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 2

Wilkinson, Robert
1819-1825

The Pantheon Theatre, Oxford Street.

The Pantheon Theatre, Oxford Street.

Interior of the Pantheon Theatre; Proscenium.

This most elegant and superb building, which would have done honour to Greece at its most splendid period of taste and magnificence, was built after the model of the Pantheon at Rome, and opened as a place of public entertainment for concerts, balls, masquerades, &c. April 28th, 1772. The architect was Mr. Wyatt, who gained considerable reputation by the way in which he finished his undertaking.

The proprietors embraced every opportunity to engage the most celebrated performers, both vocal and instrumental, in order to render it worthy the notice of the numerous votaries of fashion and pleasure that resorted to it in throngs; and, for a considerable length of time, it continued a formidable rival to the Italian Opera and Ranelagh, and on many occasions took the lead of both.

In the year 1776, the proprietors ventured to engage a celebrated female Italian singer, named Lorenza Agujari, generally denominated the Agujari, at the enormous salary of ONE HUNDRED POUNDS A NIGHT, for singing two songs only! and yet, however exorbitant the demand, or imprudent the compliance with it may seem, the managers have since involved the proprietors in disgrace and ruin, by going a more economical way to work; indeed, in subsequent undertakings, they have more frequently had money to pay than receive; for, notwithstanding so much was disbursed to the Agujari, much was likewise cleared, and the dividend was more considerable than it has ever been since that memorable era.

After the departure of Agujari, for the second and last time, the managers of the Pantheon engaged the Georgi, a young singer, afterwards married to Banti, the dancer, as her successor—a measure adopted merely on speculation. She was the daughter of a gondoliere at Venice, and for some time a piazza performer in that city. After this exercise of her natural vocal powers, she sung her way to Lyons, where she performed in coffee-houses for such small donations as are usually bestowed on itinerant talents in such places. Hence, by the power of song, she was conveyed and bien nourrie to Paris, where her voice was so much admired, that, after very little teaching by some of her countrymen, whom she met with there, she was permitted to sing at the Concert Spirituel. Here the applause was so loud, that it soon reached England, and inclined the proprietors of the Pantheon to engage her for three seasons, upon condition that £ 100 a year should be deducted out of her salary, for the payment of an able master to cultivate her voice. Sacchini was the first appointed to this office, but soon found her so idle and obstinate, that he quitted her as an incurable patient. She was next assigned to Signor Piozzi, whose patience was likewise exhausted before she became a perfect singer."Abel, after these unsuccessful trials, took her in hand, and, in pure love for her voice and person, gave her instruction at his lodgings in the country, which being then at Fulham, gave occasion to one of her countrymen, who had long tried in vain to find Abel in town, to say, that he despaired of ever meeting with him, for he was always going to Foolish."—Banti died at Bologna, 18th March 1806. She caught cold upon her return from the Carnival at Venice, which brought on a fever, of which she died in a few days. After her return to her own country, where the air is more favourable to good singing than in any other, she improved, by example, perhaps, more than precept; so much, that she was frequently employed as first woman in the operas of the principal cities of Italy—an honour to which she was well entitled, if an old adage of that country is true, that "there are a hundred requisites necessary to make a good singer, of which, whoever is gifted with a fine voice, has ninety-nine."

The Pantheon gradually sunk in the public estimation, and was only occasionally used for benefit concerts and masquerades; but, being admirably calculated for showy exhibitions, it was let out to various speculators, among whom, were Lunardi, Walter Clagget, &c. &c. Lunardi and his cat drew vast numbers of visitors; and Clagget's musical apparatus had its day: mathematical and electrical experiments were likewise tried, but never continued in any one way beyond a season. In the year 1788 it was fitted up and established as an Opera House or Theatre, in which character it continued till the year 1792, when it was destroyed by fire; soon after this accident it was rebuilt for masquerades, concerts, &c. and continued so until the year 1812, when it was rebuilt by Mr. Cundy as an Opera House, upon the model or design of the theatre at Milan, and is most admirably constructed for sight and sound. It contains 175 boxes, with a pit 60 feet wide, by 60 feet deep—the stage is 90 feet by 75—the interior is decorated in an elegant manner; the whole forming a spacious and superb theatre, not inferior to any in Europe, and is now one of the first ornaments to the metropolis of the British empire.

The paintings and decorations which ornament the interior are admirably executed; that on the ceiling represents the throne of Apollo, as the god of harmony, and the planet who rules the whole creation. The artist has taken his subject from Ovid's Metamorphoses, lib. ii. v. 30. The God sits high exalted on a throne Of blazing gems, with purple garments on; The Hours in order rang'd on either hand, And Days, and Months, and Years, and Ages stand. Here Spring appears with flowering chaplets bound, Here Summer in her wheaten garlands crown'd, Here Autumn the rich trodden grapes besmear, And hoary winter shivers in the rear.

