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
Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
This Theatre was built in by a carpenter, named Potter, upon mere speculation; and it appears to have remained unoccupied for years, though it has been said that the celebrated Miss Fenton (the original "Polly," in the Beggar's Opera), afterwards Duchess of Bolton, was noticed here in the year , while playing the Parish Girl, in "What d'ye call It?"
It is well situated for a summer Theatre, but perhaps rather too far westward for a winter house; and is particularly convenient behind the scenes, well stocked with scenery, a good wardrobe, and every requisite for carrying on the drama. Before the curtain, the auditory part is very neatly and elegantly fitted up, the whole being white and gold; the lobbies are rather confined, but the house is exceedingly well formed for the view of the performances.
The building stands upon Crown land; and as the leases expire in a few years, it is probable the house will be rebuilt, to form a neat, elegant, and commodious Theatre, though not much larger than the present structure. The depth of the premises, from the to , is feet: the width, feet, with a scene-room, independent of the main building, on the north side, feet by feet; and will hold, at and ; there have been on a benefit night ; but then it must be excessively crowded.
In , Theophilus Cibber collected several deserters from the company, then under Highmore's management, among whom were Mills, Johnson, Miller, Griffin, Harper, and Mrs. Heron: they acted without any licence but for a short time; for, on , it was ordered in Hall, that the revolters should quit the , and return, within days, to .
Fielding opened with what he styled in , and brought forward his , which he acted upwards of successive nights, and in he acted regular plays, but was not so successful as during the previous season; and next year the Licensing Act completely stopped his proceeding.
In , Macklin started manager here, and Foote made his debut in Othello, on the ; Macklin performed Iago; and the famous Dr. (afterwards Sir John) Hill personated Lodovico.
Foote commenced in the spring of , on his own account, and gave an entertainment, which he called but this being without any licence, he was compelled to call the same performance, , and performed it more than mornings.
On the , the Bottle Conjuror's imposition was practised here, in which he promised to get into a quart bottle; but having filled the house, he decamped with the money; and the public, in resentment, destroyed the whole of the interior.
In the same year French plays were attempted, with a licence, and occasioned a great riot on the night; but though they were quietly permitted for successive nights, the speculation was so discouraged, that the actors shortly after were compelled to beg in the streets.
During the spring Foote brought out an entertainment called
Foote, in , made a successful year.
Theo. Cibber opened in , and played a few nights under the title of
. Cibber opened with the Lord Chamberlain's permission, when Mrs. Abington made her debut.
It was not, however, till , that Foote made his attempt to open this as a regular Theatre, during the recess of the winter houses; when he produced
In , the owner of some dancing dogs having previously engaged the Theatre, Foote was prevented having a season. He therefore joined Murphy, and opened during this summer, but regained the use of the the following year, and continued it for the succeeding years, without interruption.
Between the season and , Foote being on a visit at Lord Mexborough's seat, was induced to mount a horse of high courage, and join in the chase; he being a bad horseman was thrown, his leg broken, and shortly after amputated. The Duke of York was of the party, and being unintentionally instrumental to the accident, succeeded in obtaining for Foote a licence, or patent for acting plays at the , during his life, from to ; the winter managers being previously consulted, it was settled that that time would not infringe on their patent, being granted for the period they were closed.
Foote greatly altered and improved the Theatre, which he had taken for a term of years, and nearly rebuilt it: the inside was decorated in the Chinese style. Previously to this there was but gallery, and general entrance to the front of the house and the stage. Foote now removed shops in front, built the portico, and made separate entrances to each part; he then purchased a house in , and made that the stage entrance. The whole now assumed the appearance of a regular Theatre, and Foote opened it on the , with an appropriate prologue, or rather prelude, and it then became a Theatre Royal.
Several dramatic historians have stated that Foote had a Royal Patent granted to him: no such record has as yet been found. Foote probably had a during life, from the above-stated period; for he could not close his treaty with Colman until he had obtained His Majesty's permission for so doing; and when the present Mr. Colman sold half, he was obliged, before the purchase could be concluded, to obtain the King's consent to add the names of Messrs. Winston and Morris to his own.
Foote now went on his regular seasons. In , his well-known whimsical notice to the performers appeared in Room. In , he strayed out of his regular season, and presented, , his celebrated Puppet Show, afterwards denominated "Piety in Pattens." In , the Royal Family visited the Theatre.
