‘Somewhat removed from the text of Shakespeare’

This was fun to catalogue.  Not only because it’s a triple bill (500 × 735 mm), but because it promotes an extravaganza at London’s Olympic Theatre in April 1853, the highlight of which was a Macbeth burlesque by Francis Talfourd (1828–1862).

Multi-production theatricals became increasingly popular throughout the nineteenth century, and this programme of entertainments follows a familiar lively format.  The evening opened with a one-act comedy entitled Faint Heart never won fair Lady! by jobbing playwright and herald James Robinson Planché (1796–1880), whose work was known for ‘running the entire gamut of dramaturgic taxonomy from burletta and masque to high drama and grand opera’ (Oxford DNB).  This was followed by Uncle Crotchet by Mrs Alfred Phillips, who appeared as Lady Macbeth in the following production, and two final one-act vignettes.

The highlight of the evening, Talfourd’s Macbeth ‘somewhat removed from the Text of Shakespeare’, was originally performed as Macbeth Travestie at the Henley Regatta in June 1847, and afterwards opened at the Strand Theatre in January 1848.  The present playbill advertises its second London production, and provides an amusing scene-by-scene synopsis, along with an irreverent list of dramatis personae.  The final section features an arch-comic piece offering spurious justification for what was evidently an eccentric array of costume: ‘I have introduced the tunic, mantle, cross gartering and ringed byrne of the Danes and Saxons, between whom it does not appear that any material difference existed …  Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, is described by Snorre as wearing A.D. 1066 a blue tunic and handsome helmet; but, as gentlemen of this period were not remarkable for honesty, it is by no means impossible that they properly belonged to someone else.  Roderick, King of Strathclyde, is mentioned as sleeping on a feather bed, proving, somewhat paradoxically, that, however downy the pillow might be, he was sufficiently wide awake to be down upon it.’

An alumnus of Eton and Christ Church, Oxford (where he co-founded the Oxford Dramatic Amateurs), Talfourd was notionally engaged in practising law, but was known chiefly as the writer of classical and Shakespearean burlesques such as the one advertised here.  His obituary in The Athenaeum noted that ‘Talfourd … has left the world with little or no adequate witness of his powers—the travestie and burlesque in which he revelled showing but one, and that the poorer, side of his gay and brilliant intellect.’

For more information on the playbill, see my recent list on The Stage.

 

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‘A refined image of disability’

The full caption reads: ‘ ‘This extraordinary young Man was born Dec.r 18. 1769, at Hook, in Hampshire, without Arms or Legs, as here delineated, occasioned as his Mother supposes by a Fright she suffered when pregnant with him.  Notwithstanding these Disadvantages he has by industry acquired the Arts of Writing & Drawing, holding his Pencil between the Stump of his Left Arm and his Cheek & guiding it with the Muscles of his Mouth.  In order to assist these extraordinary Efforts of Ingenuity, this Drawing was presented to him by Mr. Robertson, & Mr. Fittler kindly super-intended the Etching.  This Print is Sold by T. Inglefield at No. 8, Chapel Street, Tottenham Court Road, where Ladies & Gentlemen may see him & many more of his Performances.’

It seems only two portraits of the artist and etcher Thomas Inglefield were produced in the eighteenth century, both in 1787.  Both ‘display him working.  In the portrait by Samuel Ireland, Inglefield sits at his drawing board, drawing a pastoral scene, in an image that is intended primarily to demonstrate his ingenious way of holding and guiding his pencil using his cheek and arm.  The picture of a tree that he is engraving is also perhaps chosen to align Inglefield with the natural world to show that in spite of his unusual appearance he is part of natural creation.  The image, in which Inglefield’s face is partly obscured, therefore portrays him as an object of wonder, with much emphasis on his unusual physical characteristics.  The Portrait of Thomas Inglefield Etched by Himself, however, while also showing his manner of working, places much more emphasis on the subject’s humanity.  Inglefield’s handsome face and thoughtful expression compel the viewer to engage with his humanity.  Inglefield is portrayed as well-dressed, his “deformed” legs concealed by his trousers, and the stump not used for drawing discretely hidden in a sling.  The portrait presents a refined image of disability which focuses on the industry and sensibility of its subject.  It is an image that registers physical difference, but conceals its more “shocking” elements, protecting viewers from discomfort.  Although etched by Inglefield himself … the image, while emphasising Inglefield’s extraordinary abilities, is placed in the context of late eighteenth-century sensibility and humanitarianism, emphasising the kindness and assistance of the engraver’s benefactors’ (David M. Turner, Disability in Eighteenth-century England: Imagining Physical Impairment, p. 99).

 

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A thick-skinned English journalist

Something else I shall have on my stand at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair next week is this, a curious Russian lithograph from the 1850s:

It’s entitled ‘The editor of the English newspaper “The Times” and the Russian bootmaker’, and highlights The Times’ position during the Crimean War.  In the image, the editor complains to the bootmaker that he has torn his mouth through shouting on behalf of Russia, which the bootmaker has set about to repair, remarking (to himself) ‘what thick skin this man has’.