From this, the description of the painting will be easily ascertained. The centre figure, allegorical of the sun; the infant with the flambeau, the day; the genius bearing the sign of the first constellation, Aries, the month; the year expressed in the figure bearing the serpent, symbol of immortality. The lower figures allude to the hours, under which are the four seasons. In the circle that encloses the medallion, are represented, in chiaro-oscuro, the twelve signs of the Zodiac. O'er all, the Heaven's refulgent image shines; On either gate were six engraven signs.—v. 22, 23.

The second tier of boxes from the ceiling is ornamented at intervals with cupids, ruling different animals, allegoric of the different passions and inclinations of the human heart. Thus the artist has appropriated the lions to a noble and generous love—the tigers to a fierce—the peacock to vain—the swans to poetical—the sphynx to chimerical, &c. These different passions, we are told, are produced on the human heart, by the influence of the sun and planets; therefore the painter has thought them well adapted to the necessary variety of the ornaments.

The third tier represents, at intervals, the seven planets, or the seven days of the week, which seem to have been appropriated to the same subject.

The fourth tier represents the power of Love and Music, in the history of Orpheus and Eurydice, likewise taken from Ovid, and described as follows:

1st. Eurydice bit by the viper, the cause of her death: For as the Bride amid the Naiad train, Ran joyful, tripping o'er the flowery plain, A venom'd viper bit her as she pass'd, Instant she fell, and sudden breath'd her last.

2d. Orpheus crying, and Love indicating the way to the infernal regions: Inflam'd by love, and urg'd by deep despair, He leaves the realms of light and upper air.

3d. Orpheus imploring the pass from Charon: Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road, And tempt the shades in their obscure abode.

4th. The rest of Ixion and Sisyphus from their torments and labours: Ixion's wondrous wheel its whirl suspends, And the voracious vulture, charm'd, attends. No more the Belides their toil bemoan, And Sisyphus, reclin'd sits list'ning on his stone.

5th. The Furies crying, for the first time, at the music of Orpheus: Then first, 'tis said, by sacred verse subdu'd, The Furies felt their cheeks with tears bedew'd; Nor could the rigid King or Queen of Hell Th' impulse of pity in their hearts repel

6th. The throne of Pluto and Proserpine, and Love interceding grace for Orpheus: If fame of former rapes belief may find, You both by Love, and Love alone, were join'd.

7th. Minos returning Eurydice to Orpheus, with the express order that he should not see her till he was totally out of the infernal regions: Thus he obtains the suit so much desir'd, On strict observance of the terms requir'd; For if, before he reach the realms of air, He backward cast his eyes to view the fair, The forfeit grant, that instant, void is made, And she for ever left a lifeless shade.

8th. Orpheus returns, eager to see Eurydice before the time fixed by Mino's order—she vanishes—Love drops his flambeau, and Orpheus appears in despair: They well nigh now had pass'd the bounds of night, And just approach'd the margin of the light, When he, mistrusting lest her steps might stray, And gladsome of the glimpse of dawning day, His longing eyes, impatient, backward cast, To catch a lover's look, but look'd his last; For, instant dying, she again descends, While he to empty air his arms extends.

We have been particular in the description of the above embellishments, having received the account from the gentleman who made the designs, and executed the paintings.

The Pantheon, notwithstanding its central situation, has never yet answered the expectations of the various persons who have from time to time speculated to bring it into notice and repute as a permanent place of public entertainment. Nor is it likely that, while the patentees of the already licensed theatres in the metropolis have embarked such large capitals in theatrical property, can have the least influence with the ruling powers, such places as the Pantheon, the Royalty, or any minor concern, will ever obtain a power to perform the regular Drama in opposition to claims of such long standing. All possible means were attempted in 1812 to license it as an English Opera House; but Mr. Arnold having succeeded in obtaining his licence for the Lyceum Theatre for that purpose, the permission was refused, and the Pantheon has continued dormant ever since. In its original state it was admirably calculated for public exhibitions, masquerades, and musical performances; and it is greatly to be regretted the proprietors had not fitted it up more for the latter purpose than any other, as the prevailing taste of the public at present leads so much more to the encouragement of that science than any other of what description soever.

On the commemoration of Handel at Westminster Abbey, in the year 1784, it was found, notwithstanding the immense numbers that venerable structure would contain, it was inadequate to answer the purpose of gratifying the lovers of music, who came from all parts of the country; and, although there were three days of performance at one guinea per ticket each person, and three rehearsals at half a guinea each, it was found necessary to repeat the performances at the Pantheon, which on that occasion was crowded to excess, the receipt being 1690l. 10s. The profits arising from these musical performances were given to charitable institutions, particularly to the funds of St. George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, the Middlesex Hospital, to the Fund for the Support of decayed Musicians, their Widows and Children, &c. &c. It was reported the finances of St. George's Hospital were in such a state, that, without assistance, this laudable and charitable establishment must have fallen into entire decay.

