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Monday, 15 May 2017

Coelebs in Search of a Wife by Hannah More (1808) – a review

Gentleman's full dress  from Ackermann's Repository (1810)
Gentleman's full dress
from Ackermann's Repository (1810)
Coelebs in Search of a Wife 1 could perhaps be more aptly named Reader in Search of a Story! If you pick up this book expecting an action-filled tale of romance and adventure, you will be disappointed. Not much happens! There is a gentle storyline following the hero, Charles, as he looks for a wife, but the book is less about the love story and more about the different people he meets. 

This is what I found fascinating. Hannah More painted a series of character portraits based on her observations, giving the modern-day reader an insight into how people were living their lives in the early 1800s. In particular, More looked at the subject of religion and how people’s beliefs were worked out in their day-to-day lives – or not!

It seems incredible to us that, early on in the book, More felt it was necessary to make an apology, suggesting that ‘the religious may throw it aside as frivolous’.2 I guess it might have seemed frivolous compared to a book of sermons!

It is much easier to understand why she also pre-empted the criticism of the novel reader whom she thought might ‘reject it as dull’. The book is full of good conversation and good advice but, as I’ve already mentioned, very little action takes place.

That said, the book was very popular in its time, and others tried to mimic More’s success with titles such as Nubilia in Search of a Husband. The popularity of Coelebs and the charitable character of its heroine, Lucilla Stanley, helped to make it fashionable to care for the poor.

Hannah More from Memoirs of the life and correspondence  of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
Hannah More
from Memoirs of the life and correspondence 
of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
A summary of the story

What Charles is looking for in a wife

The hero, Charles, lives at the Priory in Westmoreland, where he has been living a retired life, attending his father through his final illness and then supporting his mother until her death. He is now eager to find a wife. His own ideas of the ideal woman are based on Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Before his death, his father had counselled him to choose a wife who was informed, cultivated and refined. 
The exhibiting, the displaying wife may entertain your company, but it is only the informed, the refined, the cultivated woman who can entertain yourself. 
You will want a companion: an artist you may hire.
He had also urged him not to choose a wife until he had visited his old friend Mr Stanley, who lived at Stanley Grove in Hampshire.

His mother had also given him advice, saying that many unobjectionable characters were not designed to give rational happiness in marriage. She advised him:  
It is not unreasonable to expect consistency.
Charles spells out what he is looking for in a wife: 
I do not want a Helen, a Saint Cecilia, or a Madame Dacier; yet she must be elegant, or I should not love her; sensible, or I should not respect her; well-informed, or she could not educate my children; well-bred, or she could not entertain my friends; consistent, or I should offend the shade of my mother; pious or I should not be happy with her, because the prime comfort in a companion for life is the delightful hope that she will be a companion for eternity.
The search begins

Charles visits some of the local families before heading for London on his way to Mr Stanley’s house. Everywhere he goes, he meets potential brides and becomes aware of numerous inconsistencies in people’s characters.

Charles finds Mr Stanley as amiable as he had hoped. Mr Stanley has the ability to say the right thing at the right time and to turn discussions on non-religious subjects into useful instruction. Mrs Stanley has the ability to bring out the best in people. She laments the damage done by novels by establishing the omnipotence of love, encouraging young readers to unresistingly submit to a feeling.

Lucilla Stanley   

Morning dress  from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Morning dress
from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Mr and Mrs Stanley have a family of daughters: 18-year-old Lucilla, 15-year-old Phoebe and several younger girls. They lost their only son some years before. Lucilla is everything that Charles wants in a wife. She is intelligent, kind, truly good and charitable, and modest with it. She has been doing the housekeeping since she was 16 and sets aside a day each week to serve the poor and visits them two evenings a week in their homes. She and her sisters have built up a large stock of clothing that they give out at Christmas.

The Stanleys believe too much time is spent on music for exhibition rather than developing conversation, and so Lucilla is cultured rather than accomplished. 
The excellence of musical performance is a decorated screen, behind which all defects in domestic knowledge, in taste, judgement, and literature, and the talents which make an elegant companion, are creditably concealed.
Fashionable afternoon and morning dress from Lady's Magazine (1807)
Fashionable afternoon and morning dress
from Lady's Magazine (1807)
Charles falls in love with her and asks Mr Stanley for her hand in marriage. Charles is told not to rush, but to stay a month and get to know Lucilla better and win her affections.

Lucilla is not without other suitors and Charles is jealous of Lord Staunton. Lucilla has rejected him once because of his loose principles, but he has not taken ‘no’ for an answer. He has told her that she can reform him. Lucilla refuses to accept a man with promises of reform because if he failed to reform, ‘it would be too late to repent of my folly, after my presumption had incurred its just punishment.’ Charles fears that Lord Staunton will genuinely reform and be accepted.

Charles’s new carriage arrives and Lucilla’s youngest sister, Celia, is afraid that Charles is going to go home. Charles invites her to go with him. She innocently says that she will go to the Priory with him if Lucilla will go too, making her poor sister blush. Despite the promised month not being up, Charles proposes and Lucilla accepts him.

