The 1843-1844 Season

By Franklin Case and Mary Case

No change occurred in the proprietorship of the theatre this season; Thomas Gladstane continued as the lessee. The stage manager was Edward Stirling, who, as in the previous season, also served as the in-house dramatist. His piece, The Bohemians, was by far the most played (seventy-one times).

This was a year in which the New York Morning Herald bade farewell to English drama. "It is evident that the English drama on both sides of the Atlantic is on its last legs. And it is also very clear that this state of decrepitude has been the result as much, if not more, from the want of machinery to keep it up, as from the change in public taste" (Theatrical Observer, 3 January 1844).

In England, adaptations of Charles Dickens' novels continued unabated. A Christmas Carol was dramatized at four theatres, and Edward Stirling's version proved as popular as his Barnaby Rudge of the season before last.

A review from the Times is indicative of the high acclaim accorded A Christmas Carol.

In it the whole comic strength of the house is engaged, and all play their parts well. The spectral appearance of the defunct partner of the old miser is admirably managed--a better ghost was never put upon the stage. He renders night not only hideous but ludicrous, and many of the more unsophisticated part of the audience scarcely know whether to be frightened or to shake with laughter. Mr. O. Smith, Mr. Wright, Mr. Forman, Mr. Sanders, and Mrs. F. Matthews played their parts well. The house rewarded their exertions by long, loud, and rapturous applause.

Other papers were equally positive in their reviews. the Morning Chronicle, the Examiner, Morning Post, Sunday Times, Bell's Life in London, and Weekly Dispatch all gave excellent, favorable reviews:

A burlesque version of Richard III was performed in February. The same piece was being occasionally played at Drury Lane, somewhat incongruously yoked with Harlequin And King Pepin. Charles Kean was playing the evil Richard. The Adelphi piece was highly ludicrous, and "Wright greatly added to the humour of the burlesque by imitating Charles Kean, and in the last scene where he fights with Richmond, he convulsed the house with laughter" (Theatrical Observer, 14 February 1844).

In March a new melodrama was played. Titled Ulrica; or, The Prisoner of State, it commanded a large cast, new scenery, and splendid effects. The plot gives some idea of the piece. Ernest de Frideburg (Lyon) is falsely charged with treason to his king, Frederick II, of Prussia (Braid). His daughter, Ulrica (Mrs. Yates), grows up in ignorance of her true parentage. She learns by chance of her father's imprisonment and goes to seek him, sinking exhausted at the mountain pass near her father's prison. Here she meets Herman, a dumb boy (Wieland) who is to be her father's gaoler. He bears a letter of recommendation from de Frideburg's enemy, the Count D'Osborn (Maynard). The dumb boy attempts Ulrica's life for a gold cross she wears. A sudden storm fortuitously precipitates Herman to his ruin over the cliff edge. Ulrica has his letter and becomes her father's gaoler in disguise. Count D'Osborn who has forced Ulrica's true mother to marry him, apprehends the father and daughter attempting to escape. He determines to kill de Frideburg, but the honest Burl (O. Smith) saves him. The King learns what has occurred and condemns the villainous D'Osborn to death. There is a subplot in which Phelim O'Tug (Hamilton) makes successful suit to Christine (Miss Chaplin). This Gothic melodrama failed to please, despite the efforts of the company, and had to be withdrawn after a dozen performances.

29 March was the last night of the regular season and was Wright's benefit, supported by Paul J. Bedford and James P. Wilkinson.

On this night the dance from Antony and Cleopatra Married and Settled, was performed by Wright and Miss Woolgar. it was the "gitanacachucacracoviennebolerotarantella." The night's performance culminated with fireworks. As the bill put it, "Mr. W. H. Darby, Artist to the Royal Gardens, Vauxhall, and the Theatres Royal, will, at the termination of the Performance, exhibit a Superb Display of Fire-Works! In representation of the Finale to a General Pyrotechnic Display, as exhibited in the Gardens of Versailles. This Beautiful Tableaux will encompass the entire stage."

The post seasonal entertainment saw the ever-popular Henry Anderson, The Great Wizard of the North, returning to the Adelphi. He was assisted by Malone Raymond--"the clever representative of Hibernian characters." Raymond had successfully given his dramatic and musical monopolologues in Liverpool and other provincial towns.

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

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