The grand room of this building originally consisted of a large square, the four corners being cut off by angles; on each side was a colonnade of six Ionic columns, and six Corinthian columns above, surmounted by a very large dome, with a skylight in the centre; that side nearest Oxford Street, through which the company entered, was a semicircle without the square. The orchestra occupied the opposite side, and was also a semicircle. The four angles were occupied by four stoves in niches in the lower part, and statues in the niches above; a number of very fine statues were also placed in niches in the semicircular entrance, particularly of His Majesty, the Queen, and Britannia, in white porphyry. The whole of the building open to the public contained a suite of fourteen rooms.

1780, Masquerades advertised at two guineas admission.

27th May 1784, The first commemoration of Handel was celebrated here and at the Abbey (Mara was then exclusively engaged for the Pantheon). Their Majesties for the first time were present at this place. The band consisted of 200 performers, and 1600 persons were present.

Burney, in his Account of the Commemoration of Handel, says,

"This most elegant building far surpasses, in beauty, any other place appropriated to public amusements throughout Europe: it is infinitely more the wonder of foreigners than natives; and yet these, however often they may have seen it, still regard it with fresh admiration; and though it was natural to think it impossible that any thing could be added to the splendour of the structure, the original architect, Mr. James Wyatt, happily exercised his genius in preparing for the reception of Their Majesties, and effected it.

"The east and west galleries, and the passages behind the colonnade, as well as the gallery over the orchestra, were fitted up with benches for company. Over the entrance, and opposite the orchestra, was erected a gallery on six Ionic pillars; in the centre of the gallery was placed Their Majesties' box, lined with crimson satin, and ornamented with looking-glasses, crimson damask curtains, with the royal supporters in gold, &c. &c."

1789, 31st March, A grand gala was given by the subscribers at Martindale's on His Majesty's recovery: 1400 of the first nobility and gentry were present. At seven in the morning a lady called for "God save the King," which was sung and encored TWICE, accompanied by the band.

1789, June 17th, The Opera House was destroyed by fire. Mr. O'Reily, the Opera House proprietor, immediately took the Pantheon for four years, at 3000l. per annum; and Wyatt undertook to convert it into a theatre for 5000 guineas.

1791, 17th February, The new theatre opened with Armida, and Amphion and Thalia. Pachierotti, Mara, &c. singers; Didelot, &c. dancers. The license for Italian operas in the Haymarket, was transferred to this place until the King's Theatre was rebuilt.

1792, January 14th, Half-past one in the morning, discovered on fire. A new room was built at the back of the stage, for the scene painters, when converted into a Theatre. In this room the fire broke out, and it being locked up, the watchmen did not discover it for some time. The whole of the Theatre, scenery, dresses, &c. was consumed, but scarcely any of the adjoining buildings were even damaged. The front building, which is almost unconnected with the Theatre, was but little damaged. The loss was estimated at 60,000l.—only 15,000l. was insured

1795, The interior was rebuilt, and opened with a masquerade in April. Ashley intended to have removed his Oratorios from Covent Garden to this place; but a license was refused him by the Lord Chamberlain.

The building now assumed a totally different appearance; it was not now a Theatre, but a fancy sort of large room for music, masquerades, &c. A gallery went round three sides of the room, to which there were two staircases; under the gallery were small recesses of boxes, similar to those at Ranelagh for supper parties of about a dozen; each box being inclosed with a painted curtain till the supper was announced, when they all ascended. Masquerades, at one guinea, including supper and wine, and at half a guinea, with tea and coffee, and a very few concerts, were occasionally given here till 1810.

1810, Messrs. Gedge and Bonnor put forth a prospectus of a "National Institution for improving the manufactures of the United Kingdom, and the arts connected therewith; for promoting the general interests of its commerce, both foreign and domestic, established in the year of the Jubilee, A.D. 1810, at the Pantheon, London." The prospectus stated that they had taken the Pantheon at £ 1000 a-year. The grand saloon was 125 feet long, 84 feet wide, and 54 high, with eight other spacious rooms, some fifty, some sixty feet in length, beside convenient rooms for counting-houses, with extensive vaults, &c.; the floors contained 23,640 square feet. An exhibition of every species of manufacture in every state, and every machine connected therewith—an office for mercantile information—gentlemen retired from business, who would undertake arbitrations, and arrange all partnership concerns—a general agency throughout the kingdom, and all parts of the globe—commercial chamber, comprising all London and country newspapers, pens, ink, paper, tea and coffee, and a constant correspondence with the Royal Exchange and the public offices, and quick conveyance of important news to any distant part—a benevolent fund for manufacturers, artizans, and mechanics, &c. &c.: the whole to be carried on by subscribers to the several classes. This was acted upon in a small degree; many subscriptions were received, and the front building was fitted up, and the rooms opened; the grand saloon was also prepared for the exhibition, but suddenly the whole scheme was dropped. This prospectus held forth such plans, that, instead of the Pantheon, it would have required a space as large as Salisbury Plain to have carried it into execution. The thing was impracticable.

