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in 'The Schoole of Compliments at the Duke of York's house,

1 Note, however, that in Act i. 2 of that mysterious play, Lady Alimony (reprinted
in Hazlitt's Dodsley), Trillo wishes the poet on his day " Full audience and honest door-

* For the allocation of the receipts at the Duke's Theatre in 1661, see Robert
W. Lowe's Thomas Betterton, p. 75. It was agreed that admission to this house was to
be by "ballatine, or tickets sealed for all doores and boxes," but, so far as the boxes
were concerned, the arrangement evidently fell through. Three persons were appointed
by the manager to receive the money for the tickets in a room adjoining the theatre,
and these were watched by others on behalf of the actors. What system was pursued
at the Theatre Royal a little later, we have no evidence to show.

Early Systems of Admission 103

and Henry the Fourth at the King's house ; but, not liking
either of the plays, I took my coach again, and home."

Playgoers were very tenacious of their privileges in
those days, and maintained them at the point of the sword.
In December, 1663, complaint was made to the Merry
Monarch that certain roisterers were in the habit of forcing
their way into the theatres without paying. A royal warrant
was at once issued, proclaiming the unlawfulness of such
acts "notwithstanding theire pretended priviledge by cus-
tom of forcing theire entrance at the fourth or fifth acts
without payment." 1 Late in February, 1665, the King
promulgated another edict setting forth that :

Whereas complaint hath been made unto us by our Servants,
the Actors in the Royal Theatre, that divers persons refuse to pay
at the first door of the said Theatre, thereby obliging the door-
keepers to send after, solicit, and importune them for their entrance
money. For the prevention therefore of those disorders, and that
such as are employed by the said Actors may have no opportunity
of deceiving them, our will and pleasure is that all persons coming
to the said Theatre shall, at the first door, pay their entrance money
(to be restored to them again in case they return the same way before
the end of the Act) requiring the guards attending there, and all whom
it may concern, to see that obedience be given hereunto, etc. etc. 2

Mean advantage was often taken of this privilege of
remaining for an act without payment. By dint of going on
successive days during the run of a new play, and of sitting
out the first act on the first day, the second on the second,
and so on, the impecunious or parsimonious gallant could
eventually see the whole of a reigning attraction gratis. In
the ballad-epilogue to his comedy of The Mans the Master
(1668), Sir William D'Avenant trenchantly girds at this
dishonest practice :

And some — a deuce take 'em ! — pretend
They come but to speak with a friend ;
Then wickedly rob us of a whole play
By stealing five times an act in a day.

1 Cf. Robert W. Lowe, op. cit. p. 24. On May 16, 1668, a warrant was issued
iterating this prohibition [State Papers, Dom. Series, Charles II, 1667-8, p. 395).

2 Collier, Hist. Dram. Poetry, iii. 341 note.

104 Early Systems of Admission

On the principle of" taste and try before you buy," this
concession of seeing an act gratis was so politic that it might
have proved satisfactory to all parties had it not been for
the evasions of the tricksters. Little notice having been
taken of his former warrants, Charles II issued, on 23 July,
1 670, a more drastic proclamation. Complaint having been
made that people were continuing to force their way into
the two theatres without paying, it was decreed that no
person was to come rudely or by force into either house
without paying the established prices. No money was to be
returned to any person whatever, but all leaving their seats
during the performance would be given pass-out checks.
No one was to be allowed to force their way in " by any
pretended usage of an entrance at the fifth act," and the
officers and guards attending the theatres were to take such
offenders into custody, or lose a day's pay. But for all the
heed that was taken of this edict, old Rowley might as well
have been the veriest monarch of opera bouffe. An import-
ant variant of the proclamation had at length to be issued
from Whitehall on 2 February, 1673-4. It began :

Charles R. Whereas complaint hath often been made unto us
that divers persons do rudely press, and with evil language and
blows force their way into our theatres (called the Theatre Royal
in Bridges Street and the Duke's Theatre in Dorset Gardens) 2 at
the time of their public representations and actings, without paying
the priceestablished at both the said theatres, to the great disturbance
of our servants licensed by our authority as well as others, and to
the danger of the public peace; our will and pleasure therefore is,
and we do hereby straightly charge and command, that no person
of what quality soever do presume to come into either of the said
theatres before and during the time of acting, and until the plays
are quite finished, without paying the price established for the
respective places. And our further command is, that the money

1 Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Vol. v, Royal Proclamations, 1485-1714 (Oxford, 1910),
No. 3536. Another order to the same effect was issued on 6 November, 1672 [State
Papers, Dom. Series, Charles II, 1672-3, p. 131). It dealt, however, only with the
Theatre Royal (as the Lincoln's Inn Fields house was then temporarily styled), and
presented an important new clause : "and particularly that no attendants of the nobility
or gentry take a place in the house without paying."

