London Stage in the Nineteenth Century

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 1 customer rating
(1 customer review)


This book fills a large gap: no other book conveys the essence of the age with such authenticity and wit. It is a unique record decade by decade, year by year, of all the major new plays, revivals, performances and productions.


Informative, accessible, witty and invaluable.

Richly illustrated with photographs, drawings, portraits and playbills.

Enhanced by acerbic quotes from the critics, as well as by quotes from the dramatists and actors.

Each year includes a list of world premieres, births, deaths, and major literary and historical events.

A delightful reference book; a pleasure to dip into at random.

London Stage in the Nineteenth Century is a fascinating record decade by decade, year by year, of great actors, famous performances, major premieres, celebrated revivals, and spectacular productions.

The book features legendary actors in their most famous roles, including Sarah Siddons, John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean, ‘Joey’ Grimaldi, William Charles Macready, Ira Aldridge, Edwin Booth, Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, Dan Leno, Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt.

Major premieres included the plays of popular writers such as Dion Boucicault, Tom Taylor, Tom Robertson, Henry Arthur Jones, Arthur Wing Pinero, Oscar Wilde, the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan and the notorious London debut of Henrik Ibsen.

The most celebrated revivals were of Shakespeare, although the spectacular productions of his plays were for the most part at the expense of his texts, which were rewritten, bowdlerised and disembowelled.

In an age when London was the largest and most important city in the world, its theatrical life was vibrant and expansive, reaching huge audiences.

The book contains over 220 contemporary illustrations of actors, productions, theatre buildings and playbills, all of which help to capture an era in which the public wanted the histrionic and the sensational, including erupting volcanoes, burning buildings, historical tableaux, reconstructions of military battles, and even a presentation of Henley Regatta, complete with real boats and 200 tons of water.

There was a wide variety of entertainment on offer. There were melodramas, comedies, farces, pantomimes and extravaganzas by J. R. Planché, burlettas, operas, ballets, musicals and music halls. There were regular adaptations of novels, most notably those by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, and numerous adaptations and plagiarisms from the French dramatists. There were plays based on recent murders and plays dealing with topical social issues, such as fallen women, poverty, crime, slavery and factory conditions. There were patriotic pageants, aquatic dramas, equestrian dramas, canine dramas, and even elephant dramas. London Stage in the Nineteenth Century is an invaluable and highly accessible reference book for theatre practitioners, theatre-goers, and students of the stage in London and beyond.

This is a book that theatre lovers everywhere will enjoy: flicking through the lavishly illustrated pages will reveal many great personalities, performances and productions, but also witty commentaries, acerbic reviews and astonishing facts about all aspects of the London stage.

  • Author: Robert Tanitch
  • Binding: hardback
  • ISBN: 978-1-85936-208-2
  • Pages: 360
  • Illustrations: over 220

1 review for London Stage in the Nineteenth Century

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Simon Callow, The Guardian

    riotously enjoyable … There have been many … accounts of the period … but none quite so vivid or as evocative as this irresistible compendium of the foibles and passing glories of the stage.

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