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Report from the Select Committee on Dramatic Literature, with the minutes of evidence : ordered, by the House of Commons, to be printed, 2 August 1832 online

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interest ; but I say so merely in a pecuniary point of view.

3447. Do you know for what species of entertainment the Olympic is licensed?
— I have understood for the performance of burletta.

3448. What is burletta?— It is a difficult thing to define; but the common
understanding of burletta, is a short piece with songs and dances.

3449. Do you consider that burletta is altogether a satisfactory term, that it is
one which cannot be easily misinterpreted or evaded ? — It is a term that is very
often evaded, but according to the common understanding, I believe, it cannot be
misinterpreted ; there are pieces which are perfectly well known and understood to
be burletta ; Midas is burletta.

3450. Do you consider that it is possible to give any definition of the regular
drama which shall be exactly binding in law ? — No, except by negative. I could
tell you what the regular drama is not ; but it would be very difficult to define it

3451. Did you ever see it defined? —I never did.

3452. It would be very difficult to give that definition to the regular drama which
should be legally binding ? — No, it would not be difficult if you were to take up the
point now to say what should be legitimate drama, but it is a hard thing to say what
is legitimate drama at present.

3453. How


3453. How would you define it ? — I would say that comedy and tragedy without Mr. J. Poole.
any musical accompaniment would be regular drama.

3454. Then the sole distinction that you would make would be that of music ; if 3 July 1832.
there was music in your comedy, it would cease to be regular drama ? — If music is
introduced, as it is introduced into melo-drama, I think it would j but it is hard

to fix a satisfactory definition at a moment's notice.

3455. A comedy interspersed with songs, do you consider that legitimate drama?
— I think that if nature were not outraged in any way whatever in the piece, that
would be legitimate drama.

3456. Who should say whether nature was outraged? — That would become
a matter of taste, as it must be ; I do not consider the Lions of Mysore and pieces
of that description as legitimate drama.

3457. It would not depend altogether upon the number of acts? — By no means ;
I think you might have as good comedy in one act as in five.

Mr. Richard B. Peake, called in ; and Examined.

3458. YOU are the author of several pieces? — Of many. Mr. R. B. Peake.

3459. What has been your most successful piece ? — The piece entitled Before

Breakfast, performed at the English Opera-house.

3460. Does that retain its hold upon the stage ? — It was written for one per-
former, Mr. Mathews, who has not been in the company since.

3461. Is that a common thing among dramatic writers to write their pieces for
one performer? — It occurred with so peculiar a talent as that of Mr. Mathews, when
he has been engaged in the theatre.

3462. How many nights has that been acted in the theatre? — It was played
30 nights in the first season.

3463. How many pieces have you written altogether ? — I think I have written 40.

3464. Do you consider that you have been fairly remunerated for the time and
trouble you have bestowed upon those pieces ? — Upon the average, I may say yesj
that I am.

3465. Do you consider that it would be an advantage to actors and dramatic
authors to institute a law similar to that which prevails in France with respect to the
minor theatres ? — I think it would.

3466. Do you consider that it would be advantageous for authors to have more
theatres than Covent Garden, Drury Lane and the Haymarket, to take their
pieces to ? — I should conceive it would.

3467. What do you consider would be the effect upon the drama generally if
more theatres were allowed where the legitimate drama could be performed ? — I have
a difficulty in answering the question.

3468. Do you think it would be likely to degrade the drama ? — No ; I think not.

3469. You think, at all events, it would be beneficial to authors ? — Yes ; I should
think the larger the field the better it would be for the author.

3470. Do you think that any piece that is rejected by the managers of the two
great theatres is likely to be a bad piece, and unfit for the stage ? — I have never
had a piece rejected, and therefore I cannot say.

3471. Would not that depend upon the reasons given for its rejection ? — 1 should
conceive it would.

3472. The terms which the author might require would also be a cause of its
rejection, would they not ? — There are generally understood terms for a certain
species of production.

