Vice Chamberlain Coke's Theatrical Papers, 1706-1715


"An immense addition to our knowledge of the exciting period of London theatre history in which Vanbrugh opened the Haymarket theatre, Italian opera came to England, and the triumvirate management of Wilks, Cibber, and Booth took over at Drury Lane."- from the Preface

Although historians have known about the Coke papers for more than 150 years, these valuable documents have been little used because they have been in utter disarray. Hume and Milhous have fetched order from chaos, bringing to light "the financial woes of the opera and the vicious infighting among theatrical entrepreneurs" before the situation stabilized in 1715. These papers provide "a treasure trove of miscellaneous information about the operation of the theatres in the early eighteenth century. The documents include rough drafts of orders by the Lord Chamberlain regulating the theatre; complaints against managers by actors, singers, and dancers; costume and sundry bills; performers' contracts; orchestra rosters; salary lists; tradesmen's bills; financial estimates for the opera; lists of daily receipts; complaints in fractured French by angry Italian castrati about breach of contract; and the only daily box-office reports for opera that we possess for any time in London before the 1730s." The result is a documentary history of London theatre from 1706 until 1715. The papers are arranged in chronological order on a season-to-season basis. These papers clear up many mysteries concerning "what has always been a particularly confusing period in the history of opera and theatre in London." They will be especially helpful to drama scholars, theatre historians, and musicologists.

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