John Thadeus Delane (1817–1879) was editor of The Times for thirty-six years, 1841–77.  ‘Under Delane’s editorship The Times was loosely identified with Liberalism … [and] the power of The Times in opposition to government was seen very clearly during the Crimean War, when Delane felt it was his duty to condemn those directing the war …  In his lifetime Delane was widely regarded as the unquestioned head of the journalistic profession, who had done much to raise the tone of journalism.  Some of his innovative methods of reporting news, which included the use of interviews, and his Crimean and other “crusades”, foreshadowed the “new journalism” of the later nineteenth century’ (Oxford DNB).

For further details of this, and other recent acquisitions, please click here.

 

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French journals, personified

As I wrote last week, I am currently getting ready for the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia.  Something else which will be on my stand is this, a large (445 × 537 mm) hand-coloured French lithograph.  I bought it not only because it was attractive but because it pertains to the history of the freedom of the press, a subject which interests me.

The dissolution of the Chambre des députés, the lower chamber of the French Parliament, by Louis XVIII on 24 December 1823—the aim of which was to nip any disaffection with the censorship laws in the bud—was to be followed by elections which swept away the liberals.  The creator of the present lithograph juxtaposes the sobriety of parliament for the almost carnival nature of the press: fifteen characters at the bottom of the print represent, anthropomorphically, various journals current at the time: Le Moniteur universel, Le Drapeau blanc, Journal des théâtres, Journal des débats, etc.

 

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The Foundling Hospital Collection

I am currently getting ready for the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia, at which I shall be exhibiting, among other things, some nice eighteenth-century English music, recently acquired.

This is a copy of what’s known as the Foundling Hospital Collection, a fashionable volume of hymns and psalms which went through eight different printings between 1760 (a sole copy known, at Illinois) and 1809.  This one dates from c.1780, and reprints the greatly expanded 1774 edition (the first with the new title-page etched by Sanders, depicting a woman, children, and with the Hospital chapel in the background), but with a new letterpress section at the end, giving the words to four anthems by John Stanley (1713–1786), the famous blind organist of the Temple Church, and six by Maurice Greene (1718–1755), late Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first children’s charity, had been established by Thomas Coram in 1739.  ‘The Hospital chapel, in use by 1749 and officially opened in 1753, soon became well known for its music as well as for its elegant architecture and adornments …  The singing of the children at ordinary Sunday services was a great attraction to fashionable London and became an important source of income to the Hospital through pew rents and voluntary contributions.  Music was specially composed and arranged for the Hospital chapel, and the success of the singing led to a demand for this music, which was met by the publication of a book called Psalms, Hymns and Anthems; for the Use of the Chapel of the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children.  It is generally known more informally as the Foundling Hospital Collection’ (Nicholas Temperley, ‘The Hymn Books of the Foundling and Magdalen Hospital Chapels’, Music Publishing & Collecting: Essays in Honor of Donald W. Krummel (1994), p. 6).

By the mid 1790s, ‘further efforts were made to render the services more attractive.  A special Chapel Committee was set up in 1795 …, [which] asked the Secretary to “report upon what has been done with respect to a new publication of the Hymn Book.”  No report emerged, but a completely new edition of the hymn book did appear, with a shortened title Psalms Hymns and Anthems for the Foundling Chapel, a new pictorial title-page  …  Musically, this edition is no great advance on its predecessors, but there are a few solos …  The other added pieces are chiefly traditional texts and tunes, and the only new composer is Thomas Arne, in a tune borrowed from the Magdalen Chapel Collection’ (op. cit., pp. 15–16).

 

 

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Many a slip

This is a copy of the first appearance in print of Il musico prattico, by the Maltese composer and theorist Francesco Az[z]opardi (1748–1809).  It was later ‘introduced as a textbook in Paris by Grétry: Cherubini based the 19th chapter of his treatise Cours de contrepoint (1835) on its analysis of imitation’ (New Grove).  The translator is Nicolas-Etienne Framery (1745–1810), a successful librettist, critic, and erstwhile editor of the Journal de musique and, later, the musical section of the Encyclopédie méthodique.  The title-page here styles him ‘Sur-Intendant de la Musique de Monseigneur Comte d’Artois’, but the name—‘comte d’Artois’ was the title used by Louis XVI’s youngest brother, Charles—has been crossed out in manuscript ink.

Something else that has happened to the title-page is the use of a printed paper slip to change the imprint.  This is a practice one sees every so often with eighteenth-century books, but this example was a first for me: the imprint has been altered twice.

The original imprints reads ‘A Paris Chez Le Duc’, which was first changed to ‘Chez Louis’, then ‘Chez [Jean-Jérôme] Imbault’, a well-known violinist whose music publishing business grew in stature in the 1790s and early nineteenth century.

For more details of this, and other books from the eighteenth century, please click here.

 

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Self-ruin and Shakespeare, a novel

This is a book I’ve only had once before, and I was pleased to find it again.  It’s the first edition of a novel which appeared the following year in English translation, in both London and Dublin, as The Englishman’s Fortnight in Paris; or, the Art of ruining himself there in a few Days.  The ‘Londres’ imprint here is fictitious: the book was actually published in Paris.

