The History of Henry Fielding - Vol. 1

By Wilbur L. Cross; Humphrey Milford | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
DRAMATIC CAREER
THE THEATRICAL WAR

When the theatres opened in the autumn of 1732, the glories of Drury Lane were fast fading. For many years its affairs had been shrewdly directed by the great actors-- Booth, Wilks, and the elder Cibber, who were the patentees as well as the active managers; that is, they held from the Crown letters patent granting them the sole right to produce plays at the Theatre Royal; and all profits were divided between them. Booth the tragedian, owing to ill health, had long since left the stage, though he still exercised some control over the theatre by passing upon new tragedies submitted to the players. Now came the death of Wilks, in September, 1732, at the very beginning of the season. This was an irreparable loss, for Wilks, though primarily a comedian, was excellent also in tragedy. The elder Cibber, as it has been before related, had ostensibly delegated his powers, with some limitations apparently, to his son Theophilus. Thus it happened that the immediate management of Drury Lane for the season of 1732-1733 fell to young Cibber, except for such occasional advice as he might receive from Booth, and the interference--there may have been a good deal of it--from his father.

His company consisted of the young comedians who had been performing through the summer, with the addition of his father for favourite rôles and of John Mills, a good but not great actor, for tragedy. Mills, assuming the

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