3473. Do not they vary very much ? — I have not found them so.

3474. What is the last successful piece that you have written ? — The Evil Eye.
347,5. Where is that performed? — At the English Opera-house, Mr. Arnold's


3476. It is now coming out, is it not ? — It was performed last night.

3477. Have you written much of the regular drama? — No, I have made but one

3478. Was it unsuccessful ? — It was successful.

3479. Why have you not attempted the regular drama more? — From the great

3480. What is the difficulty that you refer to ? — I think the making a five act
comedy a very difficult achievement.

3481. You mean as regards yourself as an author ? — Yes.

679. b b 3482. You


Mr. R. B. Peake. 3482. You do not find it is very difficult as far as actors are concerned? — No.

3483. Do you mean that the difficulty arises from your writing it, or from your

% July 1832. getting it on the stage ? — I think from my writing it.

3484. Had you ever any difficulty in getting good playing upon the stage ? —
I have never noticed it.

3485. You have never attempted tragedy ? — Never.

3486. Have you conceived that there are any means by which dramatic authors
may be better remunerated without being heavier burdens upon the theatres ? — No,
I have not.

3487. You have never considered the question of giving them a better copyright
for their writings ? — I have often considered that it would be a beneficial thing for
authors if it could be so arranged, but as to the means, I could not devise them.

3488. You know what property an author has in his copyright for publication of
a novel or any other book that he publishes ? — Fourteen years, and remedy by action
for any innovation.

3489. Do you conceive that giving dramatic writers the same right as that would
be an advantage to them? — I think that it would be a great advantage.

Mr. William Henry Settle, called in ; and Examined.

Mr. W. H. Settle. 3490. WHAT are you ? — I am common law clerk, or second clerk in the office of
"- ~~" Messrs. Lowdham, Parke and Freeth.

3491. Were you employed by the patent theatres to lay an information at Bow-
street against one of the minor theatres ? — We were the solicitors.

3492. Against what theatre? — Against the Tottenham-street theatre.

3493. What was the complaint against the Tottenham-street theatre ? — For
playing without letters patent or licence from the Lord Chamberlain.

3494. When you laid this information at Bow-street, did the magistrates give you
any assistance ? — Quite the reverse ; they evidently acted with a vast deal of par-
tiality towards the defendants.

3495. Did the magistrates seem to have given much attention to the law with
regard to theatres ? — With great deference to those gentlemen, I do not think they
understood the law with reference to theatres.

3496. Who were the magistrates? — Mr. Halls and Sir Richard Birnie.

3497. What evidence did you bring? — Actors belonging to the company of the

3498. Was their evidence received? — No, they refused to give evidence, having
acted in some pieces against which the informations were laid.

3499. How did you proceed then ? — We were advised by Mr. Adolphus, as the
case was so difficult, to summon a great many of the actors, under the supposi-
tion that from some of them, even from one, we should get the fact, that they
had played for hire, gain and reward, and without licence or letters patent, and
also that Mr. Chapman, the defendant, was manager, in conjunction with Mr. Lee.

3500. You say that the magistrates acted with partiality ; what indication did
they give of partiality towards the minor theatres ? — I need not of course state here
that it was considered a very unpopular measure on the part of the informer in
bringing forward such an information, and there was a great noise and clamour in
the office upon the least excitation of the people, and the magistrate smiled and
took part with the people, and did not keep up the solemnity of the court, as he
ought to have done.

3500*. How do you mean that he took part with the people ? — He laughed at
the evidence that we produced.

3501. You considered yourself unfairly treated? — Yes.

3502. What was the piece that was acted? — Various pieces ; there were various
counts in the information ; one of the pieces was, How to Rule a Wife, and Guy

3503. You say that your proceeding was unpopular ?— Treated so very much.

• 3504. Do you mean that it was unpopular generally, or unpopular in the court 1
— Amongst the auditors ; the office was very crowded.

3505. What sort of audience had you?— It consisted generally of performers,
and a great many belonging to the minor theatres.