Another untruth about the title is that it is not a posthumous work by Laurence Sterne, but an original novel by the quarrelsome young Jacobite Sir James Rutlidge (also Jean-Jacques Rutledge, 1742–1794).  Born in Dunkirk, of French–Irish descent, and brought up bilingual in English and French, ‘Rutlidge’s principal claim to fame was his promotion of English literature in France.  In Observations à messieurs de l’Académie française (1776) he provided a spirited defence of Shakespeare’s superiority over French dramatists, attacking Voltaire for his earlier criticisms of the English writer’ (Oxford DNB).  Such criticism also appears here, with a 12-page preface devoted to the defence of Shakespeare against the claims of Voltaire, and incidental reflections on the comparative merits of French and English literature scattered throughout.

The novel itself tells the story of the rapid demise of a young English aristocrat during a visit to Paris.  Seduced by the glittering beau monde, he attends balls, the races, galleries and the theatre, and (naturally) falls in love but, in a series of unfortunate events, loses all his money and finds himself imprisoned for debt.  The novel’s critique of French society made it notorious in its day, especially since Rutlidge neglected to disguise several of its characters, notably the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze whose atelier the hero visits, occasioning a discussion on the decadence of contemporary French art.  Despite its obvious caricatures, it is a serious comparison of English and French character and must be worthy of a modern reprint.

For details of this, and other recent acquisitions, please click here.

 

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Transvestite circus performer turned novelist

One of the (almost daily) joys of working with old books is discovering something you never knew before.  With this book, a novel published in Berlin, 1862–3, it was a new author: Emil Mario Vacano.  Often cited in histories of gay writing, Vacano (1840–1892) is certainly ‘one of the strangest literary figures of the nineteenth century’ (Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie): a transvestite circus performer from Moravia who specialised in high-wire acts and feats of horsemanship before devoting himself to writing in 1861.  His circus life provided the meat for many of his early novels, such as Moderne Vagabunden, the fictitious autobiography of Speranza Orbeliani, born in Valparaiso to a German acrobat couple but now touring America himself with the circus.

As stated on the cover, the inspiration for the book came from the 1852 novel Die Vagabunden by the popular writer Karl von Holtei (1798–1880).  Critics at the time, however, accused Vacano of plagiarising an even earlier work, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845).

The attractive lithographed cover illustration depicts various characters in the book, including Vacano’s own alter ego, ‘Miss Ella’, balancing en pointe on the back of a horse.

 

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A composer and his copyright

Here’s something else for the Edinburgh book fair: an interesting piece of music, published 1834/5, with local connections (and a fine lithographed title-page).

Charles H. Purday (1799–1885) was a composer, writer, and lecturer on music, the youngest son of the bookseller Thomas Purday (1765–1838).  ‘In his retirement he advocated reform of the copyright laws, seemingly because of injustices he had himself suffered, and in 1877 he published Copyright: a Sketch of its Rise and Progress’ (New Grove).  The reason for this interest in copyright laws stems from his song The Old English Gentleman, for which Purday had been taken to court twice in 1834—by Scott’s friend William Henry Murray, manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, and James Dewar, director of music at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh—for allegedly pirating the song.  ‘In the year 1826 [Murray] published a song under a similar title, the idea and the words of which were taken principally from Percy’s Reliques of Old English Poetry.  In 1830, on occasion of the piece called Perfection being performed at Edinburgh, [Murray] made an addition of three verses to the former song, and sung it at the Edinburgh Theatre in its altered and amended state.  He handed it over with the additional words to Mr Dewar … and [he] handed the song to Mr Robertson, a publisher, to be engraved and published.  The song was accordingly published, and after a second edition had come out in Edinburgh, it was published by Mr Cramer … in London.  Between the last two editions, [Purday] published a song so very similar in title and words as to leave no doubt that it would be taken for the original song …’ (The Times, 13 June 1834, p. 6).  The defence showed that the song existed in various other forms, and that Purday had not taken it from Murray’s version, and he was acquitted.

The following week, Purday was once again in the dock, for plagiarising the music, during which Dewar’s lawyer called a number of well-known musicians to take the stand, including Sir George Smart, Henry Bishop, Thomas Attwood, and Ignaz Moscheles.  ‘Much laughter was excited during the trial by the attempts on the part of the counsel and witnesses to give the jury distinct ideas of the differences between the melodies of the three airs … being restrained from explaining either by vocal or instrumental performance’ (The Times, 18 June, p. 4).  A nonsuit was entered, as the jury found there was not enough evidence of Dewar’s copyright.

For further details of this, and other items I shall be exhibiting in Edinburgh, click here.

 

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For St Patrick’s Day

I may only have just returned from the New York Book Fair, but next week I’ll be off to Edinburgh.  This year is going to be a busy one.  One book I shall on my stand there is this:

Published in 1745, this is the rare first edition of Burk Thumoth’s collection of Scottish and Irish airs.  Thumoth was an Irish musician, who performed as a trumpeter and flautist in both Dublin and London.  He published little, but this book is important as ‘one of the earliest printed sources of Irish traditional airs’ (New Grove).  According to one source, the book was a favourite of Thomas Jefferson’s.

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