Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Theatrical Performances

13-16 December 1700   Yesterday a new play called, Love makes a Man: Or, the Fop’s Good Luck, was acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury-lane, and there being a French Scaramouch Dance betwixt the second and third acts, a certain person went in a frolick, incognito, up into the upper gallery, and so pelted the dancers with oranges, that they were forced to quit the stage, and the play-house was all in an uproar; but some of the auditory perceiving who threw them, cryed out, Fling him down into the pit, which so startled him, that he was forced to make the best of his way down stairs; however, a Constable having been sent for in the mean time, he was secured; and I am told, is since sent to the gate-house. [London Post]

27-30 December 1700   The Ambassador from Tripoli with his retinue came last Friday to the King’s Play-House to see a play, called Volpone, or the Fox; and his Excellency being in a scarlet gown, and his all in genteel Turkish habits, made a very fine shew in the boxes, and drew upon them the eyes or the whole audience. [English Post]

29 April 1703
Being the last time of acting till after May-Fair.
At the Theatre in Dorset-Garden, to-morrow being Friday the 30th of April, will be presented A Farce, call’d, The Cheats of Scapin. And a Comedy of two acts only, call’d, The Comical Rivals, or, The School-Boy. With several Italian sonatas by Signior Gasperini and others. And the Devonshire Girl, being now upon her return to the city of Exeter, will perform three several dances, particularly her last new entry in imitation of Madamoiselle Subligni, and the Whip of Dunboy by Mr. Claxton her master, being the last time of their performance till winter. And at the desire of several Persons of Quality (hearing that Mr. Pinkeman hath hired the two famous French girls lately arriv’d from the Emperor’s Court, they will perform several dances on the rope upon the stage, being improv’d to that degree, far exceeding all others in that art. And their Father presents you with the Newest Humours of Harlequin, as perform’d by him before the Grand Signior at Constantinople. Also the famous Mr. Evans lately larriv’d from Vienna, will shew you wonders of another kind, vaulting on the manag’d horse, being the greatest master of that kind in the world. To begin at five so that all may be done by nine a Clock. [Daily Courant]

Saturday 11 October 1718   Last Friday night as the play was acting, called the Fair Quaker of Deal, at the Theatre in Lincolns’ Inn-Fields, three Gentleman demanded to go behind the scenes; but there being an order of the house made to the contrary, they were denied admittance; upon which they went into the pit, and with apples, &c. pelted the players in a shameful manner, after which they got upon the stage and drew their swords and broke down the sconces, lamps, &c. which put the house in an uproar, and ’twas an hour before the Gentlemen could be brought to a civil behaviour. (Weekly Journal, or, Saturday’s-Post)

22 January 1726   The new entertainment of Apollo and Daphne, after the manner of the ancient pantomimes, which began to be represented last week at the Theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, continues still, and is follow’d by such crowds every night that the house is not able to hold all that company: The machinary [sic] and decoration is fine, intermix’d with vocal and instrumental musick and dancing, with the diverting Fourberies [tricks] of Harlequin, which altogether makes a pleasing variety. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

11 March 1727
Dear Godfather,
Surfeited with Wagner and Abericock, and the Rival Modes, the late productions of the Drury Triumvirate, I doubled my pay and my curiosity, and fool’d away a crown to see Pluto and Proserpine; how I was enrag’d when I found myself bit [cheated] I leave you to imagine; for instead of a representation the most magnificent and superb, I found one the most insignificant and absurd, no meaning or coherence, but of a piece with Windmill-Hill, or Sadler’s Wells: The serious most ridiculous, the comic part nothing but what we see at hedge dancing schools under the name of anticks, where the countryman kills Arlequin and eats his bread and cheese, &c. This plainly proves that whatever the New House does, tho’ never so silly, shall be cry’d up to the skies, and on the contrary, whatever the Old House undertakes is sure to meet with opposition and derision, tho’ in its self ne’er so good. Mrs. Robinson was hiss’d at Drury-Lane for what wou’d have rais’d a clap at Lincolns-Inn-fields; and Clark was no more an Arlequin, than while Rich’s Journeyman. The same man, the same performance shall have different success, so prevalent is the air of Lincolns-Inn-fields over that of Drury-Lane. This shews that the town are not only very partial, but foolish in the bargain, to be led by [the] nose by such a lying fellow as Mist [of Mist’s Weekly Journal], who is Rich’s Toad-Eater in ordinary, and spits his venom on a set of players that in all probability are the best Britain may ever boast of. Cibber is his standing jest, and right or wrong he attacks him. Should such musick, singing, and improprieties appear on the Drury-Lane stage, how satyrical would he be, how would every blunder be magnified, every master-stroke under-valued? but as it is for his darling, the mob’s idol, all is well;