3506. And your case was dismissed by the magistrate ? — The case was dismissed,
against the law.

3507, What



3507. What evidence did you give? — I got some of the performers from the Mr. W. II. Settle.

company ; I called them, as it is impossible to get willing witnesses on these occa- —

sions, and they were informed by the magistrate that they had no business to give 3 July 1832.
information without they liked, as they would subject themselves to penalties by so


3508. Was not the magistrate right in that ? — Probably he was.

3509. Did they give evidence? — Some sort of evidence, that was of no avail.

3510. What evidence did you give of their having acted for hire, gain or
reward ? — By payment of the money at the door.

3511. Did you prove that ? — Yes.

3512. By somebody that went on purpose ? — Yes, one of our own witnesses.

3513. Against whom was the information laid? — There were various informa-
tions ; the one that we proceeded upon was against Chapman, the manager, for
acting and causing to be acted.

3514. What followed ; did you proceed generally as having acted and causing to
be acted ? — We tried to prove that he caused to be acted, by giving directions to the
printer of the bills, and we called the printer to know from whom he received
instructions, and who paid him ; but he could give no evidence, he did not know
who gave him the instructions that night.

3515. Did not the magistrates tell him that he ought to give evidence? — No,
they did not say anything to him ; we tried to fix Mr. Chapman as having employed
him, but he said he could not tell on that particular night. The magistrates held that
we must fix it for one night ; we thought that a general employ for the whole week
or month would fix him, because we selected a week in which they played in Lent,
when other theatres were shut, in violation of the custom.

35 1 6. Was that all the proof which you gave ? — No, we called some of the actors
to endeavour to prove that Mr. Chapman was manager, but they could not tell.

3517. None of them could tell? — No. A man named Brown, who played on
a particular night, was examined ; he was asked whether he played, and he said he
should not answer.

351 8. Did the magistrates give any reason for their dismissing the complaint? —
Yes, they did ; they stated, that having alleged in the information that they played
without letters patent or licence from the Lord Chamberlain, the onus lay upon the
informer to prove the fact; and although a similar case had been decided by Lord
Kenyon that it was not necessary, he dismissed it : we tried it before Lord Ten-
terden afterwards, who decided it the other way.

3519. Did you not hear Mr. Minshull's evidence? — Yes.

3520. He put a very different construction upon the Act of Parliament? — Yes,
but he confessed, at the same time, that he did not know the law upon the

3521. But he said that he would convict upon the evidence of a spectator? — But
I doubt whether he would, if he came to consider it ; if you prove that a man is
manager, you could only do that by persons employed in the internal part of the

3522. Do you think he would exceed his duty if he did convict upon spectators'
evidence? — I think if he came to read that Act, the 10th, he would not convict.

3523. But Mr. Minshull said, it would not be necessary for the plaintiff to prove
the non-existence of the licence? — He said upon notice, he thought not.

3524. He said he should require the proprietor of the larger theatre to give notice?
— We had given notice to the manager to produce his licence, and also letters patent.

3525. Did Mr. Halls call upon the manager to produce his licence? — No, he
said that the onus lay upon us.

3526. Do you conceive that the onus lay upon you? — No, because I was aware of
a case decided by Lord Kenyon on the Game Laws, that was a case in point ; it was
a case that was tried before Lord Kenyon ; it was an information under the Game
Laws for sporting without a licence ; of necessity, the information must allege, accord-
ing to the words of the Act, that he did sport without a licence. The defendant's
counsel objected, that no proof having been given by the plaintiff that he had no
licence, he must nonsuit. But Lord Kenyon held, that the proof lay upon the
defendant ; that the proof that he had a licence lay upon him ; and that was our law.

3527. But did you not carry that evidence to the Court of King's Bench? —

3528. Did not the Lord Chief Justice consider that sufficient to convict ? — Most
certainly. Mr. Campbell, our counsel, said, that he should give no evidence of the

679, B b 2 patent


Mr. w. H. Settle, patent or of the licence. Lord Tenterden stated that it was not necessary to

prove it.

3 July 1832. 3529. Then Lord Tenterden convicted upon that evidence which the magistrates

refused?- -Yes.

3530. You consider it was necessary to prove the management in order to bring
home the penalty ? — Yes, for causing to be acted.

3531. And that you failed to do when before the magistrates? — Yes, the wit-
nesses would not speak, and the magistrates protected them.

