The 1813-1814 Season

By Frank McHugh

The Scott and Giroux families combined their forces for the last time this season. Appropriately, the playbill for the first week announced only two pieces, a melodramatic spectacle by Jane M. Scott, Raykisnah The Outcast; or The Hollow Tree, and a ballet by Gabriel Giroux, The Fairy of the Fountain; or Cupid and the Giant, "a new grand ballet in the opera style." George Reeve composed the music for both pieces. In his mention of the 1813-14 season E. L. Blanchard singled out The Fairy of the Fountain for praise. "It was very attractive this year," he wrote in his "History of the Adelphi." That ballet was performed just eighteen times; but in a rather short season when no fewer than nineteen pieces were presented, many pieces ran five or six nights, and only three played more than thirty times--Raykisnah, the Christmas pantomime The Magicians; or, The Enchanted Bird and Whackam and Windham.

Both Miss Scott and Gabriel Giroux were very productive. Just how prolific Jane M. Scott was is shown in the notice on a 28 February bill that The Inscription; or, Indian Hunters was "the 27th burletta written by Miss Scott and performed in this theatre." Nine Jane Scott pieces were produced in 1813-14, five of which had proven themselves in past seasons. Of her four new pieces two would be revived in later seasons, one of these, Whackam and Windam, being perhaps her most original and successful comedy. The Theatrical Inquisitor, usually less than enthusiastic about Jane Scott's work (in August, 1814, it would describe the pieces written for the Sans Pareil as "vile trumpery"), praised Whackham and Windham:

It does infinite credit to the literary talents, and scenic skill, of its fair writer, Miss Scott, and we augur that had it been acted at either of the winter theatres, it would have placed her in the first class of our modern dramatic authors: as it is, she must be content to know, that it is by far the best production we have witnessed this season: and that the treasury of her father has greatly profited by her exertions (February 1814, p. 128).

Giroux created five new pieces, The Fairy of the Fountain, Florenski and Nina, Love in the Grove, The Milk Maid and The Treble Lover. But these were only part of his total contribution as ballet master, choreographer and performer.

In four of the first five weeks only two pieces were announced for each evening. This is a reminder of how important incidental entertainments at the Sans Pareil were in this era, only a small fraction of which were ever included on the bills. For example, Andrew Campbell's "imitations of several distinguished performers" was the only variety act mentioned for the first week. Possibly the most popular of the incidental entertainers was the low comedian and singer Lund. John Scott knew the value of his new performer. In the bill for 29 November he asserts, "Mr. Lund will not sing or perform at a benefit announced at the Lyceum Theatre this evening as his name is improperly inserted, and without permission of the manager of this theatre, to whom he is exclusively engaged for the season." Other popular singers included the fine actor James Villiers and a Miss Watlen. Johannot sang on two evenings in March. On Villiers' benefit night Miller, Mezzia (or Messiah) and Hunt returned to sing favorite songs, and Widdicomb "by particular desire" sang "Bucks Have at Ye All!" In addition to the frequent Campbell imitations of famous actors, Rees Sr., gave his own imitations at least once. The dancing featured the Girouxs, Swan, Flexmore and other members of the company.

The performer roster lists only twenty-four actors and seventeen actresses for 1813-14. Bemetzreider makes his first few appearances this year but becomes an important dancer and actor in the next six seasons. Flexmore and Campbell return to the Sans Pareil after intervals of several years. When Campbell first gave his imitations he was, according to E. L. Blanchard, a government clerk and amateur entertainer. This season he appeared sixty-four times as an actor, in addition to giving his entertainments. Flexmore, "Master Flexmore" in 1807-08, was a principal dancer in 1813-14. He was father to Richard Flexmore (1824-1860), the famous dancer and pantomimist, but David Mayer points out that Flexmore Sr., was well known in his own right and was one of the three most skillful players of the pantomime Lover, the others being James Parsloe and William West. "Each of these actors," Mayer says, "was better known as a 'posture master' than as a comic actor." In the role of Lover, these dancers " were exploded from mortars, dismembered, daubed with stove blacking, flung in the mud, laughed at, spurned" (Harlequin in His Element, p. 44). In the Sans Pareil pantomime of this season, The Magicians; or, The Enchanted Bird, however, Lover was played by Widdicomb. Young Flexmore played Clown for the first time.

Again Bologna Jr. gave his mechanical exhibitions during Lent. A 23 March bill shows that his presentation was divided into four classes. In Class I various mechanical contrivances were exhibited: a windmill, a clock-work piano, two automaton figures and "the astonishing rope-dancer." In Class II "automaton shadows" were projected. In Class III an experiment in optics "portraying the shadows of the living and the dead" and "a grand display of experiments in hydraulics, of fire and water" were presented. In Class IV fireworks were ignited, "forming Temples, Groves, etc., etc., without the smallest appearance of gun-powder or smoke."

There were benefits--all quite lively, to judge by the many visiting performers who appeared--for Miss Scott, Villiers, The Giroux family, Schoengen, Mrs. Batten and Stebbing. This season of approximately ninety-eight evenings began 22 November 1813 and ended 12 April 1814.

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

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