2 If the testimony of old engravings may be trusted the Theatre Royal (Wren's
house) had three front entrances, but the Duke's Theatre only one.

Early Systems of Admission 105

which shall be paid so by any persons in their respective places
shall not be returned again, after it is once paid, notwithstanding
that such persons shall go out at any time before or during the
play : And (to avoid future fraud) that none hereafter shall enter
the Pit, First, or Upper Gallery, without delivery to the respective
doorkeepers the ticket or tickets which they received for their money
paid at the first door. 1

It is to be noted that no mention is here made of the
boxes, and there, at least, one has some reason for believing,
gathering went on between the acts as in earlier days. The
old money-box had at any rate survived the repressions of
the Commonwealth, for Sir William D'Avenant, in the
ballad-epilogue to The Mans the Master (1668), already
referred to, tells the gallants about town :

You visit our plays, and merit the stocks
For paying half crowns of brass to our box.

By reference to the last stanza of the epilogue it will be
seen that this fraud was practised in connexion with interior
gathering, and not in making payment to a box at the
entrance door.

Other abuses soon sprang up. Many men of rank and
fashion, like Pepys' friend, Sir Philip Carteret, treated the
playhouse like a tavern, and " did run upon the score for
plays." 2 One has reason to feel thankful to the diary-
keeping Secretary of the Admiralty for his evidence on this
point, else one might have fallen into the error of looking
upon an allusion to the practice in Shadwell's comedy of
The True Widow (1679) as distorted satire. In a scene in
the fourth act of this play representing the pit of the play-
house the following colloquy occurs:

First Doorkeeper. Pray, Sir, pay me ; my Masters will make me
pay it.

Third Man. Impudent rascal! do you ask me for money? Take
that, Sirrah !

1 Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Vol. vi, No. 3588. This order is cited in extenso, under
a wrong date, in Percy Fitzgerald's Neiv History of the English Stage, i. 146. With slight
modifications, it was re-issued, under William and Mary, on 14 November, 1689
[Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser., 1689-90, p. 321).

2 A similar custom obtained in Paris in Moliere's time. See Victor Fournel,
Curiosite's Tbeatrales, p. 143.

106 Early Systems of Admission

Second Doorkeeper. Will you pay me, Sir?

Fourth Man. No ; I don't intend to stay.

Second Doorkeeper. So you say every day, and see two or three
Acts for nothing.

Fourth Man. I'll break your Plead, you Rascal !

First Doorkeeper. Pray, Sir, pay me.

Third Man. Set it down ; I have no Silver about me ; or bid
my man pay you. 1

Theodosia. What ! do Gentlemen run on Tick for Plays ?

Carlos. As familiarly as with their Taylors.

The occasional reference to the guard in royal warrants
of this period regulating the traffic at the theatres draws
attention to the fact that, shortly after the King came to his
own, officers had been appointed to preserve the peace in
the re-opened houses. In August, 1660, there had been
much tumult at the Cockpit in Drury Lane through the
soldiers making forcible entry into the theatre, and the
Duke of Albemarle had found it necessary to make a
proclamation 2 to the troops forbidding the practice. Three
months later the king issued a warrant to John Rogers
granting him authority to provide men to guard " the
publique playhouses and showes from all molestation,"
Rogers to be compensated by the imposition of five per
cent, on the theatre receipts, said receipts to be declared on
oath. 3 How long this irksome arrangement lasted it would
be difficult to say, but it would appear that shortly after the
opening of the first picture-stage theatres in Lincoln's Inn
Fields and Bridges Street, a military guard was appointed
to each theatre and that it stood throughout the perform-
ance at the front of the building. An old exterior view of
Wren's Drury Lane, as opened in 1674, shows in the
facade two niches designed as sentry-boxes and occupied
by musketeers. Requisite as this arrangement was in the

1 The instruction, "bid my man pay you," refers to the circumstance that foot-
men in attendance on their masters were allowed into the gallery free. Cf. article,
" A Restoration Playhouse " (dealing with the Duke's Theatre in 1676), in The Tribune
for 6 August, 1906. See also the anecdote related by Dr. Doran in Their Majesties'
Servants (1897), p. 94.

