Historical Tidbits: Victorian Theatricals

In the 19th century people were terribly fond of amateur theatre (well, they didn’t have TV *g*) and staged plays in their drawing rooms. But there were also larger-scale amateur productions, for example the production of Bulwer Lytton’s costume drama NOT SO BAD AS WE SEEM Dickens organized in aid of the Guild of Literature and Art, a charitable fund for artists and writers in need. Among the actors was Sir John Tenniel (yup, I found this tidbit while doing research for the PhD project). The whole thing was staged in the library of Devonshire House and eventually premiered before the Queen.

As you can imagine, such an important amateur production could result in rather trying rehearsals. And thus, Dickens whined,

My legs swell so, with standing on the stage for hours together, that my stockings won’t come off. I get so covered with sawdust among the carpenters, that my infants don’t know me. I am so astonishingly familiar with everybody else’s part, that I forget my own. I roar to the troupe in general, to the extent that the excellent Duke (who is deaf) thinks in the remoteness fo his own little library that the wind is blowing hard.*

Tee-hee! 🙂

* quoted in Rodney Engen. Sir John Tenniel: Alice’s White Knight. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1991. 28.