Elliott's patent eccentric laundaulet or chariot   from Ackermann's Repository (1809)
Elliott's patent eccentric laundaulet or chariot
from Ackermann's Repository (1809)
When Charles goes to Mr Stanley to ask for his blessing, he discovers that Mr Stanley and his father had hoped that he would marry Lucilla, although they realised that it was not likely. The two fathers had resolved to keep their children apart until they were adults and then see if they were attracted to each other, but to say nothing, so there would be no compulsion on their part to marry if they were not inclined. Charles and Lucilla were delighted that their marriage had been long hoped for – an extra blessing to their union.

A bevy of little stories

The people that Charles meets along his journey each have a little story of their own, containing examples of good behaviour and bad, and how people either suffered the consequences of their folly or profited from adopting better habits. Here is a summary of some – but by no means all – of these stories.

Sir John and Lady Belfield were religious at heart but it did not affect the way they behaved. Sir John had found that too much religion could damage a man’s reputation. Lady Belfield was over indulgent towards her children. After visiting Stanley Grove and talking with and observing Mr and Mrs Stanley and their family, they made the decision to reduce the time they stayed in London over the winter and instruct their children better.

Mr and Mrs Carlton started off as an unmatched couple, obliged to marry to keep property within the family. Mr Carlton was irreligious and unkind whilst Mrs Carlton was devoutly religious. Although she had been in love with someone else, she lived out her faith in front of her husband, never allowing herself to criticise him and excelling in her domestic duties. Her faithful witness eventually won over her husband.

Ned Tyrrel had been at college with Mr Stanley but turned very dissolute. Later he reformed, but became addicted to ambition and then money, and he adopted some very extreme ideas about religion based on forgiveness without reform. Only when he becomes ill and is about to die does he suddenly realise how hollow his religion is.

Lady Melbury is a very popular lady in London’s high society. She is very charitable, but also very profligate. This comes to a head when she proposes to give a poor girl in a flower shop who is caring for her sick mother her custom but then realises it is her own failure to meet her debts that caused the poverty of the family in the first place. She claims she will give up gambling and never get in debt again, but finds it hard to resist the influence of others. It is only when she is left alone to think about her faults that the change really occurs. She saves enough money to pay off her debt by retiring to the country and cancelling a big entertainment she had planned. She resolves to live a retired life to avoid the contaminating influence of London society.

Opera dress from  Ackermann's Repository (1809)
Opera dress from
Ackermann's Repository (1809)
Lady Denham gives the appearance of religiosity but has no real feeling. She blames her inability to support charity on taxes and yet finds it possible to give generously to her favourite opera singer Signor Squallini’s benefit concert. With her, music is supreme. She gets her come-uppance when her daughter elopes with Squallini.

Lady Aston had lived a retired life in the country ever since her husband’s death. She saw it as a duty to mourn him and would not let her daughters do anything. As a result, they were wasting their time. Mr Stanley encouraged the girls to set up a school for the poor and read with the curate. The whole family became much happier.

Mr and Mrs Ranby had a reputation for being pious, but their religion consisted of a ‘disproportionate zeal for a very few doctrines’. Mrs Ranby was coarse and censorious and gave no religious instruction to her daughters who wasted their time. She thought it was enough to pray for them! Mrs Ranby did not see the relevance of religion to everyday matters, such as governing her temper.

Mr Stanhope was drawn in by beauty to an unequal marriage. His wife held his books in great aversion and was ill-informed and bad tempered. An example of a marriage where two people were ‘joined not matched’.

To protect each other from worry, Mr and Mrs Hamilton had tried to conceal their illnesses from each other for the first seven years of their marriage. They came to realise that concealment was dangerous even when the intentions were good. 
Unreserved communication is the lawful commerce of conjugal affection, and all concealment is contraband.
Miss Sparkes, a single lady of 45 who was neither poor nor ugly, was very masculine in her habits – she was a politician, a huntsman, a farrier and a coachman. She believed that clever men married stupid women because they feared a rival, and that a woman who excelled in domesticity must be downtrodden.

A noble hunting party by T Rowlandson  from Dr Syntax's Three Tours by William Combe (1868)
A noble hunting party by T Rowlandson
from Dr Syntax's Three Tours by William Combe (1868)
Mr Flam had good deeds without religion. Dr Barlow, the minister, warns him that he is as much at risk as Mr Tyrrel and his sham religion. However, Mr Flam is young and thinks he has plenty of time ahead of him to sort things out.

Notes
(1) Sometimes written as Cœlebs in Search of a Wife.
(2) All quotes taken from Cœlebs in Search of a Wife by Hannah More, (New York, 1859, edition).

Sunday, 30 April 2017

What Regency Women Did For Us is out now!

Front cover of What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles

Today is the UK release date for my new book, What Regency Women Did For Us. The book tells the inspirational stories of twelve women who lived in the Regency period – women whose lives made an impact on the world in which they lived and whose influence can still be felt in some measure today. These women were pioneers for their sex – scientists and authors, actresses and educators, philanthropists and businesswomen – and some of them going where no woman had been before.

Twelve inspirational Regency women

Eleanor Coade was a successful businesswoman who ran an artificial stone manufactory. Coade stone was used to make statues and decorative plaques, many examples of which have survived into the 21st century. You may, perhaps, have seen some of her Coade stone without even realising it. Could you tell that this statue of the River God at Ham House in Richmond, London, was made of Coade stone?

River God statue at Ham House, Richmond
River God statue at Ham House, Richmond
Caroline Herschel’s story is one of hard work and determination. Could a poorly educated German woman, struggling to speak English, become an astronomer in order to help her beloved brother William in his research?

