The 1810 Summer Season

By John Brokaw and Gilbert Cross

The theatre was again leased for the summer by Holland of Covent Garden. This year, he was joined in the enterprise by John "Jack" Bologna. A notice found in the Adelphi Scrapbook offered the following assurance: "Messrs. Bologna, Jr. and Holland are determined to strain every nerve in bringing forward such amusements as at least shall deserve the liberal sanction of a generous public" (25 July 1810).

John P. Bologna and his wife had been with Charles Dibdin, the younger, at Sadler's Wells and Dublin for several years. The announcements for this season claimed Bologna and Mrs. Wybrow were the first Harlequin and Columbine in Europe. Even allowing for the usual puffery of nineteenth (and twentieth) century theatre managers, this statement serves to remind the reader of the quality of performances at the Sans Pareil--even in its early days.

John Bologna was often billed as "Junior." The father, his wife and two sons "Jack" and Louis, and daughter Barbara were all on the stage. John had some knowledge of chemistry and general science and was later to become a popular Lenten performer at the Adelphi. His "Pictorial, Optical and Mechanical Exhibitions" were popular for many seasons.

The season included several songs performed mainly by William Pearman, who was to become a major singer on the stage, and John Isaacs. The former sang "Bound Prentice to a Waterman" which was to be a favorite at the theatre. Isaacs was to suffer the terrible misfortune of losing his sight some twenty years later, leading to a benefit at Covent Garden where "the public so liberally expressed their commiseration" (Dibdin Memoirs, p. 102).

There were some dances, including a "hornpipe of three" and a "hornpipe in fetters." In the course of Fortune's Gift (28 May 1810), the comic dance from Mother Goose was performed by Richard Norman and Auld.

Master Edwards, four years old, performed "Protean exercises," but what various forms they took is not described. On May 28, despite his youth, he did a "drunken and dying" scene and on June 25 "several feats of activity"--again not described.

The number of performances this season is impossible to calculate accurately because sources are limited, but the season certainly lasted longer than the summer season of 1808. It was considerably less stressful than the season at the new Covent Garden Theatre which had been truncated by the "Old Price" riots, lasting from 18 September to 15 December 1809.

Pieces remained essentially non-dramatic, in keeping with Scott's magistrate's license. There was an emphasis on pantomime and spectacle performed by some of the prominent names of the stage, Richard Norman, Jack Bologna, and Mrs. Wybrow. There were three ballets because the company was composed in part of the Covent Garden Corps de Ballet.

It was the last summer season for these Covent Garden performers, but it is safe to assume the public was satisfied Bologna and Holland had "strained every nerve" and gained "the liberal sanction of a generous public."

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

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