.

Some of the Stage-Advocates pretend my Remarks on their Poetry are foreign to the Business. On the contrary, I conceive it very defensible to disarm an Adversary, if it may be, and disable him from doing Mischief.

To expose that which would expose Religion, is a warrantable way of Reprizals. Those who Paint for Debauchery, should have the Fucus pull’d off, and the Coarseness underneath discover’d. The Poets are the Aggressors, let them lay down their Arms first. We have suffer’d under Silence a great while; If we are in any fault, ‘tis because we began with them no sooner.

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Filed under 1690's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Theater

Item of the Day: Bell’s British Theatre (1776)

Full Title: Bell’s British Theatre, consisting of the most esteemed English plays. Vol. I. Being the first volume of tragedies. Containing: Zara, by Aaron Hill, Esq.; Venice preserved, by Mr. T. Otway; Jane Shore, by N. Rowe, Esq.; Siege of Damascus, by Mr. Hughes; Distressed mother, by Mr. A. Philips. London: Printed for John Bell and C. Etherington, 1776.


The Publisher takes this Opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous encouragement with which this undertaking has already been honoured; and at the same time begs leave to assure the PUBLIC, that it shall be his particular care, not only to fulfil [sic] his present engagement, as stated in the following Proposals, but also to embrace every opportunity of improving the work; he will, therefore, thankfully receive, and attend to, any judicious observations that he may be favoured with for that purpose.


One Number (containing a complete Play) will be published every Saturday, till the whole is completed, at 6d each.

A Few Copies will be printed for the curious, on large Royal Paper, and contain proof impressions of the prints, at one shilling each number.

Each of the sizes will bind up uniform with Bell’s Edition of Shakespeare, and when finished, will forma a complete Dramatic Library.

The First Number was published on Saturday, May 4th, 1776.

A Volume of the most celebrated ENGLISH TRAGEDIES and COMEDIES (exclusive of SHAKESPEARE’s, which may be had separate) will be compleated alternately. ——With every fifth Play will be given a general Title and a beautiful Vignette, adapted to the subject of the Volume, by one of the first Artists in Great Britain. —Each Play will be embellished with at least one lively DRAMATIC CHARACTER, painted from the life, by Permission, on purpose for this work only, and executed by the best Engravers in London.

The Plays are printed from the most approved copies, with the last emendations; the passages omitted at the Theatres are distinguished by inverted Commas, thus, ‘ ’; and those which are added in the performance are printed in Italics; so that classical, theatrical, and general readers, may be equally gratified, and the merits of each respective Author be handed down to posterity with the utmost degree of reputation.

At the end of the year will be printed one Volume, consisting of an INDEX of the CHARACTERS, SENTIMENST, SIMILIES, SPEECHES, and DESCRIPTIONS contained in the preceding Volumes of the BRITISH THEATRE. —And, in the course of the Work will be published another Volume, containing the LIVES of the DIFFERENT AUTHORS whose works compose this publication, with a PORTRAIT of each, finely engraved, from pictures of the best authority; including also, an HISTORICAL ACCOUNT of the RISE and PROGRESS of the ENGLISH STAGE, from its earliest beginning to the present time. . . .

IT has often justly been lamented, that the graces of the actor lived no longer than the Attitude, Breath, and Motion that presented them. —Picture alone can afford any remedy to this unhappy circumstance. The animated figures accompanying the Drama, will aid the audiences of the present excellent performers to recall at any time during life, the pleasures they have received. —What value would the public now put upon such a lively record of Betterton, Cibber, &c. &c. the delight of their forefathers! —The Publisher, therefore, cannot help fondly imagining that the work now proposed will grow in value with the present age, and gratify the just curiosity of those to come; especially as he proposes to introduce occasionally, the PORTRATIS of EMINENT ACTORS who have been distinguished for their excellence in principal characters within the present century; for this desirable department, the assistance of good Pictures or prints applicable to the subjects, will be thankfully received. . . .

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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Theater

Item of the Day: Early American Drama (1810)

Bound together:

Man and Wife, or, More Secrets than One: A Comedy by Samuel James Arnold, Esq.
The Free Knights, or The Edict of Charlemagne: A Drama in Three Acts, Interspersed with Songs by Frederick Reynolds
The Foundling of the Forest: A Play by William Dimond, Esq.
Alfonso, King of Castile: A Tragedy in Five Acts by M.G. Lewis
Venoni, or the Novice of St. Mark’s. A Drama in Three Acts by M.G. Lewis
A New Way to Pay Old Debts, A Comedy, in Five Acts by Philip Massinger, Esq.
The Maid of Honour: A Comedy, in Five Acts by Philip Massinger
The Bondman; A Comedy, in Five Acts by Philip Massinger
The Fatal Dowry; A Tragedy, in Five Acts by Philip Massinger
Emilia Galotti: A Tragedy, in Five Acts by G.E. Lessing, translated by Miss Fanny Holcroft

Some printed in Philadelphia for Bradford and Inskeep; some in New-York for Inskeep and Bradford; and some in Boston for William M’ilhenny; all in 1810. Bound together, with separate pagination.Act I.

