Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre.
Soon after Sir Richard Steele had obtained the renewal of the licence for (temp. George I.), the house in being finished by the old patentee, who had been silenced, he procured, by the interest of Mr. Craggs, the younger, his suspension to be taken off; upon which that playhouse being opened, proved at a great drawback upon the profits of the old house. Several of their best actors () went to the new house in .
Drake's Essays on the Spectator, &c., vol. i. p. , which refers to Cibber's Apology, d edit., chap. , London, , vo.
The difficulties that we have hinted as attendant on the Theatre, called forth, in a very eminent degree, the genius of the manager, Mr. Rich, who may be deemed the father of the pantomime in this country; for, although his precursors, Weaver and his SIRE, made some attempts at the of this art, they by no means succeeded, though the former fancied he had derived them correctly from the heathen mythology. It was in this happy instance reserved for , Jun., to change the taste of the public from the times when literature had polished the manners, and introduced into , and into , while and had taken place of , marked with dulness, and splendid decoration; in short, to realize the of , the of the dark and nonsense of the
, entrance money, was received the night that the pantomime of "" was produced in that small Theatre: more, by a few pounds, than when "" was played, ; and, when the "" was performed in , so great was the crowd at , that many serious accidents are said to have happened, while at Drury they played to empty benches.
But the time when the , as it might comparatively be called, in , arrived at the very of its success and glory, was in the year , when the celebrated piece, the ","[*] commanded an uninterrupted run of , during the season, and, as it has been tritely, though truly said, "made Gay rich, and Rich gay."[*]
The contracted size of the Playhouse, compared to the amazing success of its dramas, as we have just stated, the repeated complaints of the spectators within, and of the neighbours without, though these complaints arose from very different causes, which have been already shown, together with the obvious want of for processions, and, above all, for , induced the manager to determine upon the building of another Theatre: accordingly, was the chosen spot, and his friend, James Sheppard, Esq.,[*] was the director and architect; he formed the plan, made the design, which met with general approbation, and largely interested himself in the subscription. In , were raised, and the workmen the same month began to take down some old buildings, probably part of the convent left by Inigo Jones, and the latter end of , completed the work. It appears from the public papers, that the crown was then in treaty for , as an office for the commissioners of stamp duties, but the negotiation failed, and the stamp-office was afterwards removed to It will here be necessary to take a slight notice of of the removal of the company to COVENT GARDEN, as this triumphant procession forms a part of the series of prints which we have faintly endeavoured to illustrate. This humourous effort is entitled,
very properly, because a number of fortunate circumstances, which we have stated, had contributed, as HOGARTH well knew, to render the entry at once magnificent and, as he, Rich, said, felicitous.
The point of time which the artist has chosen to celebrate, is when the procession had arrived at the great , mounted upon the back of the , and preceded by a chorus, or rather gang of, it may be supposed, the nocturnal attendants on the audience of the , shouting, is about to enter: he is followed by Apollo's car, drawn by , which are unclassical appendages in the style of the learned and renowned father of the still greater Rich—they are very misplaced. The coachman, who sometimes used to personate the Solar God, is the ,[*] he drives along in state and solemnity, while in this machine is seated the HERO himself, in the character of a spaniel dog,[*] which was of the most entertaining parts assumed by him in of his new pantomimes.[*] He is accompanied by Columbine,[*] and attended by his company in procession, at the head of which marches QUIN, in the character of the , followed by RYAN, WALKER, HALL, HIPPESLY, BULLOCK, SPILLER, SMITH, CHAPMAN, MILWARD, &c., properly characterized. Miss WARREN succeeded Miss FENTON in , Mrs. EAGLETON, Mrs. MORCEAU, Mrs. LACY, Miss SALLEY, &c., all in their stage paraphernalia. A cart brings up the rear, loaded with , among which, a large COFFIN (Ophelia's or Juliet's we will suppose), inscribed THUNDER and LIGHTNING, are the most conspicuous articles. A is placed near, dressed in an antique military habit, with a long spear in his hand; he is urging a fine , who shrinks from the dismounted warrior's spear, rears up, and frightens the tame animal that draws the said cart, and probably amuses the company.[*] authors are most obsequiously paying their respects to the manager, as he passes, while a is drawing a wheelbarrow full of to the Theatre.
To return, however, to the abandoned Playhouse in notwithstanding the dramatic rage of that period,[*] it stood empty for some time after the secession of SENESINO, the celebrated singer, then hired it in the year -, for the purpose of exhibiting then GIFFARD, the manager of , finding that playhouses prospered more at the than the end of the town, took , and held it in conjunction with that theatre, in the year - and -. It appears that Mr. Havard had some concern in it; in , his tragedy of KING CHARLES THE was played there. "A Tutor for the Beaux, &c., by J. Hewit," was also performed at the same place, the same year. Bickerstaff's "Unburied Dead" was performed at in , and many others between the above periods, but it does not appear by any regular company, which, indeed, its vicinity to the theatres would have prevented.
HALL, the original , who was a , had a dancing school, and, consequently, balls in the Theatre; his wife kept the tavern and ordinary, opposite, frequented by actors, young lawyers, city youths, &c. In this Playhouse there were frequently concerts, also exhibitions of showmen, &c. It was afterwards in part occupied by a fencing-master, and latterly by auctioneers, and many curiosities and elegant articles of cabinet work and furniture were sold there by the for the disposal of which, the respectability of the situation was well adapted.
[*] The Beggar's Opera had been offered to the company of Drury Lane, and was refused.
[*] This opera produced a mania in town; it totally changed the character of the rising generations, and, as the annals of police too fatally evince, was admired for its licentiousness, by those who did not understand its wit, while, also, from want of education, they were totally incapable of being impressed with its political irony, and were, alas! too callous to receive any benefit from the moral tendency, if any moral benefit was contemplated by its author.
[*] He built Sheppard's Market, Curzon Street, May Fair, &c., and was an eminent surveyor: we believe the business of surveying was, in a great degree, divided between Morley and himself.
[*] Who was so like Rich, it was impossible to know them asunder, as poor Nat once found to his cost.
[*] In January, 1717, one Swart, a German, brought over two dogs, whom he had taught to dance the Louvre and Minuet; they were immediately engaged by RICH at ten pounds per night, and brought twenty full houses, while the Othello of Booth, the Wildair of Wilks, and the Foppington of Cibber, were neglected, and did not bring charges. Swarts, whose great ancestor invented powder Gunpowder was invented, or rather revived, in 1330, by Barthold Swarts, a German apothecary at Nuremberg, whose process of making it became public, and was soon followed by the invention of ordnance, then called Bombards, and by the Scots, the Cracks of War., Nightly contrives to make us CLAP still louder; Encouraged by the learn'd sagacious Rich, Assisted by his pantomimic switch TheMagician's Rod. We plaud the Minuet of his DOG and BITCH: Of Cibber, Wilks, and Booth, we coldly speak: Rich spends in Dog's Meat, sixty pounds per week; While puppies, male and female, crowd in flocks, He laughs, and puts nine hundred in his box.
[*] In the Rape of Proserpine.
[*] Miss Morceau.
[*] These were probably part of the goods, or rather the properties of Christopher Rich, Esq., our hero's father, an inventory of which makes so considerable a figure in the fifteenth number of The Tatler, on his removal from Drury Lane to Lincoln's Inn Fields.
[*] The Universal Spectator, 1735, says, "I have information that a number of apprentices and gentlemen, who play for amusement, have formed a new company in York Buildings Sir Richard Steele built this room for Oratory and Music., which shows the necessity for the number of playhouses to be regulated, or else the nation may degenerate into a set of stage players."
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.