Foote's trial in (occasioned by his attack on the Duchess of Kingston), preyed heavily on his mind, and there is very little doubt shortened his life. He bargained with Mr. Colman for the licence, , for an annuity of , beside paying him as an actor; but he only lived to receive quarters of his annuity, and died a very, poor man. Foote fell a sacrifice to his own if he had been possessed of less ability, or could have kept within the bounds of prudence in the exercise of it, he might have been a very rich man, and most probably much longer lived; but depending so entirely upon himself as actor, author, satirist, and mimic, he was quite careless respecting how the other
|parts in his pieces were acted; and as to dresses, scenes, &c., &c., he even hired his dresses in , as he did almost every other thing, and thereby paid much more than he could have purchased them for; and still had no wardrobe, music, or any requisite to carry on the business of a Theatre. Colman opened with a prologue, written by himself, and soon re-established the Theatre: his motto was, ""|
In the spring of , the Opera House having been burnt down, Italian operas were performed here. To increase the number of boxes, the gallery was divided off, in something like pews, and let as private boxes.
Mr. Colman, sen., being incapable of conducting the Theatre, in consequence of a mental malady, his son, Mr. Colman, jun., was appointed committee to his estate, and manager of the Theatre; in which he has continued till the present time.
During the year , the Company having been deprived of the use of the Opera House on Tuesdays and Saturdays (), performed here on those nights. In , Mr. Colman, jun., upon his own occount, by arrangement with Mr. Sheridan (with whom he agreed to pay half the renters of , and engage part of the company), opened upon the patent till the new was completed, which took place in the March following.
In , the unhappy accident happened, by which so many lives were lost. His Majesty had commanded the play on this evening, but was totally unacquainted with the accident until he had quitted the Theatre, as were also a great majority of the audience. The unfortunate persons were killed, and many very severely hurt.
In , Mr. Colman died, and Mr. Colman, jun., became manager and sole proprietor in his own right. Mr. Colman, in , sold half the Theatre, having obtained the King's permission to include the names of the new purchasers, Messrs. J. Winston and D. E. Morris, with his own in the licence. From , till the last day of , the Covent Garden company, their Theatre having been destroyed by fire, acted at this Theatre.
In , the licence was extended to months, and since progressively to months, but not acted upon, on account of law disputes, &c. During and , the additional term was acted upon, and half, or rather price, taken for the time here (except when the performances were agreeably to the and Covent Garden licences). From the till the end of the season, the prices have been regularly boxes, pit, gallery, upper gallery. When half price was taken, the prices then were, box , price ; pit , price ; gallery , price ; upper gallery , price In , the Theatre was not opened, on account of the disputes among the proprietors; and during the years and , opened for very short seasons. This Theatre has suffered great injury from the winter houses extending their seasons; Covent Garden has lately kept open so late as the , and nearly as late; by which the season has been compressed to little more than weeks instead of .
The elder Colman made many endeavours to open with the commencement of his licence, and more than once closed again till the winter houses were shut. Mr. Colman, jun., in , made the attempt with what he called his he tried it again in , but then dropt it. In and , it was again brought forward, but proved unsuccessful.
For the or years of the partnership formed in , the concern went on with the greatest prosperity and profit, till, in , Mr. Morris filed a Bill in Chancery, to remove Mr. Colman from the office of principal manager, and Mr. Winston from his office of stage manager, to both of which they were appointed by the deed of partnership in ; and from both of which they have not been removed. This very expensive litigation has considerably injured each individual, as well as the property; and caused the Theatre to be closed in the year .
Messrs. Colman and Winston have given the legal notice required by the deed of partnership, that they intend to sell their shares; this they mean to effect, unless, by arbitration, or some other mode, a speedy arrangement is made so that the Theatre may be carried on with that liberality which is due to the public, and without which it is impossible to obtain the patronage of an English metropolis.
During the winter a variety of benefits for individuals take place, under the licence of the Lord Chamberlain. For many years the late Mr. Walker exhibited his Eidouranion during Lent, with great profit to himself. Oratorios have also been given here several Lent seasons, and once Music and Readings.
The Theatre is totally unincumbered, has no renters' shares, and only proprietors, Messrs. George Colman, James Winston, and David E. Morris.
The following eminent performers made their London entrée here:—
. Miss Farren, now Countess of Derby; Messrs. Edwin, Henderson, and Digges.
. Mrs. Webb, Mr. Bannister, jun., and Miss Harper, since Mrs. Bannister.
. Mrs. Wells.
. Miss George, now Mrs. Oldmixen, in America; Miss Logan, now Mrs. Gibbs.
. Mrs. Farmer, afterwards Mrs. Powell, and now Mrs. Renaud.
. Mr. Kemble, Mrs. Siddons's father, and Mr. Braham.
. Captain Wathen and Miss Leak.
. Mr. Elliston.
. Mrs. Atkins.
. Mrs. H. Johnston and Mr. Egerton.
. Mr. Liston (Rawbold in the Iron Chest).
. Miss Norton.
. Messrs. Mathews, Taylor, and Miss Gremani (dead).
. Mr. Rae appeared in Octavian and Mr. Kean a Goat-herd on the same evening; Miss Kelly in the Chorus.
. Mr. Young.
. Mr. Terry.
. Miss Grevelle.
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.