The 1808-1809 Season

By John Brokaw and Frank McHugh

The Sans Pareil opened late this season but remained open for more than 140 evenings between 3 December 1808 and 13 July 1809. Two companies performed at the theatre during this time. The resident Sans Pareil company, under the management of Gabriel Giroux, ended its season 25 March (advertisement, 25 March LTM Collection). Holland of Covent Garden then took the house, as he had in the previous summer. However, there was no interval between winter and summer seasons, and there was overlap in the repertory and the performer rosters. The Bashaw, The Magistrate, and Mother White Cap were given under both managements, Mother White Cap running for two months after March 25. In the absence of sufficient playbills, it is impossible to know all the actors who stayed on from the winter season, but advertisements tell that Jane M. Scott herself performed for the first month of the second season. James Kirby, making his first appearance at the Sans Pareil on 4 March, played Clown to the end of the summer, And Madame Louis danced Columbine in both February and July.

The largely juvenile company of the 1807-08 season was succeeded this year by a small group of mature, skilled actors. Some of these had been at Covent Garden when it burned in September, 1808, including John Isaacs, Mrs. James F. Pyne and Slader. (It is possible that both S. Slader and Abraham Slader were at the theatre this season.) Lewin and Garbois, who were at Drury Lane when it burned in February, 1809, came in the summer. Mrs. Garbois made her "first appearance on any stage" at this time as well. An important member of the company was Kirby, at various times in his career clown, dancer, scene painter and acting manager. Denham returned for a second season, and Hunt, described by the younger Charles Dibdin as "a clever little man," stayed from January to April, when he went to Sadler's Wells. He returned to the Sans Pareil the next winter. Mrs. Ridgway was Columbine this summer, as she had been in the previous year.

Most of the pieces given through April were the work of Jane Scott. The Magistrate, her successful play of the preceding season, returned in December, 1808, for thirty-five performances. The Rout, a song and recitation piece from the 1806-07 season, was performed by her at her March, 1809 benefit. Miss Scott also wrote at least three new pieces for the present season. The Bashaw: or, Midnight Adventures of Three Spaniards, a "new musical melo Turkish piece," ran fifty-nine nights and was revived the next season. A laudatory review in the Times for 31 January said "places at the Sans Pareil Theatre will soon be at a premium if the proprietor continues to bring forward such pieces as The Bashaw.... Miss Scott plays and sings the female Bashaw to admiration, nor does she look the worse for the assumed mustachios.... The other interludes are various and excellent and we are happy to add that the house is uncommonly well attended" (clipping in James Winston's Adelphi Scrapbook). The whole strength of the company appeared in this piece, as it did in The Red Robber; or, The Statue in the Wood, a "grand new serio-comic spectacle" which ran the first sixty-seven nights of the season. Miss Scott's first pantomime, Mother White Cap; or, Hey Up the Chimney, played from February to May. Kirby was Clown and Lardner Pantaloon. Hunt and Lewin played Harlequin and Madame Louis and Mrs. Ridgway Columbine.

The latter part of the summer saw brief runs of many pieces: comedies such as The Glimmer; or Sir Solomon's Wedding; the spectacles Double Defeat; or British Tars and Austrian Troops and Female Courage; or The Banditti of the Rock; the ballets Rozelli and Rosa and The Fish and the Ring; and the pantomimes The Deserter of Naples and Harlequin Cottager; or The Wandering Fairy. E. L. Blanchard in his "History of the Adelphi" notes that Harlequin Cottager was "written by and produced under the direction of Mr. Kirby, who not only designed and painted all the scenery, but acted Clown to the Harlequin of Mr. Garbois and the Columbine of Mrs. Ridgway" (Era Almanack, 1877, p. 2).

The Sans Pareil was a lively variety house once again. Henry Hengler walked the rope in the winter and the famous "Charming" Jack Richer did the same in the summer. Garbois leaped over ten men, and James Kirby danced on two ladders. Andrew Campbell gave his imitations of London actors. He also sang, as did Miss Samuels and Miss Ingle, Slader and Miss Woods. Goodwin, later ballet master at this house for a season, danced on the same program with Mrs. Ridgway, and he danced with Miss Twamley from the Opera House. Though Giroux's dance pupils of the preceding season had departed, several children performed. Master Aubun, an "infant phenomenon" whom Dibdin introduced at Sadler's Wells the previous spring, helped open the season on 3 December. He was advertised as a self-taught violinist, five years of age. Master Whale, "under seven years of age," danced a pas seul in January. Master James Wallack, "late of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane," performed in July.

This season the Sans Pareil enjoyed some stability in its staffing. Gabriel Giroux was now an experienced manager. James Sanderson was returning for his second season as band leader and composer. Morris again designed and built the scenery. And John Scott, free from day-to-day managing, concentrated on the stage machinery and on his "splendid artificial fireworks, unequalled in Europe" (newsclip, 31 December 1808).

© Copyright 1988 by Alfred L. Nelson and Gilbert B. Cross

Thank you for visiting this site. If you wish to contact the various Editors, please visit the Editor's Home Pages.