Colonel Greville, who had removed his Pic Nic to the Argyle Rooms, took the Pantheon of Gedge and Bonnor: having obtained a license from the Lord Chamberlain for music, upon a limited scale, at the Argyle Rooms, imagining he could transfer it to Oxford Street, and have another Opera House, he, in conjunction with a Mr. Cundy, a wine merchant, caused the interior to be once more converted into a most superb theatre, containing 173 private boxes. They soon found their error, and therefore, on Feb. 27, 1812, they opened the "Pantheon Theatre" at Opera prices, with Italian burlettas and ballets; they mustered a very strong company—Bertinotti Radicati, Cauvini, Collini, Signor Fischer, Rovedino, Morelli, Bertini, &c. singers; The present Miss Stephens was a subordinate singer here. Leader, Spagnioletti—Scenery, Marinari—Composer, Trento—Ballet-master, Rossi—the ornaments by Signor Aglio—and a suitable ballet establishment. Notwithstanding this very strong company, and a determination and exertion of a number of the nobility to make this the fashionable rival to the Opera House, it failed almost immediately, and closed on the 19th of March. Another night was announced for the 11th of May, but it did not open. Greville shortly after very luckily got out of the concern, leaving Cundy the ostensible proprietor, though many of the nobility were in fact proprietors, having advanced money for their boxes; and also a number of tradesmen, who had accepted boxes instead of payment of their accounts. Thus were nearly 50,000l. which the Theatre cost, expended foolishly; but it happened to be of other people's money, who will never get a penny back.

1813, July 23, another attempt was made to open it as an English Opera House, with The Cabinet and the Deserter, and on the 4th of August, an information was laid against Cundy and the performers, by Mr. Raymond of the English Opera House, and Martindale of the Lord Chamberlain's Office: when the matter was heard at Marlborough Street, Mash, the Lord Chamberlain's head clerk, avowed the information was laid by direction of the Lord Chamberlain. Cundy was convicted in nine penalties of 50l. each; and, on his giving notice of appeal at the quarter sessions, was informed an information would be laid for every performance. Hill, the stage-manager (who lately died in Jamaica), and several performers, were also convicted in 50l. penalties, but none of them were ever exacted; a few weeks terminated their season. The Theatre was considerably too large, and the expenses too great for such an undertaking. In the following December (27th) it was again opened for ballets, pantomimes, &c. upon a very inferior scale, and lasted only three weeks. Italian operas were then advertised to commence in a fortnight, but did not. The prices now were— boxes, 5s.; pit, 3s.; gallery, 2s.; with second price at half-past nine—boxes, 3s.; pit 2s.; gallery, 1s.

1814, Oct. 11, was sold by auction, under a distress for rent (viz. 3000l. for three years to Midsummer 1814), at Dalphin's Riding School, in Swallow Street, everything that could be moved, and that was left from other distresses previously put in for taxes; consisting of the scenery, dresses, properties, chairs, doors, orchestra, lamps, partitions, timber, &c. &c. Every door, seat, even nails, were drawn, and the whole of the pit taken up, floor and all; they fetched under 1000l. and the sale lasted four days: Cundy had for some time been out of the way.

1814, The Duke of Norfolk, on the 1st of April, presented in the House of Lords a petition from Nicholas Wilcox Cundy, for leave to bring in a bill to act the regular Drama at the Pantheon, stating its establishment in 1791, being burnt in 1792, his purchase of Greville, with the transfer to him, and refusal to license by the Lord Chamberlain; leave was given, and no more heard of it.

1815, Mr. Elliston was in treaty, and nearly concluded an engagement of the building, which was most fortunately for him broken off; for the place is too large even for a regular opera establishment.

 

This most elegant and superb building, which would have done honour to Greece at its most splendid period of taste and magnificence, was built after the model of the Pantheon at Rome, and opened as a place of public entertainment for concerts, balls, masquerades, &c. . The architect was Mr. Wyatt, who gained considerable reputation by the way in which he finished his undertaking.