SCENE I. — Abel Grouse’s cottage. Enter Abel Grouse and Fanny.

Ab. Gr. Dont tell me of your sorrow and repentance girl. You’ve broke my heart. Married hey? and privately too–and to a lord into the bargain! So, when you can hide it no longer, you condescend to tell me. Think you that the wealth and title of lord Austencourt can silence the fears of a fond father’s heart? Why should a lord marry a poor girl like you in private, if his intentions were honourable? Who should restrain him from publicly avowing his wife?

Fanny. My dearest father, have but a little patience, and I’ll explain all.

Ab. Gr. Who was present, besides the parson, at your wedding?

Fanny. There was our neighbour, the attorney, sir, and one of his clerks, and they were all—

Ab. Gr. My heart sinks within me–but mark me. You may remember I was not always what now I seem to be. I yesterday received intelligence which, but for this discovery, had shed a gleam of joy over my remaining days. As it is, should your husband prove the villain I suspect him, that intelligence will afford me an opportunity to resume a character in life which shall make this monster lord tremble. The wrongs of Abel Growse, the poor but upright man, might have been pleaded in vain to him, but as I shall soon appear, it shall go hard but I will make the great man shrink before me, even in his plenitude of pride and power.

Fanny. You terrify me, sir, indeed you do.

Ab. Gr. And so I would. I would prepare you for the worst that may befal us: for should this man, this lord, who calls himself your husband–

Fanny. Dearest father, what can you mean? Who calls himself my husband! He is my husband.

Ab. Gr. If he is your husband, how does he dare to pay his addresses, as he now publicly does, to the daughter of sir Willoughby Worret, our neighbour. I may be mistaken. I’m in the midst here of old acquaintances, though in this guise they know me not. They shall soon see me amongst them. Not a word of this, I charge you. Come, girl, this lord shall own you. If he does not, we will seek a remedy in those laws which are at once the best guardians of our rights and the surest avengers of our wrongs. [Exeunt.

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Filed under 1810's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Theater

Item of the Day: Moliere in French and English (1732)

Full Title:

Select Comedies of Mr. de Moliere. French and English. In Eight Volumes. With Frontispiece to each Comeddy. To which is Prefix’d a curious Print of the Author, with his Life in French and English. Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Written by Moliere, 1622-1673. French and English on facing pages. Each play has individual title page and pagination. Imprint information and contents from individual title pages. Contents: v. 1. L’avare. The miser. Sganarell, ou le cocu imaginaire. The cuckold in conceit. — v. 2. Le bourgeois gentilhomme. The cit turned gentleman. Le Médecin malgré lui. A doctor and no doctor. — v. 3. L’étourdi, ou les contre-tems. The blunderer, or the counter-plots. Les précieuses ridicules. The conceited ladies. — v. 4. L’école des maris. The school for husbands. L’école des femmes. The school for wives. — v. 5. Tartuffe, ou l’imposteur. Tartuffe, or the imposter. George Dandin, ou le mari confondu. George Dandin, or the husband defeated. — v. 6. Le misantrope. The man-hater. Mondsieur de Pourceaugnac. Squire Lubberly. — v. 7. Amphitrion. Amphitryon. Le mariage forcé. The forc’d marriage. Le Sicilien, ou l’amour peintre. The Sicilian, or love makes a painter. — v. 8. Le malade imaginaire. The hypochondriack. Les fascheux. The impertinents. Printed in London for John Watts at the printing-office in Wild Court near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1732.



WHen MAJESTY vouchsafes to Patronize the WISE and the LEARNED, and a QUEEN Recommends KNOWLEDGE and VERTUE to her People, what Blessings may we not promise our selves in such happy Circumstances? That this is the great Intention and Business of Your MAJESTY’S Life, witness the Reception, which the Labours of a Clark, a Newton, a Locke, and a Wollaston have met with from Your MAJESTY, and the immortal Honours You have paid their Names. Whatever therefore can any ways conduce to those glorious Ends, need not question Your Royal Approbation and Favour; and upon this presumption MOLIERE casts himself at Your MAJESTY’s Feet for Protection.

This merry Philosopher, MADAM, hath taken as much Pains to laugh Ignorance and Immorality out of the World, as the other great Sages did to reason ’em out; and as the generality of Mankind can stand an Argument better than a Jest, and bear to be told how good they ought to be, with less Concern than to be shewn how ridiculous they are, his Success, we conceive, has not been much inferior.