2 For a copy, see Egerton MSS. 2^42, folio 405 (in British Museum).

3 State Papers, Dom Ser., Charles II.

WREN'S DRURY LANE, BUILT IN 1674. [To face p. 106.

(Showing the niches for the armed guard).

Early Systems of Admission 107

days when gentlemen wore swords and drew them on the
slightest provocation, it sometimes created instead of allay-
ing tumult. Writing on Thursday, 17 December, 1691,
Luttrell records :

Last Tewsday a great disorder at the playhouse 1 , where the lord
Grey of Ruthen and viscount Longueville were knockt downe
and 2 other lords puncht with the butt ends of muskets; they
complained of the affront to his majestie, who referred them to the
house of lords, where they made application yesterday ; and the
lords thereon desired his majestie would be please to command
the suspending acting of playes till further order.

According to the inquiry 2 which took place in the House
of Lords on 1 7 December, it appears that Lord Grey (accom-
panied by his brother) tried to enter the theatre without
paying and that the sentry stopped him, and said he must
take a ticket. The evidence was somewhat conflicting, one
witness stating that the Sergeant of the Guard took Lord
Longueville by the shoulder and pushed him, and another
that the musketeers struck at his lordship's servant, and
that a musket went off accidentally in the melee. One of
the spiritual peers took advantage of this complaint to move
the total suppression of the playhouses, on the ground that
they were nurseries of lewdness, but the House was not in
accord with his sentiments, and merely directed that acting
should be suspended until further order, and that the
military should discontinue guarding the theatre. The
sergeant of the guard and a musketeer were committed to
the Gate House in Whitehall and kept in confinement for
several days. On 1 9 December, a petition was presented on
behalf of Alexander D'Avenant, Richard Middlemore, and
Andrew Card, sharers and adventurers in the Playhouse,
praying the removal of the embargo, and promising that
care would be taken "to prevent the like miscarriage for
the future." Feeling, probably, that the punishment had
been in excess of the offence, the Lords at once permitted
acting to be renewed.

1 Evidently Drury Lane.

2 Cf. Hist. MSS. Comtn. 1 3th Rep. (Hou3e of Lords, 1 690-1 .) App., Pt. V, p. 464.

108 Early Systems of Admission

It is difficult to know exactly how or when the subsequent
custom of placing two grenadiers on guard on either side of
the proscenium arch during the performance sprang into
being. * No very firm basis exists for the routine opinion
that it was purely the outcome of a serious riot behind the
scenes at the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre in February,
1 72 1. In the only authentic account we have of that dis-
turbance, Benjamin Victor's, 2 we read, "The King being
informed of the whole affair, was highly offended, and
ordered a guard to attend that Theatre as well as the other,
which is continued to this day." This has been interpreted
to mean that the King then ordered a guard to attend both
theatres, but it is doubtful if this is what Victor intended to
convey, especially as there is some reason to believe that the
practice was already in vogue at the Theatre Royal, Drury
Lane. On the previous page, Victor loosely quotes from
Whincop to the effect that "he says, the reason why he
sometimes writes the Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-Fields, and
sometimes the Theatre Royal in Lincolns-Inn-Fields, is
that in the year 1721 Mr. Rich obtained leave for a party
of the Guards to do duty at his house like the other, and
that gave it the name of the Theatre Royal." It is note-
worthy that Victor, in contravening this statement as to the
origin of the term Theatre Royal as applied to Rich's theatre,
makes no attempt to dispute the assertion that the guard
was already in existence at Drury Lane.

Kings might issue edicts but playgoers persisted in
pursuing the even tenor of their way. The fop maintained
his old right of seeing an act free as it ministered to his
vanity. " Then you must know," says Sir Novelty Fashion
to Narcissa, in Cibber's comedy of Loves Last Shift (1696),

my coach and equipage are as well known as myself, and since the
conveniency of two play-houses I have a better opportunity of

1 Cf. The Elizabethan Playhouse and other Studies. (First Series), p. 178. For some
anecdotes showing how the guard had been occasionally affected by the acting, see
The London Magazine for June, 1742, p. 292. In 1735, the nightly cost of the guard at
Covent Garden was apparently 145. See article, "Old Time Theatrical Expenditure,"
in The Stage for 23 July, 1903.

