The 1816-1817 Season

By Franklin Case

Under its manager and proprietor, John Scott, the theatre opened its new season on 31 October 1816, with performances of Miss Jane Scott's The Conjurer; Leclercq's Alasnum and His Cottage Queen; or, The Adventures of a Night; and an unknown author's work, The Sportsman and Shepherd; or, Where's the Wig?. For this season, the interior of the theatre was newly decorated and embellished from a design by Mr. Orme of the King's Theatre. The British Stage said:

This house is worthy of its name, since of all the theatres in London, it can claim the praise of being the prettiest. The decorations and embellishments are all new and in the best taste, and the tout ensemble must be allowed by everyone to be uncommonly pleasing. The pieces produced and the actors in those pieces are of similar merit ... his daughter ... both as an author and an actress, evinces remarkable ability. In the burletta of The Old Oak Chest ... she is seen to great advantage in each of these capacities. The pantomime is far more laughable than either of those at the regular theatres. The Clown of Jones is not surpassed in drollery even by Grimaldi's (February 1817, pp. 31-32).

The twenty works attributed to Jane Scott certainly do attest to her skill as a dramatic author.

The Theatrical Inquisitor (December 1816) was as fulsome in its praise as the British Stage:

If we speak of this theatre, it must be in terms of unqualified approbation. Every thing is conducted with so much preciosity and care that we are lost in astonishment at their varied excellence. Those who wish a treat will do well to be of the party to Madelon's Dinner. The Clown of Young Jones furnishes an excellent dessert (p. 445).

In addition to the pieces, there were some lively interludes throughout the season, including a splendid whistler, a gymnast with remarkably strong teeth, and two highly spirited monkeys: Signora Jackini, the female, walking with a balance pole on the tight rope; and Signor Jacki, the male, performing on the slack rope. The bills indicate the popularity of such divertisements. For example, on 21 November 1816, Whackham and Windham; or, The Wrangling Lawyers included whistling, which the bill refers to as "performing with the mouth, without the aid of machinery or trickery, the most favorite airs, with appropriate cadences, equal to the finest execution, and after the manner of the voice flute." The virtuosity of the "Shropshire Whistler" was so admired that a later bill proclaims: "At the particular desire of the numerous frequenters of this theatre, the undernamed very famous burletta will be performed as an afterpiece during the week." This meant, of course, that the whistler would be heard again--and again. The monkeys, brought from the Ruggiere in Paris, were added to the 13 January 1817, performance of The Enchanted Island; or, Love Among the Roses. Later, on 17 March 1817, entertainment included James "Young" Jones playing the violin at the top of two ladders, singing a comic song, and dancing in "real wooden shoes." Also, Garthwaite, a gymnast, drew himself up to the top of the theatre by his teeth.

On January 7 1817, in British Stage, it is noted that "Mr. J. Jones, of the Sans Pareil, whilst fighting in the performance of The Old Oak Chest, a few evenings ago, accidently broke his sword, a piece of it flew into the pit, and wounded a lady on the head."

The Strand Theatre, The Sans Pareil, was regarded as a successful financial enterprise as noted in British Stage, February 1817: "We imagine the proprietor must be rapidly accumulating a fortune. His success is almost wholly to be attributed to the versatile talents of his daughter, who both as an author and actress, evinces remarkable ability."

The season closed on 29 March 1817, with The Crown of Roses, Mary, the Maid of the Inn; or, The Bough of Yew, and Camilla the Amazon; or, The Mountain Robber.

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

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