The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660

The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660

The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660

The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660

Excerpt

On December 31, 1926, my adaptation of Behind The Beyond by Stephen Leacock was unexpectedly translated from the stage of the Cambridge A.D.C. to the St. Martin's Theatre, London, where it was played as a curtain-raiser during the last months of the run of Berkeley Square. This led me to dramatize three more Leacock stories, and then to think about printing them with a long preface on the history and traditions of English burlesque. Early in 1929 I communicated this project to Leacock. His answer was contained in a postscript to a formal letter about copyright.

P.S. Don't publish a history of burlesque as a preface: it's too good; if you do it well and AMUSINGLY (to hell with accurately) it would have a real sale.

So the plays were published separately; and I set off on a long adventure which has led from the domed reading-room of the British Museum to the cool vault of the Lord Chamberlain's collection at St. James's Palace.

The vastness of the subject, the writing of other works, the necessity of earning a living, and the distractions of a war, have spread those researches over more than twenty years. When I began no-one (so far as I could find) had ever tackled the subject of burlesque apart from parody. In the years between, three books have appeared--A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English by George Kitchin (1931); Richmond P. Bond English Burlesque Poetry 1700-1750 (1932) and The Novel in Motley by Archibald Bolling Shepperson (1936). But two of these books are not concerned with the theatre, and Dr. Kitchin's survey, wide as it is, deliberately excludes dramatic burlesque. The book which Stephen Leacock advised me to write, twenty-two years ago, has not yet been written by anyone.

I hope that the facts in this book are reliable; but (to hell with accurately) I have not attempted any painstaking accumulation of dates and publications and first performances. This is not a history of theatrical events, but a review of critical laughter, an attempt to trace the pedigree of dramatic burlesque, to mark family features and record favourite traditions.

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