2 History of the Theatres of London and Dublin (1761), ii. 148-50.

Early Systems of Admission 109

showing them. For between every act — whisk ! — I am gone from
one to the other. Oh, what pleasure it is at a good play to go out
before half an act's out.

Why at a good play ? [asks Narcissa.]

Oh, Madam, it looks particular, and gives the whole audience an
opportunity of turning upon me at once. Then do they conclude
I have some extraordinary business, or a fine woman to go to at
least. And then again it shows my contempt of what the dull
town thinks their chiefest diversion.

Another eleven years elapse and still the practice holds.
In the fourth act of The Beaux Stratagem, we find Archer
and Aimwell reviewing their old days of impecuniosity,and
dreading the necessity of being again obliged cc to sneak into
the side-box and between both houses steal two acts of a
play, and because we han't money to see the other three, we
come away discontented, and damn the whole five." This
confession is elucidated by a passage in Charles Shadwell's
comedy of The Humours of the Army (1713), wherein we
learn that the old practice of" gathering" in the boxes still
went on. The rakes, we are told, "live as much by their
wits as ever ; and to avoid the clinking dun of a boxkeeper,
at the end of one act they sneak to the opposite side till
the end of another ; then call the boxkeeper saucy rascal,
ridicule the poet, laugh at the actors, march to the opera,
and spunge away the rest of the evening." The opera to
which they marched, otherwise the King's Theatre in the
Haymarket, soon grew weary of their presence, and in
October, 17 14, the management notified the town that
"Persons frequently coming for an act without paying,
no person can be admitted without a ticket." New rogues
found new methods of taking advantage of the old privilege.
There were generally two doors into the pit, and, in one
scandalous instance that came to light, two persons who
came in at one door, with orders, were handed the admission
money they were presumed to have paid, on leaving not
long after by the other ! The latest moment at which they
could have left in order to accomplish this act of roguery is
indicated in a passage from an unspecified pamphlet by

no Early Systems of Admission

Theophilus Cibber, quoted by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald in his
New History of the English Stage 1 :

There was a person who mingled with this set of gentlemen,
more remarkable for his economy than any other extraordinary
quality, who perhaps did not pay for one play in ten he saw, as he
could reconcile himself with an easy address to solicit an order (or
frank ticket) from the managers ; nay, he was so particularly cautious
in his conduct as to his disbursements, that he often, as he loved
music (or pretended a taste for it), would take a place in the pit,
to hear the first and second music (which latter used to be some
select piece), but prudently retired, taking his money again at the
door before the third music, 2 and by that means often kept out a
spectator who would have been glad to have enjoyed the whole
entertainment, though he paid for it.

As the third music was what was known in Restoration
times as "the curtain tune" and heralded the performance,
Cibber's parsimonious acquaintance found it necessary to
leave in accordance with the regulation, " No money to be
return'd after the curtain is drawn." This rule, which long
held sway despite intermittent shelving, first came into
vogue in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. 3 It had
application to all parts of the house except the boxes, where
the old custom of gathering between the acts still obtained
and led to many abuses. In Dublin, in 1740, one finds
Lewis Duval, the manager of the Smock Alley theatre,
advertising, "whereas complaints have been made that
numbers of persons nightly shift from box to box and into
the pit, so to the stage, which appears on inquiry that it is
to avoid paying ; for the future prevention thereof an office
is kept for the boxes, where all gentlemen are requested to
take tickets before they go in." 4 Curiously enough, metal
checks admitting to the pit and galleries had long been in
vogue (examples of Drury Lane pit checks, dated 1 67 1 and

1 Vol. i. p. 431. The period dealt with would be c. 1740.

2 For further details concerning the first, second, and third music, see my subse-
quent paper on "The Persistence of Elizabethan Conventionalisms."

3 See the Drury Lane bill of 30 November, 1692, cited in my paper on "The
Origin of the Theatre Programme."

4 Advertisement of performance of 27 November, 1740, in Faulkner's Dublin

Early Systems of Admission 1 1 1

1684, are still extant), 1 and one cannot well see why the
primitive system was allowed to obtain in the boxes.

