The 1842-1843 Season

By Franklin Case and Mary Case

The Adelphi Theatre season opened on 29 September 1842, with The Owl Sisters; or, The Haunted Ruins! and closed on 9 September 1843, with a performance of the much-attended entertainment, The Great Wizard of the North. 7 April 1843, marked the end of the regular season. The evening ended with a farewell address by Mr. Lyon.

A major change occurred in the operation of the theatre this season. Thomas Gladstane was listed as the sole proprietor, Harry Beverley as the Stage manager, and O. Smith as the Melodramatic Director.

The season opener was a melodrama The Owl Sisters; or, The Haunted Abbey Ruins!, billed as an "original melodramatic romance" in three acts with "spectacle" and a cast of thirty. From the character names (such as Hubert, Michael, Garland, Gypsey Dallan, The Spectre Earl, Lizzard, Bess of the Woods, and Sylvanella), the scenery descriptions (ranging from the "rustic dwelling of Bess of the Woods" and "the lovers' trysting tree" to "the witch's cottage at nightfall" and "the hostelrie of the Dragon"), and the songs ("A Young Maiden Came to a Bachelor's Well," "The Frightful, Spiteful, Old Bachelor," and "A Nice Little Husband to Love"), we get a good sense of the elements of the genre. The "spectacle" was the "dreadful doom of St. Mark--transformation of the Owl Sisters," which apparently was staged to include a "spectre dance." The music from this play was published separately by Cramer, Addison and Beale, Regent St. and therefore could be purchased and played for private entertainment in drawing rooms and parlors throughout the city.

An early piece, The Miser's Daughter, gained the approval of the reviewer for the Theatrical Observer. "The author in this drama has raised a beacon to warn the erring and guide the inexperienced, forcibly inculcating the great moral lesson that vice, however prosperous for a time, will sooner or later meet with punishment and disgrace while virtue, whatever its trials and temptations, will ultimately secure a lasting and just reward" (25 October 1842). The author, Edward Stirling, was forced to take the role of the Miser when Lyon became ill. He acquitted himself with credit and subsequently travelled to Liverpool to play the role and superintend a production of the piece there.

The Merchant and His Clerks contained the same stern moral tone, and the Theatrical Observer approvingly detailed the plot.

There are two clerks, Bramber (O. Smith) a cold-blooded villain, the other, Mapleton (Lyon) all amiability and honesty and enjoying the implicit confidence of the merchant (Maynard). Mapleton is entrusted with the care of ten thousand pounds by Harford for a few days while he is abroad on business, and the faithful clerk in his over- anxiety, in a state of somnambulism, takes the notes from a strong box and deposits them under the floor, and he forgets entirely the circumstance. Suspicion is immediately firmly fixed upon him, on which he becomes mad, but after a time, on being as an experiment, removed to the house of the merchant, while in his sleep, discloses the mystery.

A farce, Yankee Notes for English Circulation, set in a boarding-house in Saratoga Springs, New York, provided a vehicle for Thomas D. Rice. The cast contained the usual humorous role descriptions implying a notable lack of sophistication in the New World: Major Dowbiggin of the United States Army; Silas Solomon Sprawl, Jr. "from the Banks of the Licking"; Julius Caesar Washington Hickory Dick, "a nigger help"; Miss Zip Coon, "a mulatto help"; and assorted "colonels, majors, niggers, and Down-Easters." The vocal music consisted entirely of "popular Negro melodies." Another piece also showcased Rice, who had announced his intention to return to America and become a farmer. He had come to England to buy cattle, "but a tempting offer from the enterprising Adelphi manager induced [him] to reappear in sooty habilements" (Theatrical Observer, 20 December 1842).

The pantomime, The Children of the Wood; or, Harlequin Nobody, possessed a "superabundant supply of all the requisite embellishments of beautiful scenery and artistic and mechanical display," according to the Theatrical Observer. Unfortunately Harry Beverley did not please as Clown. "This gentleman is entirely unfit for this character; he has neither agility or humour, two great requisites for such parts" (28 December 1842). George took the role within a week's time.

The summer program commenced on 17 April 1843, with a performance of The Great Wizard of the North and continued nearly unabated with that singularly fascinating performance for the entire summer. There were three dark nights on 22 April, 4 and 5 May, 1843, due to the death of Frederick Augustus, the Duke of Sussex. Otherwise, the Wizard performed his extraordinary feats of magic until 9 September 1843, just before the start of the new season.

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

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