there is no impropriety in the giant, the husband coming out of the raree-show after Arlequin, the dog chaise [i.e. dog-chase], and other absurdities, too many to enumerate. The musick is the best adapted that ever was heard, and the singing outdoes the opera. The last scene is not like Heaven and Hell in Dives and Lazarus on Windmill-Hill, but on the contrary, the greatest piece of machinery that ever was shown. So much will I say for Rich, that this last is the worst of all his productions of this kind: Harlequin a Director was a well invented, well executed entertainment; Dr. Faustus, tho’ not so regular, yet had its beauties; but as for the Burgo Master, Amadis, Jupiter and Europa, they are but the same with different names, scenes and cloaths, and the discerning part of mankind cannot but be tir’d with ’em, and enrag’d, to be thus impos’d upon: But yet Rich goes on triumphantly, his house fills, and tho’ there are many dissatisfied, yet there are more fools to be pleas’d; the Old House is empty, good action and oratory at a stand, and puppet show is the word. For my part I with Mist at the Devil, who has not only wire-drawn five shillings from me, but made me spend an evening in the most tiresome manner. Either he is a very ignorant or a very mercenary fellow, to cry up this stuff and bamboozle mankind at this rate, who are so fond of being hood-wink’d, that they suffer him to blind ’em tamely: Not so with me, I protest against it, and beg you to publish it, that the world may know there are yet those who with the utmost indignity see such Idols set up by the town.

Your dutiful God-son, Philander.

[Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

27 August 1730   At Mr. Penkethman and Mr. W. Giffard’s great Theatrical Booth, is acted a new droll, called Watt Tyler and Jack Straw, in which are presented my Lord Mayor, four Mobbs, and a great deal of hollowing, singing and dancing.

At Lee’s and Harper’s great Theatrical Booth, is performed that celebrated entertainment, call’d The Siege of Bethulia containing the antient History of Judith and Holofernes; together with the comical Humours of Rustego and his man Terrible With the opera of Robin Hood and Little John; and variety of singing and dancing.

At Oates’s and Fielding’s great Theatrical Booth, is presented The generous Free-Mason, or the Constant Lady, with the comical humours of Noodle and his man Doodle: both whom we suppose to be Free-Masons.

At Dicky Reynold’s, is presented Scipio’s Triumph, or the Siege of Carthage, with the comical humours of Noodle, Stitch, Puzzle, &c.

At Bullock’s and Halls, The whole History of Herod and Mariamne, with that celebrated opera call’d Flora or Hob in the Well. [Grub-street Journal]

2 September 1731   We hear the town are much delighted with the opera of the Emperor of China Grand-Volgi, at Mr. Fielding’s Booth, &c. and ’tis allow’d, by the best judges, to be the most agreeable and diverting entertainment in the whole fair. Post-Boy. — Pray, who are these best judges, that prefer an outlandish, heathenish Emperor, to Guy Earl of Warwick? Good People, assembled in this famous fair, mind the puffs of pastry-cooks, not those of booksellers: the one you may bite yourselves; but the other will bite you. [Grub-street Journal]

3 September 1734   We hear that notwithstanding the Play of Don John, and the Ballad Opera of the Petticoat Government, performed at Mr. Ryan's, Legar's, and Chapman's Booth in Smithfield, have met with the greatest approbation; yet, for variety, they have put themselves to the expence of a New Grotesque Entertainment, called, The Farrier Nick'd; or, the Exalted Cuckold, which will be performed this day, and during the rest of the Fair. (Daily Journal)

Monday, 17 August 1752   On Tuesday last information was laid before Justice Fielding by a tradesman in Westminster, that one of his apprentices had robbed him, in order to equip himself for acting a play, and that the said play was to be acted that evening by several apprentices, and other idle persons, at the old Tennis-Court in James-Street. Upon this the Justice dispatched Mr Welch in the evening with a party of soldiers to apprehend the persons concerned in the representation of that play, which was the Tragedy of Venice Preserved. Jaffier, Pierse, Belvidera, and most of the other principal characters, were taken, and some of them, particularly Belvidera, were brought in their theatrical attire before the Justice. The men all appeared to be young apprentices, and the woman a young millener [sic]; wherefore the Justice was unwilling to proceed against them as rogues and vagabonds, as they are made by the last Vagrant Act in which case they must have been committed to Bridewell, which might have proved their ruin: He treated them therefore as guilty of an unlawful assembly, and a common nuisance; for which they were either bound to their good behaviour, or committed for want of sureties, and soon after discharged. It was sworn before the Justice, that Sunday had been the usual day of rehearsing their parts. (General Advertiser)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Theatrical Performances", 18 November 2001, expanded 25 February 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/theatre.htm>

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