Sarah Siddons was the most famous tragic actress of her time, playing parts such as Lady Macbeth so convincingly that female members of her audience were sometimes sent into hysterics. But it was her respectability that really made a difference to the position of female actors.

Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth  after painting by GH Harlow
Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth
after painting by GH Harlow
Marie Tussaud was probably the most successful female entrepreneur of her time. She came to England after the French Revolution and travelled widely with her waxworks exhibition before eventually settling in London. Madame Tussauds is still a big tourist attraction in London today. But what was it about Marie’s business that set it apart from those of her rivals and helped it to survive into the 21st century? 

Mary Parminter was very unusual for a wealthy Georgian woman. Not only did she choose not to get married; together with her sister and cousin, Jane, she went on a Grand Tour of Europe. But their idea of a Grand Tour was not just seeing the regular sights – it included 200 miles of walking in the Alps and climbing Mont Buet! Perhaps it was hardly surprising that the house that Mary and Jane built when they returned – A la Ronde – was also not what you would have expected.

Packing case on display at A la Ronde
Packing case on display at A la Ronde
Maria Edgeworth is little known today, but in her time, she was much better known than Jane Austen, and much more financially successful. Though her books have largely been forgotten, she is credited with being the inventor of historical fiction – a genre which we take for granted today.

Jane Marcet attended lectures in chemistry at the Royal Institution, but struggled to understand them without her husband’s help. She realised that many women did not have her advantages and decided to write a simple textbook using everyday language to share her new-found knowledge – a ‘Dummies Guide’ to Chemistry. Although intended for a female audience, it was not only women who were influenced by her work. 

Sarah Guppy was a talented scientist and inventor who, even though she was a woman, mixed with and influenced some of the leading scientists of her day. Just how much she had to do with the design of the Clifton Suspension Bridge remains open to conjecture.

Jane Austen is the only one of the twelve women who did not live through the whole Regency period. All her books were, however, published during the Regency, and were popular with the Prince Regent (later George IV) who was such a big fan that Jane felt obliged to dedicate Emma to him. I wonder what Jane would have thought of the worldwide industry that ‘love of Jane Austen’ has become?
Harriot Mellon’s life is a real-life rags to Regency riches story. Starting out life with a band of touring players, she rose to some measure of success on the stage due to a good memory, a pretty face and a pushy mother. But her life changed forever when the wealthy banker Thomas Coutts became her ‘fairy godfather’.

Elizabeth Fry was only the second woman to be depicted on a British banknote, in remembrance of her pioneering work in prison reform. Perhaps less well known is that some also consider her to be the founder of modern nursing.

Elizabeth Fry from Elizabeth Fry, the angel of the prisons by LE Richards (1916)
Elizabeth Fry from Elizabeth Fry,
the angel of the prisons

by LE Richards (1916)
Mary Anning lived all her life in Lyme Regis in Dorset and became an expert fossil finder. But did you know that Mary was famous long before she found her first fossil? Her miraculous escape from death as a baby was often cited in local guidebooks at the time.

You can read the stories of all these women in What Regency Women Did For Us.

Available direct from Pen and Sword history books here.

Available from Amazon UK here: What Regency Women Did for Us

Available for preorder from Amazon.com here: What Regency Women Did For Us

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Haymarket Theatre in Regency London

Old Haymarket Theatre from Old and New London (1873)
Old Haymarket Theatre from Old and New London (1873)
In Georgian London, it was necessary to have a licence in order to perform plays. In 1766, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, was granted a royal patent, allowing it to put on plays, but only during the summer season. There were only two theatres licensed to put on plays during the winter: The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

The First Haymarket Theatre

The first theatre in the Haymarket was built by John Potter in 1720 and was known as The First Haymarket Theatre or Little Theatre. The Licensing Act of 1737 meant that theatre companies needed a licence or patent in order to perform plays. The Haymarket had no such licence and was forced to operate under temporary licences or by trying to circumvent the law by putting on a concert with a ‘free’ play afterwards.

Interior of the Little Theatre, Haymarket,  from the Complete Works of Henry Fielding (1902)
Interior of the Little Theatre, Haymarket,
from the Complete Works of Henry Fielding (1902)
The Theatre Royal, Haymarket

From 1746, comic actor and satirical playwright Samuel Foote sporadically rented the Haymarket Theatre. In 1766, whilst the guest of his noble patrons, the Earl and Countess of Mexborough, Foote was goaded into riding a rather lively horse belonging to George III’s brother, Edward, Duke of York. The horse threw him and Foote broke his leg so badly that it had to be amputated. Undeterred, Foote continued to act with a wooden leg:
Strange as it may appear, with the aid of a cork leg he performed his former characters with no less agility and spirit than before, and continued by his laughable performances to draw together crowded houses.1
The accident brought about a change in fortunes for the Haymarket Theatre. Foote requested a royal patent from the Duke of York and on 5 July 1766, a limited patent was granted, for the duration of Foote’s life. The Haymarket Theatre was permitted to show plays during the summer, between 10 May and 15 September.

Foote purchased the theatre outright and immediately set about enlarging it, adding an upper gallery. It reopened as the Theatre Royal on 14 May 1767.

