By Richard Pearson (auth.)
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Additional resources for Victorian Writers and the Stage: The Plays of Dickens, Browning, Collins and Tennyson
59 The manager in the sketch is beset by job-seekers – an author, actor, billsticker (taking down bills), an ‘antique statues’ act, a lady with two children. Rejecting them all as the conventional fare of a struggling modern theatre, the manager declares he must think for himself if he is going to raise the public taste – but the public must do so too. Perhaps it is this sense of conventionality that makes the Preface to The Village Coquettes so full of defensive gestures. ’60 Dickens screened himself behind actor and editor.
In late 1829, the theatre was acquired by three new managers, John Kemble Chapman, Thomas Melrose, and George Alexander Lee who opened it with a new troupe of performers and a programme that included new plays. The move was a bold one and caused some consternation at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. One magazine described a recent production in these terms: We were attracted to this little theatre by a list of names that would do honour to houses of much larger pretensions. The company is principally composed of various members of the Haymarket and other theatres, who, finding the difficulty of exhibiting their talents with effect at the large theatres, have taken a little temple of their own, – forming themselves into a confederacy for making the winter months less dreary.
Chapter 6 explores the prospect of an earlier Messianic arrival in Tennyson’s plays of the 1870s and 80s. A metanarrative of dramatic salvation, a rags to riches story, paradoxically reinforces that hierarchy of ‘respectability’ over ‘illegitimacy’ and aligns modern critical sensibility with the views of the Victorian literary establishment. For many critics, the common-or-garden nineteenthcentury drama is only good for rejecting, or for finding the occasional writer who, in their primitive and unsophisticated way, prepare some mortar for a rebuilding.