The proprietors embraced every opportunity to engage the most celebrated performers, both vocal and instrumental, in order to render it worthy the notice of the numerous votaries of fashion and pleasure that resorted to it in throngs; and, for a considerable length of time, it continued a formidable rival to the Italian Opera and Ranelagh, and on many occasions took the lead of both.

In the year , the proprietors ventured to engage a celebrated female Italian singer, named Lorenza Agujari, generally denominated , at the enormous salary of POUNDS A NIGHT, for singing songs only! and yet, however exorbitant the demand, or imprudent the compliance with it may seem, the managers have since involved the proprietors in disgrace and ruin, by going a more economical way to work; indeed, in subsequent undertakings, they have more frequently had money to pay than receive; for, notwithstanding so much was disbursed to the , much was likewise cleared, and the dividend was more considerable than it has ever been since that memorable era.

After the departure of Agujari, for the and last time, the managers of the Pantheon engaged the Georgi, a young singer, afterwards married to Banti, the dancer, as her successor—a measure adopted merely on speculation. She was the daughter of a at Venice, and for some time a piazza performer in that city. After this exercise of her natural vocal powers, she sung her way to Lyons, where she performed in coffee-houses for such small donations as are usually bestowed on itinerant talents in such places. Hence, by the power of song, she was conveyed and to Paris, where her voice was so much admired, that, after very little teaching by some of her countrymen, whom she met with there, she was permitted to sing at the Here the applause was so loud, that it soon reached England, and inclined the proprietors of the Pantheon to engage her for seasons, upon condition that a year should be deducted out of her salary, for the payment of an able master to cultivate her voice. Sacchini was the appointed to this office, but soon found her so idle and obstinate, that he quitted her as an incurable patient. She was next assigned to Signor Piozzi, whose patience was likewise exhausted before she became a perfect singer.[*]  After her return to her own country, where the air is more favourable to good singing than in any other, she improved, by example, perhaps, more than precept; so much, that she was frequently employed as woman in the operas of the principal cities of Italy—an honour to which she was well entitled, if an old adage of that country is true, that "there are a requisites necessary to make a good singer, of which, whoever is gifted with a fine voice, has ."

The Pantheon gradually sunk in the public estimation, and was only occasionally used for benefit concerts and masquerades; but, being admirably calculated for showy exhibitions, it was let out to various speculators, among whom, were Lunardi, Walter Clagget, &c. &c. Lunardi and his cat drew vast numbers of visitors; and Clagget's musical apparatus had its day: mathematical and electrical experiments were likewise tried, but never continued in any way beyond a season. In the year it was fitted up and established as an Opera House or Theatre, in which character it continued till the year , when it was destroyed by fire; soon after this accident it was rebuilt for masquerades, concerts, &c. and continued so until the year , when it was rebuilt by Mr. Cundy as an Opera House, upon the model or design of the theatre at Milan, and is most admirably constructed for sight and sound. It contains boxes, with a pit feet wide, by feet deep—the stage is feet by —the interior is decorated in an elegant manner; the whole forming a spacious and superb theatre, not inferior to any in Europe, and is now of the ornaments to the metropolis of the British empire.

The paintings and decorations which ornament the interior are admirably executed; that on the ceiling represents the throne of Apollo, as the god of harmony, and the planet who rules the whole creation. The artist has taken his subject from Ovid's Metamorphoses, lib. ii. v. .

The God sits high exalted on a throne

Of blazing gems, with purple garments on;

The Hours in order rang'd on either hand,

And Days, and Months, and Years, and Ages stand.

Here Spring appears with flowering chaplets bound,

Here Summer in her wheaten garlands crown'd,

Here Autumn the rich trodden grapes besmear,

And hoary winter shivers in the rear.

From this, the description of the painting will be easily ascertained. The centre figure, allegorical of the sun; the infant with the flambeau, the day; the genius bearing the sign of the constellation, Aries, the the expressed in the figure bearing the serpent, symbol of immortality. The lower figures allude to the , under which

178

are the In the circle that encloses the medallion, are represented, in chiaro-oscuro, the signs of the Zodiac.

O'er all, the Heaven's refulgent image shines;

On either gate were six engraven signs.—v. 22, 23.

The tier of boxes from the ceiling is ornamented at intervals with cupids, ruling different animals, allegoric of the different passions and inclinations of the human heart. Thus the artist has appropriated the to a noble and generous love—the to a fierce—the to vain—the to —the to chimerical, &c. These different passions, we are told, are produced on the human heart, by the influence of the sun and planets; therefore the painter has thought them well adapted to the necessary variety of the ornaments.

The tier represents, at intervals, the planets, or the days of the week, which seem to have been appropriated to the same subject.