Samuel Foote  from Old and New London (1873)
Samuel Foote
from Old and New London (1873)
George Colman the elder

Playwright George Colman bought the theatre in 1777, but the patent expired on Foote’s death in the same year, forcing him to apply annually for a licence for the summer season. The Haymarket flourished under his management and he amassed a considerable fortune, only to discover that his banker had embezzled it. His son, also called George Colman, gradually took over the management from 1785 due to his father’s ill health.

Sheridan’s Drury Lane Theatre company performed at the Haymarket during the winter season of 1793-4 whilst his theatre was being rebuilt.

Death at the theatre

During this time, a dreadful tragedy took place. On 3 February 1794, George III and Queen Charlotte attended the Haymarket Theatre for the first time that season, and the royal command performance attracted vast numbers of people. The crowds were so huge that when the door was opened, those in the front of the queue were pushed down the stairs leading to the pit. More than 70 people fell and at least 15 people were fatally crushed to death or suffocated.

George Colman the younger

George Colman the younger inherited the theatre on his father’s death in 1794, along with massive debts. Although a successful playwright, he was forced to mortgage the business to repay his father’s debts and finally, in 1805, to sell shares in the theatre. In 1806, he was arrested for debt but he continued to manage the theatre from the King’s Bench Prison until he was discharged in 1817.

King's Bench Prison from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
King's Bench Prison from The Microcosm of London Vol 2 (1808-10)
The shareholders included his argumentative brother-in-law, David Morris, who involved Colman in such lengthy litigation which forced the theatre to stay closed during the summer of 1813.

According to The Picture of London for 1809, the season at the Haymarket Theatre ran from 15 May to 15 September. It wrote of the Haymarket Theatre:
This theatre, though not so elegant and spacious as either of the winter houses, is fitted up in a neat and tasteful style, and is capable of containing a numerous audience.2
This house contained three tiers of boxes, a pit, and two galleries.

The Haymarket Theatre presented plays and English operas. The Picture of London for 1813 stated that the Haymarket was putting on plays and farces rather than operas.

Visiting the theatre

According to the Picture of London for 1809, the prices at the Haymarket were as follows:

Prices for Haymarket Theatre in 1809

The doors opened at six o'clock, and the performance began at seven. Unlike the winter theatres, there was no half-price entry at the Haymarket part the way through the evening’s performance.

The post-Regency years

After his release from prison, Colman sold the remainder of his interest in the theatre. Under the management of David Morris, the theatre was completely rebuilt in 1820, in a slightly different place, according to the design of architect John Nash. It reopened on 4 July 1821 with a production of Sheridan’s The Rivals.

New Haymarket Theatre from Shakespere to Sheridan by A Thaler (1922)
New Haymarket Theatre from Shakespere to Sheridan by A Thaler (1922)
Old and New London wrote:
The front is of stone, and is about sixty feet in length, and nearly fifty in height. The entrance is through a handsome portico, the entablature and pediment being supported by six columns of the Corinthian order; above are circular windows connected by sculpture of an ornamental character. Under the portico are five doors, leading respectively to the boxes, pit, galleries, and box-office. The shape of the interior differs from that of every other theatre in London, being nearly a square, with the side facing the stage very slightly curved. The expense of the new building was about £20,000. It is a remarkably neat and pretty house, having two tiers of boxes, besides other half-tiers parallel with the lower gallery, and will seat about 1,500 persons with comfort.3
Haymarket Theatre from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
Haymarket Theatre from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, remains part of the thriving London theatre scene today.

Notes
(1) From Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 4.
(2) From Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1809 (1809).
(3) From Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 4.

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 2 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Baldwin, Olive and Wilson, Thelma, Colman, George, the elder (bap1732, d1794), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 12 April 2017)
Birling, William J, Colman, George, the younger (1762-1836), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 12 April 2017)
Dircks, Phyllils T, Foote, Samuel (bap 1721, d 1777), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Sept 2015, accessed 12 April 2017)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1809 (1809)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 4

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Drury Lane Theatre in Regency London

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London (1808)
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, was one of the two theatres with a patent to perform plays in Georgian London. The other was the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. The Haymarket Theatre could also put on plays, but only during the summer.

Early history

The first theatre (1663-72)

The first theatre on the Drury Lane site opened in 1663. It was built by Thomas Killigrew on an area known as the Riding Yard but seems to have had no particular name at this time, being variously referred to as the King’s Theatre or the King’s House or, confusingly, the Covent Garden Theatre, as it was in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden. It burnt down in 1672.

The second theatre (1674-1791)

Killigrew rebuilt the theatre on the same site and it opened in 1674 as the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. According to Old and New London, this new theatre was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, but this claim was based on slim evidence and is now thought to be unlikely.

From 1747, the theatre was managed and part-owned by the actor David Garrick, and on his retirement in 1776, it passed into the joint ownership of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Thomas Linley and Doctor James Ford. Sheridan pulled down the theatre in 1791 in order to build a larger one, during which time the company performed at the Haymarket Theatre.

Drury Lane Theatre in 1775 from Shakespere to Sheridan by A Thaler (1922)
Drury Lane Theatre in 1775 from Shakespere to Sheridan by A Thaler (1922)
Sheridan’s theatre (1794-1809)

The third theatre was designed by Henry Holland. It opened for the first time on 12 March 1794 with ‘a grand selection of sacred music, from the works of Handel’1 rather than a play, because it was Lent.

