The French Revolution and the London Stage, 1789-1805

By George Taylor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The shadow of Napoleon

Much of the subject matter of this chapter is excellently covered by Gillian Russell in The Theatres of War,1 and she in turn acknowledges the insight of Linda Colley into how the French wars forced Britain to redefine the social agencies attacked by the Revolution: royalty, aristocracy and patriotism. Earlier in the century England had fought France with relatively small armies over specific political issues. In Europe these had been questions of dynastic succession effecting the balance of power; across the rest of the world the issues had been trade and imperial territory. England had tended to win the colonial conflicts because of her naval supremacy, while gaining the epithet 'Perfidious Albion' for failing to support her European allies. The American War had been different, not only in that the British navy failed to guarantee victory, but that American Independence raised ideological issues that were to have serious internal repercussions for both England and France, as discussed in earlier chapters. The wars of 1792–1802 and 1803–15 were similarly ideological, but, being fought on home territory, they were even more challenging to the political systems and social structures of the participants. For the French, the campaigns of 1792–4 determined the survival of the Revolution, but only with an internal policy of terror. In England this distortion of Revolutionary ideals and the war itself, discredited the moderate reform movement, and seemed to vindicate Burke's alarming predictions. He had described the Revolutionary Army as 'an armed doctrine' and the British establishment set out to match its ideology with patriotic speeches, journals, pageantry and plays.

I have discussed earlier how much of this effected the theatre, but primarily in terms of the official censorship of subversion and the apparently unconscious adoption of 'mixed genre' entertainments that provided metaphorical, rather than overt, expressions of political attitudes. In this chapter I intend to consider the self-

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The French Revolution and the London Stage, 1789-1805
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Note on the Text x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - England and France in 1789 15
  • Chapter 2 - The Revolution 42
  • Chapter 3 - From the Federation to the Terror 68
  • Chapter 4 - Dramatising (the) Terror 97
  • Chapter 5 - Performance and Performing 127
  • Chapter 6 - The Shadow of Napoleon 156
  • Chapter 7 - Theatre and Alienation 188
  • Reflections Towards a Conclusion 220
  • Notes 226
  • Bibliography 249
  • Index 257
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