The tier represents the power of Love and Music, in the history of Orpheus and Eurydice, likewise taken from Ovid, and described as follows:

. Eurydice bit by the viper, the cause of her death:

For as the Bride amid the Naiad train,

Ran joyful, tripping o'er the flowery plain,

A venom'd viper bit her as she pass'd,

Instant she fell, and sudden breath'd her last.

Orpheus crying, and Love indicating the way to the infernal regions:

Inflam'd by love, and urg'd by deep despair,

He leaves the realms of light and upper air.

Orpheus imploring the pass from Charon:

Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road,

And tempt the shades in their obscure abode.

. The rest of Ixion and Sisyphus from their torments and labours:

Ixion's wondrous wheel its whirl suspends,

And the voracious vulture, charm'd, attends.

No more the Belides their toil bemoan,

And Sisyphus, reclin'd sits list'ning on his stone.

. The Furies crying, for the time, at the music of Orpheus:

Then first, 'tis said, by sacred verse subdu'd,

The Furies felt their cheeks with tears bedew'd;

Nor could the rigid King or Queen of Hell

Th' impulse of pity in their hearts repel

. The throne of Pluto and Proserpine, and Love interceding grace for Orpheus:

If fame of former rapes belief may find,

You both by Love, and Love alone, were join'd.

. Minos returning Eurydice to Orpheus, with the express order that he should not see her till he was totally out of the infernal regions:

Thus he obtains the suit so much desir'd,

On strict observance of the terms requir'd;

For if, before he reach the realms of air,

He backward cast his eyes to view the fair,

The forfeit grant, that instant, void is made,

And she for ever left a lifeless shade.

. Orpheus returns, eager to see Eurydice before the time fixed by Mino's order—she vanishes—Love drops his flambeau, and Orpheus appears in despair:

They well nigh now had pass'd the bounds of night,

And just approach'd the margin of the light,

When he, mistrusting lest her steps might stray,

And gladsome of the glimpse of dawning day,

His longing eyes, impatient, backward cast,

To catch a lover's look, but look'd his last;

For, instant dying, she again descends,

While he to empty air his arms extends.

We have been particular in the description of the above embellishments, having received the account from the gentleman who made the designs, and executed the paintings.

The Pantheon, notwithstanding its central situation, has never yet answered the expectations of the various persons who have from time to time speculated to bring it into notice and repute as a permanent place of public entertainment. Nor is it likely that, while the patentees of the already licensed theatres in the metropolis have embarked such large capitals in theatrical property, can have the least influence with the ruling powers, such places as the Pantheon, the Royalty, or any minor concern, will ever obtain a power to perform the regular Drama in opposition to claims of such long standing. All possible means were attempted in to license it as an English Opera House; but Mr. Arnold having succeeded in obtaining his licence for the Lyceum Theatre for that purpose, the permission was refused, and the Pantheon has continued dormant ever since. In its original state it was admirably calculated for public exhibitions, masquerades, and musical performances; and it is greatly to be regretted the proprietors had not fitted it up more for the latter purpose than any other, as the prevailing taste of the public at present leads so much more to the encouragement of that science than any other of what description soever.

On the commemoration of Handel at , in the year , it was found, notwithstanding the immense numbers that venerable structure would contain, it was inadequate to answer the purpose of gratifying the lovers of music, who came from all parts of the country; and, although there were days of performance at guinea per ticket each person, and rehearsals at half a guinea each, it was found necessary to repeat the performances at the Pantheon, which on that occasion was crowded to excess, the receipt being The profits arising from these musical performances were given to charitable institutions, particularly to the funds of Hospital, , the , to the Fund for the Support of decayed Musicians, their Widows and Children, &c. &c. It was reported the finances of Hospital were in such a state, that, without assistance, this laudable and charitable establishment must have fallen into entire decay.

The grand room of this building originally consisted of a large square, the corners being cut off by angles; on each side was a colonnade of Ionic columns, and Corinthian columns above, surmounted by a very large dome,

179

with a skylight in the centre; that side nearest , through which the company entered, was a semicircle without the square. The orchestra occupied the opposite side, and was also a semicircle. The angles were occupied by stoves in niches in the lower part, and statues in the niches above; a number of very fine statues were also placed in niches in the semicircular entrance, particularly of His Majesty, the Queen, and Britannia, in white porphyry. The whole of the building open to the public contained a suite of rooms.

, Masquerades advertised at guineas admission.

, The commemoration of Handel was celebrated here and at the Abbey (Mara was then exclusively engaged for the Pantheon). Their Majesties for the time were present at this place. The band consisted of performers, and persons were present.