The exterior of Sheridan’s theatre

The Microcosm of London described the outside of the theatre:
The buildings which surround the theatre are faced with Portland stone, but will be finished with balustrade. The theatre, which rises above them, is cased with plaister in imitation of stone, and finished with a balustrade. Through the roof rises a turret, making a large ventilator. On the summit is placed a figure of Apollo, more than ten feet high; but this is to be removed to the west front when finished, and replaced by one of Shakspeare.2 
Drury Lane Theatre burnt down in 1809  from The Beauties of England and Wales by EW Brayley et al (1810)
Drury Lane Theatre burnt down in 1809
from The Beauties of England and Wales (1810)
The stage

The new theatre was much bigger than the previous one. The Microcosm of London wrote:
The accommodations for the stage are upon a much larger scale than those of any other theatre in Europe. The stage is 105 feet in length, 75 wide, and 45 feet between the stage-doors.
In the roof of the theatre is contained, besides the barrel-loft, ample room for scene-painters, and four very large reservoirs, from which water is distributed over every part of the house, for the purpose of instantly extinguishing fire in any part where such accident is possible.

Over the stage is a double range of galleries, called flies, containing machinery, and where the greatest part of the scenery is worked; but which, from the number of blocks, wheels, and ropes crossing each other in every direction, give it very much the appearance of a ship's deck.3
The Picture of London for 1809 wrote:
To facilitate the working some scenery, and light machinery, there is a stage about ten feet below the upper one, where the carpenters attend either to raise ghosts, pantomime demons, or to obey the magic wand which consigns them to oblivion. Under this second stage there is a depth of about forty feet, furnished with various mechanical engines, requisite for raising the splendid and massy pillars, temples, &c. which enrich the scenery, and contribute so essentially to the effect produced by the grand ballets and pantomimes exhibited at this theatre.4
The Microcosm of London added:
There are two green-rooms, one for the use of chorus-singers, supernumeraries, and figurants; the other for the principal performers: the latter of which is fitted up in the first style of elegance, and occasionally visited by persons of the highest distinction.5
The interior of Sheridan’s theatre

Inside Drury LaneTheatre in 1804 from Old and New London (1873)
Inside Drury Lane Theatre in 1804 from Old and New London (1873)
According to The Microcosm of London:
The audience part of the theatre is formed nearly on a semi-circular plan. It contains a pit, four tiers of boxes on each side of the house, and two galleries, which command a full view of every part of the stage.6
The Picture of London for 1809 stated that there were also 'a number of private boxes, ranged on each side the pit, and constructed so as to afford a perfect view of the stage, and yet conceal the occupiers from observation.'7

The Microcosm of London continued:
The pit is 54 feet in length, 46 in breadth, has twenty-five rows of benches, and contains eight hundred persons. The benches are so well constructed, that those next the orchestra command an uninterrupted view of the whole stage, and the avenues to it are very commodious and safe.

The prevailing colours of the boxes are blue and white, relieved with richly fancied embellishments of decorative ornament. The compartments into which the front of each tier is divided, have centrally a highly finished cameo, the ground of cornelian-stone colour, with exquisitely drawn figures, raised in white; the subjects are chiefly from Ovid, and painted by Rebecca. The stage-boxes project about two feet, and have a rich silver lattice-work, of excellent taste and workmanship. The boxes are supported by cast-iron candalabras, fluted and silver-lackered, resting on elegantly executed feet; from the top of each pillar a branch projects three feet, from which is suspended a brilliant cut-glass chandelier. A circular mirror, about five feet diameter, is placed at each end of the dress-boxes, next the stage, that produces a pleasing reflected view of the audience.8
The Royal Box
On the nights when this theatre is honoured with their Majesties presence, the partitions of the stage-box are taken down, and it is brought forward nearly two feet, a canopy is erected superbly decorated with crimson velvet, richly embroidered with gold, and adjoining them sit the princesses. Their box is usually lined with light blue satin, fancifully festooned and elegantly decorated with silver fringe and rich tassels.9
The entrance

Front of Old Drury Lane Theatre from Old and New London (1873)
Front of Old Drury Lane Theatre from
Old and New London (1873)
There are three entrances to the boxes, two to the pit and galleries. The one in Brydges-street leads to a saloon 75 feet by 21, called the Egyptian Hall. Sixteen pillars, of the Doric order, beautifully painted, in imitation of porphyry, are at once a splendid ornament, and support the back boxes, to which a flight of stairs at each end leads.
At the back of the front boxes there is a semi-circular saloon 41 feet long, containing, at a proper elevation, a handsome statue of Garrick, between the tragic and comic muse. In this place proper persons attend with refreshments. Over this there is a smaller one for the same purpose.10
There are also large saloons on the north and south sides of the theatre, and handsome square rooms, one of which is intended for the use of his Majesty, and the other for the Prince of Wales.11
Visiting the theatre

The seating capacity was around 3,950 in total. The Picture of London for 1809 stated the capacities and prices as follows:

Prices and capacities for Sheridan's Drury Lane Theatre

The 1,960 people in the boxes included the free list, but excluded private boxes.

The Microcosm of London stated the capacities somewhat differently – 675 in the two-shilling gallery and 308 in the one-shilling gallery, with 3,611 spectators in total.

The doors opened at 5.30 pm and the performances started promptly at 6.30 pm. Half-price tickets were available for entry after the third act of the play, usually around 8 o’clock. Boxes could be reserved by paying a shilling to the box office on the morning of the performance.