3532. Did Mr. Adolphus, your counsel, put that case that was argued before
Lord Kenyon before the magistrates, and argue upon it? — No, he brought another
case, a similar case as to the owner of a smuggling vessel.

3533- Do you consider that you had any remedy against the magistrates for
deciding against you contrary to law ? — I was aware that there were remedies ; but
we thought it better to try the case, and show the parties that we could succeed.

3534. It would have been a cheaper plan to take your remedy against the magis-
trates, would it not ? — I doubt that.

3535. What remedy had you against the magistrates? — We could have gone to
the Court of King's Bench and have obtained a criminal information against

3536. In a criminal information, is it not necessary to prove that a magistrate
has acted corruptly ? — Yes, it is.

3537. Do you consider that you have a power under the Act of Geo. 2, to pro-
secute any actor that you see acting in an unlicensed theatre ? — I have ascertained
since I have been in this room, that it is so ; but I knew a case of Mr. Thomas
having taken some people up for acting without a licence, and the magistrates refused
to hear it without an information was laid ; but I understand that has been over-
ruled ; they took money at the doors.

3538. What was the cost of this proceeding against the theatres? — Very heavy

3539. Can you state to the Committee how much? — Yes, I should say about
700/. or 800/.

3540. Do you know what they recovered from the defendant ? — Not a shilling ;
it was merely to ascertain the rights more than to get any penalties.

3.541. Do you mean to say that they would not have obtained the penalties if
they could ? — No, I do not think they would ; I had never any instructions to
enforce them.

3542. Was Mr. Chapman put to any considerable expense ? — No, very trifling.

3543. They were not sufficient to ruin him ? — They were not more than
30/. or 40/.

3544. Did Mr. Chapman take the benefit of the Insolvent Act? — Not in conse-
quence of that proceeding.

3545. If the patent theatres had proceeded to recover the penalties, could they
have reimbursed themselves their expenses ? — Certainly not.

3546. Did you put down the theatre ? — No.

3547. Or obtain any good by the verdict you obtained ? — No, I think not.

3548. Might not you have reimbursed yourselves by the goods of the theatre? —
They did not belong to him ; he rented the house for 700 /. a year ; he had no
property ; he did not even pay the taxes.

3549. That had no effect upon the other theatres? — None at all; I should
rather say it encouraged them.

3550. Then the present state of the law is unsatisfactory ? — The difficulties of
getting verdicts under that Act are almost insurmountable.

3.551. Arising from the fault of the law itself, or from those who administer the
law ? — Not so, for I think the law is very clear, but from want of evidence ; we
cannot get evidence from any but their own company, and of course they do not
like to give evidence against their masters, and it is an impossibility to get them
to do so.

3.552. Do not you think that the best mode would be to proceed against one of
thejperformers rather than against the manager ? — I do not know : the same proof
is necessary if any party plays or causes to be played, or acts a part ; the same
evidence is required.

3.553. Have you served any notices upon the minor theatres that proceedings
will be taken against them if they perform the regular drama ? — There were notices
given some time past.

© 3554. To


3554. To what minors? — To all the minors except Sadler's Wells. Mr. W. H. Settle.

3555- Would proceedings against those be of the same nature as that which you

have undertaken?— It was not acted upon, it was merely to warn them that they 3 July i 8 3 2 -
were infringing the law.

3556. Have you taken any other proceedings, excepting that which you have
detailed ? — No, neither information nor action.

3557. Did the magistrates in the course of this proceeding suggest any opinion
as to the propriety of proceeding in this way ? — I cannot say that they made any
particular observation, but they seemed to treat it with a very great degree of

3558. The taking money at the door used to be constantly evaded, used it not?
— Yes, it is now, I think, frequently.

3559. Is there any way that you can suggest in which the difficulty of procuring
evidence would be lessened ? — None. As one proof of the difficulty I had, I called
on a very respectable gentleman belonging to the company to prove the hand-
writing of Mr. Chapman on the affidavit signed in Chancery, and he would not
swear it was his handwriting, because it was signed in full ; he had seen him sign
before, but it was his initials. Every difficulty was thrown in our way.