Burney, in his Account of the Commemoration of Handel, says,

"This most elegant building far surpasses, in beauty, any other place appropriated to public amusements throughout Europe: it is infinitely more the wonder of foreigners than natives; and yet these, however often they may have seen it, still regard it with fresh admiration; and though it was natural to think it impossible that any thing could be added to the splendour of the structure, the original architect, Mr. James Wyatt, happily exercised his genius in preparing for the reception of Their Majesties, and effected it.

"The east and west galleries, and the passages behind the colonnade, as well as the gallery over the orchestra, were fitted up with benches for company. Over the entrance, and opposite the orchestra, was erected a gallery on Ionic pillars; in the centre of the gallery was placed Their Majesties' box, lined with crimson satin, and ornamented with looking-glasses, crimson damask curtains, with the royal supporters in gold, &c. &c."

, , A grand gala was given by the subscribers at Martindale's on His Majesty's recovery: of the nobility and gentry were present. At in the morning a lady called for "God save the King," which was sung and encored TWICE, accompanied by the band.

, , The Opera House was destroyed by fire. Mr. O'Reily, the Opera House proprietor, immediately took the Pantheon for years, at per annum; and Wyatt undertook to convert it into a theatre for guineas.

, , The new theatre opened with Armida, and Amphion and Thalia. Pachierotti, Mara, &c. singers; Didelot, &c. dancers. The license for Italian operas in the , was transferred to this place until the King's Theatre was rebuilt.

, , Half-past in the morning, discovered on fire. A new room was built at the back of the stage, for the scene painters, when converted into a Theatre. In this room the fire broke out, and it being locked up, the watchmen did not discover it for some time. The whole of the Theatre, scenery, dresses, &c. was consumed, but scarcely any of the adjoining buildings were even damaged. The front building, which is almost unconnected with the Theatre, was but little damaged. The loss was estimated at —only was insured

, The interior was rebuilt, and opened with a masquerade in April. Ashley intended to have removed his Oratorios from Covent Garden to this place; but a license was refused him by the Lord Chamberlain.

The building now assumed a totally different appearance; it was not now a Theatre, but a fancy sort of large room for music, masquerades, &c. A gallery went round sides of the room, to which there were staircases; under the gallery were small recesses of boxes, similar to those at Ranelagh for supper parties of about a dozen; each box being inclosed with a painted curtain till the supper was announced, when they all ascended. Masquerades, at guinea, including supper and wine, and at half a guinea, with tea and coffee, and a very few concerts, were occasionally given here till .

, Messrs. Gedge and Bonnor put forth a prospectus of a " for improving the manufactures of the United Kingdom, and the arts connected therewith; for promoting the general interests of its commerce, both foreign and domestic, established in the year of the Jubilee, A.D. , at the Pantheon, London." The prospectus stated that they had taken the Pantheon at a-year. The grand saloon was feet long, feet wide, and high, with other spacious rooms, some , some feet in length, beside convenient rooms for counting-houses, with extensive vaults, &c.; the floors contained square feet. An exhibition of every species of manufacture in every state, and every machine connected therewith—an office for mercantile information—gentlemen retired from business, who would undertake arbitrations, and arrange all partnership concerns—a general agency throughout the kingdom, and all parts of the globe—commercial chamber, comprising all London and country newspapers, pens, ink, paper, tea and coffee, and a constant correspondence with the and the public offices, and quick conveyance of important news to any distant part—a benevolent fund for manufacturers, artizans, and mechanics, &c. &c.: the whole to be carried on by subscribers to the several classes. This was acted upon in a small degree; many subscriptions were received, and the front building was fitted up, and the rooms opened; the grand saloon was also prepared for the exhibition, but suddenly the whole scheme was dropped. This prospectus held forth such plans, that, instead of the Pantheon, it would have required a space as large as Salisbury Plain to have carried it into execution. The thing was impracticable.

Colonel Greville, who had removed his to the Argyle Rooms, took the Pantheon of Gedge and Bonnor: having obtained a license from the Lord Chamberlain for music, upon a limited scale, at the Argyle Rooms, imagining he could transfer it to , and have another Opera House, he, in conjunction with a Mr. Cundy, a wine

180

merchant, caused the interior to be once more converted into a most theatre, containing private boxes. They soon found their error, and therefore, on , they opened the "" at Opera prices, with Italian burlettas and ballets; they mustered a very strong company—Bertinotti Radicati, Cauvini, Collini, Signor Fischer, Rovedino, Morelli, Bertini, &c. singers; The present Miss Stephens was a subordinate singer here. Leader, Spagnioletti—Scenery, Marinari—Composer, Trento—Ballet-master, Rossi—the ornaments by Signor Aglio—and a suitable ballet establishment. Notwithstanding this very strong company, and a determination and exertion of a number of the nobility to make this the fashionable rival to the Opera House, it failed almost immediately, and closed on the . Another night was announced for the , but it did not open. Greville shortly after very luckily got out of the concern, leaving Cundy the ostensible proprietor, though many of the nobility were in fact proprietors, having advanced money for their boxes; and also a number of tradesmen, who had accepted boxes instead of payment of their accounts. Thus were nearly which the Theatre cost, expended foolishly; but it happened to be of other people's money, who will never get a penny back.