A sad end to Sheridan's theatre

The Microcosm of London claimed that:
This magnificent structure unites a splendid combination of taste, grandeur, and elegance, which renders it a monument of fame to Mr. Holland, the architect, and when its exterior is completely finished, it will be a national ornament.12
Alas! The theatre never was completely finished. Despite its elaborate fire precautions, this theatre burnt down on 24 February 1809, less than 6 months after its rival at Covent Garden had suffered the same fate. The fire ruined Sheridan who had borrowed heavily to finance his new theatre. The ownership passed into the hands of a committee headed up by the brewer, Samuel Whitbread, who forbade Sheridan to take any part in the management going forward.

Whilst the theatre was, yet again, being rebuilt, the Drury Lane Company performed at the Opera House and then at the Lyceum.

The Regency theatre (1812-present)

Drury Lane Theatre from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
Drury Lane Theatre from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
The fourth Drury Lane Theatre was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and opened on Saturday 10 October 1812 with a production of Hamlet and an address written by Lord Byron.

The Green Room at Drury Lane (1822) by G Cruikshank  from Life in Regency and Early Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
The Green Room at Drury Lane (1822) by G Cruikshank
from Life in Regency and Early Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
The Picture of London for 1813 stated:
The stage is about thirty-three feet wide, the proscenium nineteen and a half. The part usually appropriated to doors, is judiciously occupied by two magnificent lamps, with tripods on triangular pedestals. This theatre is altogether a master-piece of art, and an ornament of the metropolis. Its coup d’oeil is delightful beyond the power of description.
The grand entrance to this theatre is from Brydges-street, through a spacious hall, leading to the boxes and pit. Three large doors lead from this hall into the house, and into a rotunda of great beauty and elegance. On each side of the rotunda are passages to the great stairs, which are peculiarly grand and spacious.

The grand saloon is eighty-six feet long, circular at each extremity, and separated from the box-corridors by the rotunda and grand staircase. The ceiling is arched, and the general effect of two massy Corinthian columns of verd antique at each end, with ten corresponding pilasters on each side, is grand and pleasing. The rooms for coffee and refreshments at the ends of the saloon are convenient.

The body of the theatre presents nearly three-fourths of a circle from the stage. The color of the interior is gold upon green, and the relief of the boxes is by a rich crimson. There are three circles of boxes, each containing twenty-four boxes.13 
Some alterations were later made to the design. The Picture of London for 1818 stated that there were 26 boxes in each circle and complained that the grand saloon had been 'converted into what is called a Chinese temple, with two holes for staircases from the hall below. It is impossible to say whether the man who planned this ridiculous alteration, or the architect who executed it, has shewn most want of taste.'14

Kean as King Richard; Royalty in the box (1823) by W Heath  from Life in Regency and Early Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
Kean as King Richard; Royalty in the box (1823) by W Heath
from Life in Regency and Early Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
 Visiting the theatre

The seating capacity of this theatre was around 2,810 – still large, but some 1,000 seats less than the 1794 theatre that it replaced. The Picture of London for 1813 stated the terms and capacities as follows:


Prices and capacities for the 1812 Drury Lane Theatre

In 1813, the season was advertised to run from September to June; in 1818, it was advertised to run until July. Around 1818, the performances moved from a start time of 6.30 pm to 7 pm in order to accommodate later dinner hours.

Behind the scenes

The Picture of London for 1818 stated:
The details of the business of this Theatre present a system worthy of imitation in all similar concerns, of which a competent judgment can alone be formed by persons, who on formal application, for the purpose, obtain permission to see the vast interior in the day-time. The wardrobe, the painting rooms, the machinery above and below the stage, the provisions for preventing and extinguishing fire, all excite the just admiration of those who have the opportunity of beholding them.15
After the Regency

Drury Lane Theatre (2015)
Drury Lane Theatre (2015)
The Drury Lane Theatre today is still the 1812 building, though various alterations and renovations have been made over the years. The Doric portico in Catherine Street was added in 1820, and ‘the interior of the house … was entirely rebuilt in 1822.’16 The colonnade along the side of the building in Little Russell Street was added in 1831.

Drury Lane Theatre (2015)
Drury Lane Theatre (2015)
In 2013, the theatre underwent major renovations and the front of house areas were returned, as far as possible, to their original 1812 design. The Theatre Royal Drury Lane continues to be a thriving part of the West End theatre scene.

Notes
1. From The Times, 12 March 1794, The Times Digital Archive. The Microcosm of London stated that the new theatre opened on 13 March 1793 but The Times Digital Archive advertised its opening on 12 March 1794.
2. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
3. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
4. From The Picture of London for 1809.
5. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
6. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
7. From The Picture of London for 1809.
8. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
9. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
10. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
11. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
12. From The Microcosm of London Volume I.
13. From The Picture of London for 1813.
14. From The Picture of London for 1818.
15. From The Picture of London for 1818.
16. From Leigh’s New Picture of London (1830).

