The French Revolution and the London Stage, 1789-1805

By George Taylor | Go to book overview

Reflections towards a conclusion

When a historian reaches the end of a book he becomes acutely aware of omissions. What there has not been room for, what he has not researched and what he has not prioritised. All this is a necessary part of the craft of selection and organisation, but with this book I am particularly aware of a disparity between the ephemeral nature of my theatrical examples and the enormity of the changes taking place in politics and society. In my introduction I used the metaphor of a hot-air balloon, and I also referred to the spume on a wave. In both cases what is seen is a manifestation of something invisible – the buoyant air or the swell of the sea. The balloon makes a nice comparison because it is a man-made construction apparently entirely free from contact with the earth - just like some of the inconsequential entertainments I have described. However, sea spume is more obviously the product of the violent action of the waves - and in contrast to the driving force of Revolutionary events theatrical entertainment certainly seems a light and frothy concoction. But spume is neither constructed nor controlled, whereas many people were involved in making theatre. It was their livelihood as well others' relaxation.

And spume is not just the white plume on a rolling breaker, it is the froth that remains once the wave, and even the tide, withdraws. It can be a sad looking splodge left on the sand, turning greyish, containing bits of weed and debris. The remnants left by the crash of the wave and the surge of the tide, it is the historical evidence of once vital and terrifying events. As a theatre historian, I have had to make choices that determined my research and effected my writing; some were conscious others accidental. And as I reach the end of my book I look back to see what those choices were and what effect they might have on the way my work is read and understood. I have tried to be simple and to be open. Simple, in describing plays and

-220-

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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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