Your MAJESTY need not be informed how much the Manners and Conduct of a People are dependent on their Diversions; and You are therefore convinced how necessary it is (since Diversions are necessary) to give ’em such as may serve to polish and reform ’em. With this View, MADAM, was the following Translation undertaken. By a Perusal of these Scenes every Reader will plainly perceive, that Obscenities and Immoralities are no ways necessary to make a diverting Comedy; they’ll learn to distinguish betwixt honest Satire, and scurrilous Invective; betwixt decent Repartee, and tasteless Ribaldry; in short, between vicious Satisfactions and rational Pleasures. And if these Plays should come to be read by the generality of People (as Your MAJESTY’s Approbation will unquestionably make ’em) they’ll by degrees get a more just and refined Taste in their Diversions, be better acquainted, and grow more in love with the true Excellencies of Dramatick Writings. By this means our Poets will be encouraged to aim at those Excellencies, and blush to find themselves so much outdone in Manners and Vertue by their Neighbours. Nay, there’s no Reason can possibly be given, MADAM, why these very Pieces should not most of ’em be brought upon the English Stage. For tho’ our Translation of ’em, as it now stands, may be thought too literal and close for that Purpose, yet the Dramatick Writers might, with very little Pains, so model and adapt them to our Theatre and Age, as to procure ’em all the Success could be wish’d; and we may venture to affirm, that ‘twould turn more to their own Account, and the Satisfaction of their Audiences, than any thing they are able to produce themselves. This too they ought to be the more earnest to attempt, as the most probable Means of drawing down a larger Share of Royal Influence on the Stage, which has been too justly forfeited by the licentious Practice of modern Play-wrights.

We might here, MADAM, take occasion to particularize our Author’s Perfections and Excellencies, but those Your MAJESTY wants no Information of. All we shall therefore observe to Your MAJESTY is, that wherever Learning, Wit, and Politeness flourish, MOLIERE has always has an extraordinary Reputation, and his Plays, which are translated into so many Languages, and acted in so many Nations, will gain him Admission as long as the Stage shall endure. But what will contribute more than all to his Glory and Happiness, will be the Patronage of a British PRINCESS, and the Applause of a British Audience.

We dare not think, MADAM, of offering any thing in this Address that might look like Panegyrick, lest the World should condemn us for meddling with a Task above our Talents, and saying too little — Your MAJESTY, for presuming to say any thing at all. There are many Vertues and Perfections, so very peculiar in Your MAJESTY’s Character, and so rarely found amongst the Politicks of Princes, that they require a masterly and deliberate Hand to do ’em Justice —- Such a Zeal for Religion so moderated by Reason, such a benevolent Study for composing all Factions and Dissensions, such a laudable Ambition, which aims at Power only in order to benefit Mankind, and yet such a glorious Contempt, even of Empire it self, when inconsistent with those Principles whose Truth You were satisfy’d of —— These are such elevated and shining Vertues, as even the vicious themselves must have a secret Veneration for —— But as Your MAJESTY’s great Pleasure is privately to merit Applause, not publickly to receive it; for fear we should interrupt you in that noble Delight, we’ll beg Leave to subscribe Our Selves,

May it please Your Majesty,


Most Obedient,

and most Devoted

Humble Servants,

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Filed under 1730's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Theater

Item of the Day: Dryden’s All for Love (1692)

(Click pages to enlarge.)

Full Title:

All for Love: or, the World well Lost. A Tragedy, as it is acted at the Theatre-Royal; and Written in Imitation of Shakespeare’s Stile.

Written by John Dryden (1631-1700). Includes epistle dedicatory and preface. Printed in London for H. Herringman, and sold by R. Bently, J. Tonson, F. Saunders, and T. Bennet, 1692.

Also by John Dryden:

The Comedies, Tragedies, and Operas Written by John Dryden. Now first Collected together, and Corrected from the Originals. In Two Volumes. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Contents: v. 1. An essay on dramatick poesie. The wild gallant. The rival ladies. The Indian emperor: or, The conquest of Mexico. Secret love: or, The maiden queen. Sir Martin Mar-all: or, The feign’d innocence. The tempest: or, The enchanted island. An evening’s love: or, The mock-astrologer. Tyrannick love: or, The royal martyr. Almanzor and Almahide: or, The conquest of Granada. Marriage a-la-mode. The assignation: or, Love in a nunnery. Amboyna. State of Innocence: and Fall of man. Folio, boxed.

Contents: v. 2. Aurenge-Zebe: or, The great Mogul. All for love: or, The world well lost. Limberham: or, The kind keeper. Oedipus. Troilus and Cressida: or, Truth found too late. The Spanish fryar: or, The double discovery. The Duke of Guise. Albion and Albanius. Don Sebastian, king of Portugal. Amphitryon: or, The two Sosia’s. Cleomenes, the Spartan hero. King Arthur: or, The British worthy. Love triumphant: or, Nature will prevail. Folio, boxed.

Both volumes printed in London for Jacob Tonson, Thomas Bennet and Richard Wellington, 1701.


Filed under 1690's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Theater