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Brayley, Edward Wedlake, Nightingale, J and Brewer, J, et al, The Beauties of England and Wales(1810-16)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1807 (1807)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1809 (1809)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
Leigh, Samuel, Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
Leigh, Samuel, Leigh's New Picture of London (1830)
The Gentleman’s Magazine (1809)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 3

Photographs © Regencyhistory.net

Friday, 10 March 2017

The life and career of Horatio Nelson

Admiral Lord Nelson after the painting by John Hoppner  in Miller's edition of Robert Southey's Life of Nelson (1896)
Admiral Lord Nelson after the painting by John Hoppner
in Miller's edition of Robert Southey's Life of Nelson (1896)
Profile

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) is probably the most well-known of all the heroes of late Georgian England. He can’t match Mr Darcy in popularity, but Nelson did have the benefit of being a real person!

Nelson’s early naval career 1771-1792

Born in 1758, the sixth of eleven children living in Norfolk, his father was a rector and his mother died when he was age nine. Three years later he decided to join the navy having read of his uncle taking command of a sixty-four gun warship.

He joined his uncle’s ship, the Raisonnable, at Chatham in 1771, as a midshipman. Keen to give the boy more experience, his uncle arranged for him to serve on other ships, taking him to North America and to India. In 1777 the 18-year-old Nelson applied for, and was given, promotion to Lieutenant.

For the next few years, Nelson spent much of his time in and around the Caribbean. Promoted again to Post-Captain, he was given his first command, HMS Badger, in late 1778. He took part in several military engagements, both at sea and on land. 

Nelson's marriage 1787
On 11 March 1787, on the Caribbean island of Nevis, he married 29-year-old Frances Nisbet, a widow with a young son. The bride was given away by Prince William (later William IV), at that time a junior officer in the navy and a friend of Nelson. 

Lady Nelson © National Maritime Museum
Lady Nelson © National Maritime Museum
In a letter to Captain William Locker dated 21 March 1787, 10 days after his marriage to Frances Nisbet, Nelson wrote:
I am married to an amiable woman, that far makes amends for everything: indeed till I married her I never knew happiness. And I am morally certain she will continue to make me a happy man for the rest of my days.1
Later that year the couple returned to England and as the nation was enjoying a period of peace, Nelson’s services were no longer required by the navy. He was put on half-pay and spent the next few years badgering to be given a new command.

Mediterranean service 1793-1797

Peace did not last long. Revolutionary France was threatening war and in January 1793 Nelson was given command of the sixty-four gun HMS Agamemnon. Within weeks, the French declared war and Nelson began a long period of service in the Mediterranean.

In late 1793 he arrived in Naples, where he met Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. He also met Hamilton’s attractive young wife, Emma. 

Sir William Hamilton from Horatio Nelson and   the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Sir William Hamilton from Horatio Nelson and 
the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
He was soon engaged in military action against the French, including an assault on the island of Corsica. It was during this, in 1794, that his right eye was permanently damaged by flying debris.

In 1796 Nelson was promoted to Commodore, as he continued to conduct operations against the French and their allies. A year later he was made a Knight of the Bath for his contribution to the victory during the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797. This action won him recognition for his unorthodox tactics, and he became a hero in the eyes of the public. A week later he was promoted again, to Rear Admiral.

Colonel John Drinkwater Bethune was an eye witness at the battle of St Vincent and discussed it with Nelson afterwards. This is part of his published account of the action:
The Commodore’s [Nelson] impatience would not permit him to remain an inactive spectator of the event. He knew the attempt was hazardous; and his presence, he thought, might contribute to its success. He therefore accompanied the party in this attack, passing from the fore chains of his own ship into the enemy’s quarter gallery, and thence through the cabin to the quarter-deck, where he arrived in time to receive the sword of the dying commander, who was mortally wounded by the boarders … But this labor was no sooner achieved, than he found himself involved in another and more arduous one … the undaunted Commodore headed himself the assailants in this new attack, and success crowned the enterprise. Such, indeed, was the panic occasioned by his preceding conduct, that the British no sooner appeared on the quarter-deck of their new opponent, than the Commandant advanced, and asking for the British commanding officer, dropped on one knee, and presented to him his sword; making, at the same time, an excuse for the Spanish Admiral’s not appearing, as he was dangerously wounded.2
Later that year, on 22-25 July 1797, Nelson led a failed attempt to capture Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. During the attack his right arm was injured and subsequently amputated. He returned to England to recuperate.

Victory, fame and Emma Hamilton 1798-1799

Within a few months, Nelson’s reputation as a national hero was cemented by the dramatic defeat of the French at the Battle of the Nile, 1-3 August 1798. 

The French had just delivered Napoleon and his army to Egypt and they felt secure, having more guns than the British. Having spent months searching for the French, and despite discovering them late in the afternoon, Nelson ordered an immediate attack. The result was a naval battle at night, which included the spectacular explosion of the French flagship Orient. 

The Battle of the Nile from Horatio Nelson and   the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
The Battle of the Nile from Horatio Nelson and 
the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Nelson’s victory stranded Napoleon in Egypt and won him huge recognition in Britain, where the public celebrated enthusiastically once the news arrived. Nelson was made Baron Nelson of the Nile.
His victory was also celebrated in the Kingdom of Naples, where he received a particularly enthusiastic reception from Emma Hamilton, wife of the British ambassador. Nelson and Emma became lovers.
Emma Hamilton from Horatio Nelson and   the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Emma Hamilton from Horatio Nelson and 
the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
The Kingdom of Naples declared war on France, and his army got as far as capturing Rome before being driven back. By late 1798 the French were threatening Naples itself, and Nelson oversaw the evacuation of the Neapolitan royal family, along with William and Emma Hamilton.

