Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Isaac Reed's Diaries and the Theatrical Scene in Eighteenth-Century England

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Isaac Reed's Diaries and the Theatrical Scene in Eighteenth-Century England

Article excerpt

Claude E. Jones edited Isaac Reed Diaries, 1762-1804 (1946) and recorded, among much else, the plays, operas, pantomimes, etc. Reed saw in the London theatres and in some of the provincial theatres, notably those performing in Richmond and Cambridge, but with others in Yarmouth, Margate, Kingsgate, Canterbury, Lowestoft, Deal, and Bath. There is much information in the Diaries that could have been used in The London Stage (hereafter LS) in those volumes covering the years 17621 800, the first entry in the Diaries being in 1 762 and LS ending with the year 1800. The Diaries are cited or quoted a few times by George Winchester Stone, Jr., the editor of Part 4, 1747-1776 (3 vols), of LS; a number of other pertinent entries in the Diaries being overlooked. Sybil Rosenfeld's Strolling Players & Drama in the Provinces, 1660-1 765, as I shall abbreviate her title, was published in 1939, seven years earlier than the Diaries. There are, however, entries in the Diaries which supplement her accounts of the provincial theatres.

There is an entry for Sadler's Wells in the abbreviations listed in the volumes of the London Stage for 1747-1776, but I have failed to find any entry for performances in that theatre on the occasions when Reed was in attendance. Dennis Arundell's The Story of Sadler's Wells, 1683-1964 (1965) lists a great number of performances at that theatre, but even here the Diaries contain some slight additional information. Reed saw there an entertainment titled "The Novelty" on June 25, 1768 (p. 55); the same entertainment had appeared once earlier, on April 4 (LS, 1321), but the later appearance is not therein recorded. Nor is there an entry for "The Novelty" in Arundell. There are some earlier entries in the Diaries. On July 3, 1762 Reed "Saw the Cherokee Kings now in England and Harlequin Quack with Matthews's Performances on the Wire" (p. 13). Charles Mathews was a tumbler and dancer at Sadler's Wells (Arundell, p. 22); there is no mention of his performing on the wire. Here, as with other entries, unless otherwise noted, there is no corresponding entry in LS. I should add that the Cherokee Kings and the pantomime Reed saw do not appear in Arundell.

June 24, 1763 "Musical Glasses by Miss Wilkinson, Wire by Mr. Mathews, Dancing by Grimaldi, Lochery, Wilkinson, et al; and a Pantomime called Shakespeare's Choice Spirits, or Falstaff in Pantomime" (p. 19). No Lochery in Arundell or LS. Sept. 8, 1764, Reed, in Richmond, saw "die Venetians' Performance from Sadler's Wells" (p. 25; not in Arundell). April 24, 1766, "Saw the Pantomime of the Sorceress Dancing by Grimaldi, Manesiere, Tassoni, Wilkinson and Armoy; Singing by Keen, Lampe and Brown; the Venetian's Performances, and Rope Dancing by Signor and Siga. Placido" (p. 34). No Sorceress Dancing in Arundell; no Manesiere, Tassoni, Armoy, Keen. July 7, 1769, "Saw the Harlot's Progress" (p. 60; see Arundell, p. 17). July 1, 1771, "Pantomine Boarding School, Romps, Dancing by Hamsirs, etc. (p. 71). No pantomime, no Hamsirs.1 July 16, 1772, "Pantomime Trick Upon Trick. Singers: Lowe, Kear, Dowson and Froment" (p. 77). June 5, 1773, "Saw the Pantomime of Vineyard" (p. 80; p. 29 in Arundell). May 30, 1774, "Sigell's Perforce, and Harlequin restored"' (p. 85; p. 25 in Arundell). June 13, 1775 "The Pantomime, Harlequin Neptune" (p. 89, p. 30 in Arundell). The references to Arundell are to the existence of the singers, performers, pantomimes, etc. therein, but not to their coinciding with the dates in the Diaries.

Possibly die most important lacunae in LS is the absence of the roll of singers in performances of Handel's Messiah. On March 29, 1 765 Reed heard the oratorio at Covent Garden and listed as singers "Beard, Champness, Brent, Frasi, and Scott" (p. 28). LS has "Cast not listed" (p. 1 106). So, too, with a performance on March 19, 1766; "the Singers the same as last Year. A Concerto on the Violin by Mr. Bartholemon" (p. 34), where LS lists neitfier singers nor concerto (p. …

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