From Shakespeare to Cibber the dishonesty of the
money-taker was a byword. 2 There is still extant a letter
from William Birde, the actor, to Edward Alleyn, setting
forth that :

There is one John Russell, that by your appoyntment was made
a gatherer with us, but my fellowes finding falce to us, have many
tvmes warnd him from taking the box; and he as often, with moste
damnable othes, hathe vowde never to touch; yet, notwithstanding
his excecrable othes, he hath taken the box, and many tymes moste
unconscionablye gathered, for which we have resolved he shall never
more come to the doore. Yet, for your sake, he shall have his wages,
to be a necessary atendaunt on the stage, and if he will pleasure him-
self and us to mend our garments, when he hath leysure, weele pay
him for that to. 3

Abundant testimony exists to show that the old door-
keepers were past masters in the art of legerdemain. In
a satirical pamphlet, published in 1 643, called " The Actors'
Remonstrance or Complaint for the Silencing of their
Profession," one finds the statement whimsically advanced,
"Nay, our verie doore keepers, men and women, most
grievously complain that by this cessation they are robbed
of the privilege of stealing from us with license ; they
cannot now seem to scratch their heads where they itch
not, and drop shillings and half crown pieces in at their
collars." All was fish that came to their net ; on occasion
they could cheat the playgoer equally with the actors.
Writing on 23 February, 1668, Pepys says :

I was prettily served this day at the playhouse door, where,
giving six shillings into the fellow's hand for us three, the fellow

1 For reproductions, see Alexander Cargill's article on " Shakespeare as an Actor,"
in Scribner's Magazine, Vol. ix, No. 53 (1891), p. 619. The Upper Gallery ticket
there given as belonging to the Globe was issued by the Red Bull at the Restoration.
The undescribed check reproduced on p. 635 is a Dublin theatre-ticket of c. 1693. Cf.
Gent's Mag., Vol. lxxxiii, pt. ii. (1813), p. 217, where two other seventeenth-century
tickets are given.

2 For the thieveries of the French doorkeepers in the second quarter of the
seventeenth century, see Eugene Rigal, he Theatre Francais avant la Periode Classique,
pp. 156 ff~. That the later English check-taker lived up to the sinister reputation of his
predecessors is shown by E. L. Blanchard in "A Chapter on Check-Takers," in The
Era Almanack for 1874, p. 37. 3 Collier, The Alleyn Papers, p. 32.

H2 Early Systems of Admission

by legerdemain did convey one away ; and with so much grace
faced me down that I did give him but five, that though I knew
the contrary, yet I was overpowered by his so grave and serious
demanding the other shilling, that I could not deny him but was
forced by myself to give it him.

As for the box-keepers, so lax was the check upon them that
they waxed fat by systematic peculation. "Box-keepers,
whatever they may be now, by the managers keeping an
eye over their conduct," writes Davies in his Dramatic
Miscellanies, 1 "were formerly richer than their masters.
A remarkable instance of it I heard many years since.
Colley Cibber had, in a prologue or some part of a play,
given such offence to a certain great man in power, that
the playhouse, by order of the Lord Chamberlain, was shut
up for some time, Cibber was arrested, and the damages
laid at ten thousand pounds. Of this misfortune Booth
and Wilks were talking very seriously, at the playhouse,
in the presence of a Mr. King, the box-keeper ; who asked
if he could be of any service, by offering to bail Cibber. —
'Why, you blockhead', said Wilks, c it is for ten thousand
pounds.' — 'I should be very sorry', said the box-keeper,
'if I could not be answerable for twice that sum'. The
managers stared at each other ; and Booth said, with some
emotion to Wilks, c What have you and I been doing, Bob,
all this time ? A box-keeper can buy us both.' '

In connexion with the production of Fielding's Pasquin
at the Haymarket in April, 1736, an advertisement was
issued that "to prevent the frequent cheats of Doorkeepers,
'tis hoped no gentleman will refuse to take a ticket as he
goes in ; and the Ladies, to prevent their waiting at the
door, are desired to send to the office at the Theatre, where
tickets for the day will be delivered each morning at 45. each,
Pit 2s. 6d., Gallery n." Progress, however, was slow, and
two years later we find gathering still going on in the boxes.
In December, 173 8, a correspondent assuming the character
of Miss Townley, thus addressed the editor of The London
Evening Post : —

1 Dublin, 1784, iii. p. 182.

Early Systems of Admission 113

I am a young woman of fashion who love plays, and should be
glad to frequent them as agreeable and instructive entertainment,
but am. debarred that diversion by my relations upon account of
a sort of people who now fill or rather infest the boxes. I went

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Online LibraryWilliam John LawrenceThe Elizabethan playhouse and other studies → online text (page 10 of 22)