The following year saw the French driven from Naples, which Nelson had blockaded. He then oversaw the imprisonment and execution of many supporters of the French. For his support of the Neapolitan monarchy, Nelson was given the Dukedom of Bronte.

Return to England and another victory 1800-1801

Lord Nelson KB after a painting by AW Devis  from Horatio Nelson and the Naval   Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Lord Nelson KB after a painting by AW Devis from Horatio 
Nelson and the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
With both Nelson and Sir William Hamilton being recalled to England, they chose to travel home together, along with Emma, now pregnant by Nelson. The four-month journey was overland, via Florence, Prague and Hamburg. They arrived in Great Yarmouth on 6 November 1800.

Nelson received a hero’s welcome, but there was more than a whiff of scandal around his relationship with Lady Hamilton. Meetings with his wife, Frances, were frosty and soon Nelson made it clear his commitment was to his lover.

Nelson wrote to Emma:
You need not fear all the women in this world; for all others, except yourself, are pests to me. I know but one; for, who can be like my Emma? I am confident, you will do nothing which can hurt my feelings; and I will die by torture, sooner than do any thing which could offend you.3
On 29 January 1801, Emma gave birth to Horatia, Nelson’s daughter. In the same month, he was promoted to Vice Admiral, and went on to lead an attack on Denmark. Victory at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801 saw him made Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic fleet.

In October 1801 Nelson and the Hamiltons toured central England and parts of Wales, where they were met by enthusiastic crowds and numerous accolades.

Nelson’s final years and the Battle of Trafalgar 1802-1805

  Merton Place in Surrey  in The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry by W Angus (c1801)
Merton Place in Surrey
in The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry by W Angus (c1801)
Anxious to settle down with Emma, effectively as a married couple, Nelson bought Merton Place in 1802. But as war was again brewing, he was soon called to serve with the fleet. For much of 1803 and 1804 he took part in the naval blockade of Toulon.
Never was any commander more beloved. He governed men by their reason and their affections; they knew that he was incapable of caprice or tyranny and they obeyed him with alacrity and joy, because he possessed their confidence as well as their love. “Our Nel,” they used to say, “is as brave as a lion and as gentle as a lamb. Severe discipline he detested, though he had been bred in a severe school. He never inflicted corporal punishment if it were possible to avoid it; and when compelled to enforce it, he, who was familiar with wounds and death, suffered like a woman. In his whole life, Nelson was never known to act unkindly towards an officer. If he was asked to prosecute one for ill behaviour, he used to answer, “That there was no occasion for him to ruin a poor devil who was sufficiently his own enemy to ruin himself.”4
Early 1805 brought the news of a major French fleet setting sail into the Atlantic. Nelson was anxious to engage them in a major battle and spent months searching for them. He returned to London in the summer, frustrated at not discovering them, but in September, news arrived of the French and Spanish fleets having combined, and being anchored at Cadiz.

On 14 September 1805 Nelson left Portsmouth for the last time, aboard his flagship, HMS Victory. On 21 October Nelson raised his famous signal “England expects that every man will his duty” and engaged the enemy fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, using novel tactics he had devised.

Nelson's signal at Trafalgar from Horatio Nelson   and the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Nelson's signal at Trafalgar from Horatio Nelson
 and the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
In the early afternoon, as he stood on the deck of the Victory, Nelson was struck by a musket ball. He was taken below deck and remained conscious for some time, giving instructions for the fleet and asking for his possessions to be given to Lady Hamilton. He died around three hours after being hit.

Death of Nelson from the painting by Ernest Slingeneyer from Horatio   Nelson  and the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Death of Nelson from the painting by Ernest Slingeneyer from Horatio 
Nelson  and the Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
The British fleet won a decisive victory at Trafalgar. 

The Battle of Trafalgar from Horatio Nelson and the   Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
The Battle of Trafalgar from Horatio Nelson and the 
Naval Supremacy of England by W Clark (1890)
Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was given a hero’s funeral and lies entombed in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. A number of monuments were erected to remember him, including the landmark Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

Monument erected in St Paul's Cathedral to   the memory of Nelson from the European   Magazine and London Review (1818)
Monument erected in St Paul's Cathedral to
the memory of Nelson from the European
 Magazine and London Review (1818)
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Detail from frieze on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Detail from frieze on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Notes

(1) From Nelson, Horatio, Dispatches and letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson vol 1, 1777-1794 (1814, London)
(2) From Bethune, Colonel Drinkwater, A narrative of the battle of St Vincent with anecdotes of Nelson (1840, London)
(3) In a letter to Emma Hamilton from Nelson, July 1 1801, in Nelson, Horatio, The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton vol 1 (1814)
(4) From Southey, Robert, The life of Horatio Lord Nelson vol 2 (1814)

Sources used include:
Bethune, Colonel Drinkwater, A narrative of the battle of St Vincent with anecdotes of Nelson (1840, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, Nelson, A Personal History (1994)
Miller, Edwin L, Robert Southey's Life of Nelson (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896)
Nelson, Horatio, Dispatches and letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson vol 1, 1777-1794 (1814, London)
Nelson, Horatio, The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton vol 1 (1814)
Southey, Robert, The life of Horatio Lord Nelson vol 1 (1813) vol 2 (1814)

All photographs © RegencyHistory.net