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Jacob Tonson

The London Theatres 1729 to 1737

Titles in bold are first performances

Drury Lane (DL)

Lincoln’s Inn Fields (LIF)

Covent Garden (CG)

King’s Theatre, Haymarket

Little Theatre in the Haymarket (LTH)*

Goodman’s Fields (GF)

1729

1 September: Sir Richard Steele dies. The patent will expire three years from this date.

2 December: Lotario by Handel.

31 October: Thomas Odell opens theatre with The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar in converted workshop in Ayliffe Street with no patent or licence.

1730

4 December: The Coffee-House Politician by Henry Fielding (new title for Rape Upon Rape).

24 February: Partenope by Handel.

30 March: The Author’s Farce by Henry Fielding ridicules Colley Cibber and the management at Drury Lane. 41 performances in the season - the greatest hit since The Beggar’s Opera. 23 June: Rape Upon Rape by Henry Fielding.

26 January: The Temple Beau by Henry Fielding is first new play. 28 April: Order of silence issued. Theatre re-opens 11 May.

1731

2 February: Poro by Handel.

22 April: The Welsh Opera staged as afterpiece to The Tragedy of Tragedies, both by Henry Fielding. 12 May: The anonymous play The Fall of Mortimer. 24 June: The Fall of Mortimer forbidden to be acted. 30 June: advertised to be acted anyway. 21 July: High Constable arrives with warrant to arrest actors. They flee. 20 August: Hurlothrumbo by Samuel Johnson of Cheshire announced. Constables arrive to arrest actors who flee again. Autumn: Theatre re-opens on condition they don’t stage more plays like The Fall of Mortimer.

September: Henry Giffard buys out Odell.

1732

1 January: The Lottery by Henry Fielding. 14 February: The Modern Husband and 1 June: The Old Debauchees and The Covent Garden Tragedy, all by Fielding. 27 April: New patent issued to Wilks, Booth, Cibber. 13 July: Booth sells half his share to John Highmore. 27 September: Wilks dies. His share passes to his wife, who asked portrait painter John Ellys to act for her. Cibber rents his share to his son Theophilus for £442.

John Rich runs Christmas season in parallel with Covent Garden.

7 December: John Rich opens new theatre designed by Edward Shepherd with The Way of the World by William Congreve.

15 January: Ezio. 15 February: Sosarme. 20 November: Orlando, all by Handel.

2 October: New building by Edward Shepherd opens with Henry IV Part 1 by William Shakespeare.

1733

17 February: The Miser by Henry Fielding. 10 May: Booth dies. 27 March: Cibber retires aged 65, selling his share of the patent to John Highmore for 3,000 guineas without offering it to Theophilus, who was renting it. Highmore tells Theophilus he will have to go at the end of the season. Theophilus Cibber organises a revolt and obtains lease of DL. May: the patentees lock the rebels out of DL. 24 September: DL re-opens with new company of actors. Mrs Booth sells the other half of her share to Giffard for £1,350 before the season opens. 12 November: rebels win action in King’s Bench over lease they have taken of DL.

22 February: Thomas Arne, ‘proprietor of the English operas’, announces that Rosamond is in rehearsal. Rich runs Easter season in parallel with Covent Garden. Opera of the Nobility, supported by the Prince of Wales, takes theatre for 1733/34 season.

26 September: Rebel DL actors open.

1734

24 January: Charles Fleetwood purchases the shares of John Highmore and Mrs Wilks. Giffard retains his one-sixth share. 8 March: Rebels led by Theophilus Cibber return to DL.

Opera of the Nobility occupy LIF until end of 1733/34 season, then move to King’s.

Handel negotiates with Rich to use Covent Garden from start of 1734/35 season.

26 January: Arianna by Handel. Heidegger/Handel management ends and Opera of the Nobility moves in for 1734/35 season. Handel moves to Covent Garden.

5 April: Don Quixote in England by Henry Fielding. Had been intended for DL but Fielding now out of favour there as he backed the wrong side in the revolt.Theatre taken for 1734/5 by French comedians.

1735

6 January: The Virgin Unmask’d by Henry Fielding. 12 December: Fleetwood and Rich sign agreement to indemnify each other against loss and share profits. Probable preliminary to a union. Agreement breaks down,

During 1735-36 season John Rich is still paying rent on both CG and LIF.

8 January: Ariodante and 16 April: Alcina by Handel. 12 December: Fleetwood and Rich sign agreement to indemnify each other against loss and share profits. Probable preliminary to a union. Agreement breaks down.

Taken by French comedians for 1734/35 season.

1736

12 January: Zara adapted by Aaron Hill from Voltaire’s Zaire.

Giffard rents for 1736/37 season.

12 May: Atalanta by Handel.

5 March: Pasquin by Henry Fielding inaugurates Fielding’s management. Receives 60 performances during the season.

Giffard moves his company to LIF. GF goes dark for four years.

1737

19 February: Eurydice by Fielding performed as afterpiece to Cato. A riot over the privileges of the footmen in their gallery means that the show is lost.

Giffard rents for 1736/37 season.

16 February: Giustino and 18 May: Berenice by Handel.

Opera of the Nobility comes to an end with the 1736/37 season.

4 February: Daily Advertiser announces Fielding plans to build a theatre. 14 March: season opens with A Rehearsal of Kings (anon.). 20 March:The Historical Register For The Year 1736 by Henry Fielding opens as afterpiece to George Lillo’s Fatal Curiosity. 13 April: The Historical Register becomes mainpiece with Eurydice Hiss’d as afterpiece. 23 May: this double bill receives its final performance. John Potter meets with Walpole and promises to close down LTH. He strips the building.

1 JUNE 1737: STAGE LICENSING ACT RECEIVES ROYAL ASSENT. FORBIDS THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE WITHOUT ROYAL PATENT OR LICENCE FROM LORD CHAMBERLAIN. ALL SCRIPTS TO BE SUBMITTED TO LORD CHAMBERLAIN'S OFFICE 14 DAYS IN ADVANCE FOR CENSORSHIP.

* Opened on 29 December 1720. Built by John Potter, a carpenter who built scenery for the Haymarket opera and who spent £1,000 to build a theatre on the site of the King’s Head Inn in the Haymarket. He immediately leased it to a French company known as The French Comedians of his Grace the Duke of Montagu. They had no licence but seem to have been protected by the Duke as they were not harrassed. A home for amateurs, visiting foreign actors and scratch companies, of no significance until Henry Fielding became involved.

GF re-opens in 1740, then Giffard presents Garrick in the 1741/42 season. 27 May 1742: Last performance in this theatre is The Beggar’s Opera. Building converted into chapel then warehouse.