3560. If we were to make the law still tighter, it would not be any easier for
yourselves ? — Yes ; I think it might be. I should say that you might not require
so much evidence ; that the receipt of money at the door, and the proof that the
man rented the house, ought to be sufficient, and that it was a theatre ought to be

356 1 . Did they pay the taxes ? — No, they did not pay the taxes ; they evaded
it in this way : they took the house at a gross rent, which evaded the taxes.

3562. Would you make the house liable ? — Yes, the landlord, if it were let with
a view of conducting theatrical business in it.

Mr. John Ogden, called in ; and Examined.

3563. HAVE you paid considerable attention to the subject of the drama gene- Mr. J. Ogden.

rally ? — I have been an occasional visitor of the theatre for many years ; and I have

had a practical experience, as an auditor, of most of the houses, both major and

minor, in town.

3564. Have you any suggestions to make to the Committee respecting them? —
I beg to observe that I have not obtruded myself upon the Committee. I have
been required to attend in consequence of some persons who are concerned in this
question knowing that I am in the habit of expressing opinions on theatrical
matters, and thinking, as a member of the public generally (not having any interest
in any theatre either as actor or author), I might give an independent statement.

3565- What suggestions have you to make upon the subject ? — I should say, as
one of the public, that I should be glad to see the regular drama rescued from the
blighting effects of the monopoly at present claimed and partially possessed by the
patent theatres. I have, however, no private predilection for the minor theatres
or hostile feeling towards the major : there are material points in the manage-
ment of them all which I should certainly wish to see altered. I am therefore per-
fectly prepared to give an unbiassed opinion.

3566. Your opinion simply goes to this, that as one of the public, you are averse
to the monopoly ? — Yes.

3567. What monopoly? — The monopoly of representing the regular drama,
which is understood to exist in Covent Garden, Drury Lane and the Haymarket
theatres. I certainly think that monopoly very objectionable, both in principle and

3568. Does it exist ? — I do not say that it practically exists to the fullest extent ;
but it exists to so great a degree, that I consider it prevents the development of
much talent both in actors and authors.

3569. You would concur in giving the minor theatres the power of acting the
regular drama ? — Yes ; but I would not confine that power exclusively to them
and the majors. If this were merely a question between the existing larger theatres
and the existing minors, I should feel comparatively little interested in the matter.
My object would be to make the regular drama entirely open. I think that if talent
had a free course in regard to the theatres, the state of dramatic literature would
be much better than it is at present. When I consider the great anonymous and
other talent that is exhibited even in periodical literature, I cannot but think that

679. B b 3 much


Mr. J. Ogden. much of that diversified ability might be convertible to dramatic purposes ; and that

there would be many eminent authors who would write for the drama, under more

3 July 1832. favourable circumstances, who now do not.

3570. Is there not a much larger remuneration? — There may be at present, but
I conceive that that would not be the case if the regular drama were free to all the

3571. Have you signed any petition on this subject ? — I have not.

3572. If the monopoly was done away with, do you conceive that the great
theatres would be entitled to compensation for the loss that they might sustain ? —
I should beg to state that I consider that entirely a law question. Perhaps the
executive Government could not be expected to mix itself up decidedly with this
affair ; but if the Government would leave it to the attorney and solicitor-
generals to determine whether the patents are valid under all the circumstances
of the case, we should have some sure ground to proceed upon as to the question of
compensation. If those officers should certify that the patents of the great theatres
are valid, or that at any rate the proprietors are entitled to be paid for their interest
in them, the question would next come, what they are worth ; which again would
greatly depend on the profits, if any, they have made in any given reasonable num-
ber of years, of late date. If the patentees have not enforced the law upon minor
theatres, I do not feel that the public are bound particularly to sympathize with
them for any injury they may have sustained from those establishments. The law
has been open to them ; if they have not chosen to enforce that law I do not con-

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. SelecReport from the Select Committee on Dramatic Literature, with the minutes of evidence : ordered, by the House of Commons, to be printed, 2 August 1832 → online text (page 35 of 45)