Leigh Hunt's Dramatic Criticism, 1808-1831

Leigh Hunt's Dramatic Criticism, 1808-1831

Leigh Hunt's Dramatic Criticism, 1808-1831

Leigh Hunt's Dramatic Criticism, 1808-1831

Excerpt

Much of Leigh Hunt's dramatic criticism has long remained uncollected in fragmentary sets of periodicals scattered throughout England and the United States. Only one edition of his articles on the drama has so far been available, a selection made in 1894 by William Archer and Robert W. Lowe from Hunt Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres (1807) and his contributions to the Tatler (1830-1832). Hunt was a prolific journalist, essayist, poet, and editor, keenly interested in the theatre of his day and in drama in general. From 1808 to 1812, and from 1815 to 1821, he published in the Examiner, of which he was general editor, a succession of theatrical reviews, few of which have ever been reprinted. Many of these, together with certain of his other articles on the drama, are valuable sources of information to the student of the early nineteenth century. The purpose of the present volume, consequently, has been to select the best of Hunt's uncollected essays on the drama, primarily his theatrical reviews, although his "Theatrical Examiner" and his "Play-Goer" were often extended to include comments on the musical entertainment then being offered to the London public. Here one may find Hunt's appraisal of the performers of his day, the appearance of the playhouses, and the quality of the productions. Nothing seemed to escape his eye or ear: the faulty articulation of a rising young actress, the fitness of her movements and gestures to her part, an actor's artificiality and bombast, an author's wordy, stagnant dullness--all are accurately noted and sharply held up for attention, particularly the attention of the stage manager.

In a day when much dramatic criticism was mere foggy generalization, Hunt was specific. Actors, authors, and stage managers alike found in his criticism something tangibly useful that might be adopted in the next day's rehearsal. If a play were based on ancient tradition, Hunt's knowledge of the classics, usually detailed and thorough, enabled him to express . . .

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