, , another attempt was made to open it as an English Opera House, with The Cabinet and the Deserter, and on the , an information was laid against Cundy and the performers, by Mr. Raymond of the English Opera House, and Martindale of the Lord Chamberlain's Office: when the matter was heard at , Mash, the Lord Chamberlain's head clerk, avowed the information was laid by direction of the Lord Chamberlain. Cundy was convicted in penalties of each; and, on his giving notice of appeal at the quarter sessions, was informed an information would be laid for every performance. Hill, the stage-manager (who lately died in Jamaica), and several performers, were also convicted in penalties, but none of them were ever exacted; a few weeks terminated their season. The Theatre was considerably too large, and the expenses too great for such an undertaking. In the following December () it was again opened for ballets, pantomimes, &c. upon a very inferior scale, and lasted only weeks. Italian operas were then advertised to commence in a fortnight, but did not. The prices now were— boxes, ; pit, ; gallery, ; with price at half-past —boxes, ; pit ; gallery,

, , was sold by auction, under a distress for rent (viz. for years to Midsummer ), at Dalphin's Riding School, in , everything that could be moved, and that was left from other distresses previously put in for taxes; consisting of the scenery, dresses, properties, chairs, doors, orchestra, lamps, partitions, timber, &c. &c. Every door, seat, even nails, were drawn, and the whole of the pit taken up, floor and all; they fetched under and the sale lasted days: Cundy had for some time been out of the way.

, The Duke of Norfolk, on the , presented in the a petition from Nicholas Wilcox Cundy, for leave to bring in a bill to act the regular Drama at the Pantheon, stating its establishment in , being burnt in , his purchase of Greville, with the transfer to him, and refusal to license by the Lord Chamberlain; leave was given, and no more heard of it.

, Mr. Elliston was in treaty, and nearly concluded an engagement of the building, which was most fortunately for him broken off; for the place is too large even for a regular opera establishment.

 
 
Footnotes:

[*] "Abel, after these unsuccessful trials, took her in hand, and, in pure love for her voice and person, gave her instruction at his lodgings in the country, which being then at Fulham, gave occasion to one of her countrymen, who had long tried in vain to find Abel in town, to say, that he despaired of ever meeting with him, for he was always going to Foolish."—Banti died at Bologna, 18th March 1806. She caught cold upon her return from the Carnival at Venice, which brought on a fever, of which she died in a few days.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
collapseCourts, Halls, and Public Buildings
collapseSchools
collapseAlms-Houses, Hospitals, &c.
collapsePlaces of Amusement
collapseMiscellaneous Objects of Antiquity
collapseAncient and Modern Theatres
collapseTheatres
The Bull and the Bear Baiting,
The Red Bull Playhouse, Clerkenwell.
Fortune Theatre
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre
D'Avenant's Theatre Otherwise the Duke's Theatre, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Destruction of Drury Lane Theatre by Fire
Opening of Drury Lane New Theatre
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden
The New Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
New Theatre Royal, Haymarket
The King's Theatre, or the Italian Opera, Haymarket
Theatre in Goodman's Fields. The whole of Goodman's Fields was formerly a farm belonging to the Abbey of Nuns, of the Order of St. Clare, called the Minories or Minoresses, from certain poor ladies of that order; and so late as the time of Stow, when he wrote his Survey in 1598, was let out in gardens, and for grazing horses. One Trolop, and afterwards Goodman, were the farmers there. But Goodman's son being heir by his father's purchase, let the grounds in parcels, and lived like a gentleman on its produce. He lies buried in St. Botolph's church, Aldgate.
The Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square
The Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Olympic Theatre, Newcastle Street, Strand
Sadler's Wells.
The Pantheon Theatre, Oxford Street
Strand Theatre, the Sans Pareil
Astley's Amphitheatre, Westminster Road
The Regency Theatre. Tottenham Street Tottenham Court Road
The Cobourg Theatre
Royal Circus or Surrey Theatre
Lyceum Theatre, or English Opera, Strand.
Theatre in Tankard Street, Ipswich
Checks and Tickets of Admission to the public Theatres and other Places of Amusement.

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.

This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Antiquities
London (England)--Description and Travel
Wilkinson, Robert, d. ca. 1825
Bolles, Edwin Courtlandt
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/53839
ID: tufts:MS004.002.057.001.00001
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights