[From Chrononhotonthologos, Phantasmagoria. Cotillions and Supper Entertainment in the Isle of Man 1793-1820 ]
The earliest newspaper record for theatrical entertainment in the island comes from a somewhat critical article in the Cumberland Pacquet dated 17th October 1787, "The Dramatic muse frightened from the neighbouring shore seems to have fixed her residence in the Isle of Man, where, 'all the world's a stage,' and most it not, 'all the men and women would be players.' Sated with regular performances their taste has lately wonted in hodgepodge exhibitions; and a few evenings ago, (to fill the house for an unfortunate actress, whole benefit receipts had been under charges) a set of volunteers joined the regular corps, and besides an olio of prologues, duets, hornpipes, solos and epilogues, presented the company with four farces. The first, (which, if they had judged rightly, ought certainly to have been the last) was Lethe; the second, Love-a-la-mode, the third, the Citizen; and the fourth was the tout-ensemble of the performance; which, from account of a gentleman; who had perseverance enough to see it out and was by much the best farce of the evening."
The advertisements are not always specific in giving the address of the theatres and state that Douglas performances took place at the Assembly Room Douglas or the Theatre in Douglas or the temporary theatre. It is not until 1812 that the situation of the New Theatre is described as being at Mr. Downward's Long Room on the Quay in Douglas. Later we find performances at the Waterloo Theatre, Wellington Buildings, Duke Street, Douglas. Peel theatre is quoted as being at Mr. Grant's Inn. No address was given for performances at Ramsey. Castletown performances were held at Down's Long Room or the Assembly Room (The George Inn) or the Theatre (George Inn) or again Mr. Cubbon's New Assembly Room. The rooms must have been built on two or three floors as the charge for seating was stated as Boxes 3s, Pit 2s and the Gallery Is. You will recall that I have previously quoted the cost of hiring a labourer at a 1s per day as the barometer when comparing costs. A visit to the theatre was, therefore, only for the wealthy. The evenings' entertainments consisted of a number of short scenes from well know plays and farces with moral messages, interspersed with dancing acts, comic and patriotic songs and the occasional novelty act. Patriotic portrayals with historical battle scenes, royal processions in costumes, painted transparent scenery all added to the night out at the theatre. Shakespeare was performed as well as plays by Sheridan and his contemporaries. Actors from the Theatre Royals in all the major cities came and performed on the boards at the Manx Theatres; the most famous being Mr. Edmund Kean. It was not unusual for a local gentleman amateurs to perform with the professionals and in 1819 a group calling themselves the Gentlemen Amateurs were formed and gave performances in the name of charity. These must be the earliest reports of an amateur drama group in the Island. The superstitious fishermen of the Island blamed the failure of the herring season on theatrical performances and protested against visiting performers. The Cumberland Pacquet picked up on the story and ran a comment in its columns of the issue dated the 7th of August 1789,
"Manx herring fishery continues very good; and plentiful supplies are sent to this market, - The fish is remarkably fine. It is an absolute fact, that the populace of Douglas (Isle of Man) would hardly suffer the emigrant players from Ireland, to set foot on shore: - as to allowing them to perform, that was out of the question; 'No; (said they) we remember well enough, it is not so many summers ago that our fishing was ruined by a set of d-v-ls like you"'
This superstition raised its head again in 1804 as reported by the Advertiser,
"The theatre attendances were very poor during the exhibition of Napoleon's portrait, It would seem the inhabitants of this town have lost all taste for the stage - the theatre, we understand, is about to be converted into an auction-room. The last company of players, who visited this Island, (being at this season of the year) were prohibited from continuing their performances, in consequence of the herring fishery proving unsuccessful, which some of the fishermen superstitiously attributed to those vain amusements! - Hence it has been matter of surprise with some that Buonaparte should have been permitted to take quiet possession of the stage". Theatre did not finish in 1804. Indeed many companies came and entertained in the succeeding years.
In the annex attached to this paper I have listed information about performances; the year, the plays, the songs, venues and the names of the performers that came to the Island during the period.
In May of 1793 Mr. Clarke appeared at the Douglas Theatre to entertain his audiences with moralising lectures. This does not sound much like entertainment but was considered by the Manx Mercury newspaper quite appropriate, "We are extremely happy in announcing to our readers that the ingenious artist Mr. Clarke, who some time ago so agreeably entertained the inhabitants of this Isle in the Douglas Theatre, with his Moralizing Lectures and Brush is now preparing some very curious models, paintings, and decorations, for another evening's exhibition; and we sincerely hope his efforts will meet the encouragement they so highly deserve."
However when we examine Mr. Clarke's bill of fare it becomes clear that his "Attic Entertainment" is both serious and comic. "Mr. Clark impressed with the most lively sense of gratitude presents his humble respects to the ladies and gentlemen of Douglas, Castletown and the Isle of Man in general, - hopes they will accept his most sincere acknowledgements for the kind of encouragement they have hitherto given his poor endeavours during the short time he has the honour of soliciting their favours:- He takes the liberty of informing them that for some months past he has been engaged in preparing an entertainment which he flatters himself will merit their attention and in regard to the magnificence and splendour, he thinks will stand unrivalled in the annals of Theatric Story which he proposes to exhibit one night, in the theatre in Douglas, when he hopes to meet their protection and encouragement for one night only (at the) Theatre, Douglas on Monday May 27, 1793 will be presented an Attic Entertainment, consisting of different pieces, serious and comic. After which (for the only time it ever can be exhibited here) the Royal Procession to St. Paul's with many additions and alterations, particularly a new and exact model of the King's State Coach, as large as the original: Striking likeness of the King, Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Mr. Pit, Mr. Fox, and the present Lord Chancellor. - The whole to conclude with 'God Save the King', and a full chorus."
In June the newspaper reported that "Mr. Clarke's exhibition on Wednesday evening, gave infinite satisfaction, and was honoured with universal applause. Indeed, masterly performances of this gentleman will always speak for themselves; and we need only say, that merit like his, is sure of his reward. We hear he proposes, in a few days, having an exhibition in Ramsey, and there is little doubt of his performances given universal satisfaction."
The beginning of the Theatre season for 1794 in April saw the arrival of Mr. Williamson and his large company of actors and singers.
The issue of the Mercury for 19th April was keen to report, "Theatre - On Monday the 7th inst, Mr. Williamson's Company of Comedians made their first appearance on Manks boards; in 'Everyone has their Faults,' and 'the Romp.' The house was open by the full chorus of 'God Save the King', and so consonant was the theme to the sentiments of the company present, that at the conclusion of the piece, a general shout of encore, obliged the performers to re-assume the theme, and on it being finished a second time, the house echoed with three hearty cheers, - The dramatic performances of the evening went off with particular zest; and we only echoed the voice of the public when we say the performers displayed the greatest correctness and ability. Captain Irwin, Lady Eleanor, Solus, the Romp, and even Watty Cockney, were in the first style of the drama and all the other parts were marked with infinite life and spirit. Indeed, it is acknowledged by the critics that, upon the whole, Williamson's company is the best that ever appeared on the Manks (Manx) stage; and to discriminate there are individuals in it who would grace any theatre. - In the course of the evening, the interlude, 'The Sporting Club' was introduced, in which a military gentleman of this town appeared as Dick, the Apprentice. It may be unnecessary to say, (at least for the information of those unacquainted with of the performer) that Dick appeared, without any change from time or climate, just in his primitive state, - the very Dick that figured in the author's imagination at the time he wrote the piece. - We need only add, that the profits of the night were made an offering to charity; and that the receipt of the house amounted upwards of double the sum of that of the three following nights. A good bill of fare is preparing for Monday evening, when there is to be the least doubt but an action so truly disinterested and humane, will be rewarded with a bumper."
Mr. Williamson's company played to packed houses throughout the summer season changing the programme every week and appearing in the towns of the Island. It is obvious that he and his fellow actors were members of the Freemasons as in June they held a benefit for Brother Tunstall whose performance was accompanied by the other Brethren in the company. In the advertisement for the evening, which took place on Monday 23rd June, there was mention of a Masonic song and a Eulogium on Masonry Criticism from a member of the public appears in the Mercury dated the 5th of July regarding the ambitious productions on small stages such as in the Island, " As the largest theatres are ill-proportioned, indeed, inadequate to the objects sometimes represented therein, such difficulty and absurdity must be increased by offering pieces where ???? extensive forests, marching armies, bands of Indians, &c, &c., are necessarily introduced, in one of the smallest. It is hoped that the above remark will account of the abuse which occurred at our theatre on Wednesday last not content with being imposed on in the first instant, the public have been pleased to countenance a second attempt at bringing on the Manks (Manx) stage another impossibility, and, with much candour, given their patronage to one who presented a bill of fare at one third part of common sense might descent to be an imposition. (We have inserted the three above paragraphs literally as they were given in at the office. We wish not to offend, but oblige.)"
The company concluded its season on the 15th July with the cast performing a concert with a Ball at the end of the performance, "Messrs Scriven, Shaw, and Ross, respectfully inform the ladies and gentlemen of Douglas and its vicinity, that on Tuesday, July 15,they will purpose having a Concert divided into acts. The principal vocal performers, Messrs Scriven, Shaw, Mrs Ross and Miss Fontenelle. - The instrumental parts by Mr. La Glace (first violin) Mr Ross, and several gentlemen of the town, who have kindly offered their assistance on this occasion. The favourite chorusses (choruses) from Macbeth, composed by Matthew Locke, with the original accompaniments by Messrs Scriven, Shaw, Mrs. Ross and some ladies and gentlemen of the Theatre. The parts will be fully expressed in the Bills of the Day. After the concert there will be a Ball."
There is no mention of Mr. Williamson but in the same issue a Mr. O'Neil seeks support for a fire work display; "Mr. O'Neil begs leave most respectfully to inform the ladies and gentlemen of Douglas and its environs, that in consequence of his benefit at the theatre having failed, he intends to display an elegant assortment of fireworks, which are nearly prepared; but he has been advised by friends, previously, to open a subscription to defray the expence, (expense) and as soon as the sum of six pounds is subscribed, he will fix a time and place for the performance, and give due notice to the public. Subscriptions are opened at Clague's Hotel, at Mr Storey's, Duke-street, and at the Liverpool Coffee-house, where tickets of admission may be had at 2s. and 1 s each."
Mr. Bell from the Theatre Royal Edinburgh brought his one man show to the Assembly Room, Douglas, for three nights during the week 7th to the 10th of October 1805. His performance consisted of songs and sketches, the main scene being his performance of "Collin's Evening Brush" and was advertised, "To sweep away the canker of care, and dislodge the cobwebs of melancholy." After the "Brush", Mr. Bell performed "Tony Lumpkin's Rambles with Bet Bouncer through London, Woolwich, and the Isle of Man," concluding with the comic song of "the Country Club or Quizzical Society." "A Sailor's Soliloquy," and the song, "When Half Sea's O'er" ended the show. The whole performance concluded with "Rule Britannia," in full chorus; with an appropriate transparency, painted for the occasion. Mr. La Glance the Dancing Master was the accompanist.
A subsequent advertisement added some additional information about the scenery, "With new, appropriate machinery and scenery; designed and executed, by approved theoretical and practical artists; and interspersed with some local, plain, homespun English ballad singing embellished here and there with a few Hibernian, instead of Italian, graces - Repeatedly performed by him (Mr. Bell) under the most respectable patronages in the United Kingdom."
It must have been quite an expensive venture to transport to the Island all the costumes, scenery and machines necessary for stage productions. No wonder some of the companies found themselves in debt at the conclusion of their tour.
The Manx Advertiser in its report in the same issue as the advertisement states "We understand that Mr. Bell (from the Theatre-royal, Edinburgh) will perform the celebrated entertainment of 'Collin's Evening Brush', for a few nights, in this town; and (from what we can learn) if he is equally successful in sweeping away the cobwebs of melancholy here, as he has been in brushing off the canker of care on the continent, we may venture to say, 'He handles his brush like an artist' "
On the 14th October Mr. Bell performed his act at Downe's Long Room in Castletown and the following week in Peel, at Mr. Grant's Inn, and later in the week at Ramsey. He was received with much enthusiasm, "Mr. Bell embraces the opportunity, of returning his most sincere and grateful thanks, to the nobility and gentry of Douglas, and its neighbourhood for the very elegant and numerous audiences they made him, during the three nights of his performances here; for it is but justice to say, they would have graced the first drawing-room in the United Kingdom" and, "as lately performed in this Town, with the most unbounded applause".
Mr. Bell returns to the Island some eight years later in May 1813 to perform at Douglas, Peel and Castletown, "with new and appropriate scenery, machinery, and transparent paintings, &c. In the course of which will be introduced some plain homespun English. Irish and Scotch songs, embellished here and there with a few Hibernian instead of Italian graces, as repeatedly exhibited by him, under some of the most respectable patronages in the United Kingdom. The whole to conclude with a view of the 'Battle of Trafalgar' with a correct and beautiful transparent painting, representing the Immortal Hero of the Nile, Copenhagen, Trafalgar, &c."
Once again the Manx Advertiser of the 12th June 1813 is very appreciative of his performances: "Mr. Bell, from the Theatre Royal Edinburgh, made his first appearance for these eight years, in Castletown, on Saturday last, when he opened his 'Budget', in the presence of a very elegant and numerous audience, who testified their entire approbation of his ways and means to entertain them. - We understand he is to visit Peel and Ramsey, before he takes his departure from the Island"
The 26th June sees a further report, "Mr. Bell opened his theatrical campaign at Peel, on Tuesday-evening last, but instead of hostilities commencing on the occasion, an armistice was granted for two hours at the Lord Nelson's Assembly-room, during which time his skilful manoeuvres received the most unbounded applause, particularly his songs of 'Date Obolum Belisario', and, 'The Irish Wedding'; the former of which drew the sympathetic tear of grief from almost every eye, and the latter extorted involuntary burst of laughter from every part of an overflowing house. We learn his next route will be Ramsey."
A sensation struck the Island in the performance given by a child star of the day, Miss Lee Sugg who was only 6 years old. Her performances were supported by her father's ventriloquism act. It was in the months of April and May 1806 that we find the first reports and advertisements of these two performers; she was billed as "the Infant Bellington and Roscius" (no doubt referring to the Roman actor, Quintus Roscius Gallus, 126-62 B.C. who was considered the finest example of dramatic excellence) Miss Lee Sugg gave a varietX of songs and recitations in the Assembly Room, Douglas, on Monday evening, 28 April, 1806 on which occasion, at the earnest solicitation of several persons of distinction. Her father was billed as,
"the original and wonderful ventriloquist who displayed his extraordinary powers in which he conversed with his lips closed, and conveyed his voice into his pockets, under chairs, tables and hats; under the floor, from the ceiling, and finally throw it out of the room; he reckoned any number with his lips closed, with a burning candle held closed to his mouth, and no person would be able discover the least movement of the lips, or motion of the muscles. The word ventriloquist, takes its derivation from 'Venter et Loquor', which signifies one who speaks from his belly."
They appeared in Castletown, "Wonderful child will display her very astonishing abilities; positively for two nights only in the Assembly Room, George Inn, Castletown" They performed at Ramsey, "On Friday and Saturday evenings, the 25th and 26th April, 1806: the Infant Billington and Ruscius, Miss Lee Sugg, (not seven years of age), who is honoured with the patronage of Her Majesty and their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. On her return from Edinburgh, where her infantine efforts were honoured with the most flattering applause for thirty-one nights." Records show that they gave performances in Peel and Kirk Michael.
She must have been an exceptionally gifted child to remember the words and music. The following is the lengthy programme for April, listing the songs and soliloquies performed by the child:
Arrangement for first night Part 1st.
Introductory Address. Song, Bellisario. The Celebrated Quarrelling Scene from, the Tragedy of Douglas. Young Norval by
the Child. Song, Miss Bailey - Shaving, gratis.
Part 2nd. - The Blind Bargain. Song from the above comedy by the Child. The Squinting Schoolmaster. Song - The Four Seasons or the Cuckcoo. My Name is Norva, from Douglas by the Child Song - The Cornish Tyrant.
Part 3rd - Pizzarro Rolla's Address to the Peruvians - by the Child. Song - The Fortune Teller on all Fours. Scholastic Anecdote. - The Letter H. Song. - The Blind Mariner. Comic tale - The Farmer's Blunder Song - The Beggar Girl by the Child
Part 4th - As You Like It. Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man - by the Child. Song - The Yorkshire Concert. A Trip to Paris. Song - Love and Glory by the Child. Poached Eggs and Pork Stakes. Song - God Bless the Land we Live in.
Part 5th - Scene from the much admired farce of The Agreeable Surprise. Cowslip, with admired song, "Oh What a Charming Fellow" by the Child Arrangement for the second night's entertainment. Lecture on Heads, Originally written by G. H. Stevens, as revised by Mr. Pillon, and delivered by Mr. Lee Lewis.
Origin of Lecturing,- The Performer's Head. - George Alexander Steven's Head. - An original comparison for ahead.- Block Heads and Paper Sculls.
The Thorn. - by the Child
Comparison of the Head and Heart to town and country. - The twenty-four letters - Laughing and Crying - Sir Wisely Whiffle - Paper Wigs and Wooden Libraries - Song The Blind Mariner.
Soliloquy from the Merchant of Venice - by the Child
Am Half Foolish Face, for Fun. - Heads of Master Jockey and Miss Jenny. Song, The Dead of the Night by the Child.
Generous, honest, and devilish clever fellows. - A Fool's Cap. A Dissertation on Nothing.
Head of London Blood with living Specimen
The Soliloquy of "To be or not to be" from the Tragedy of Hamlet - by the Child: with all the original music of Ophelia's mad scene.
Song - Horrors of a Tempest, or Sea Storm. - A Learned Dissertation on Law, with a Trial between Daniel and Dish Clout.
Song - The Land we Live in.
Scene from the admirable farce of the Agreeable Surprise. - Cowslip, with the original song - the Child
Doors open at six o'clock: begin at seven. Boxes, 3s. Pit, 2s. Gallery, Is
The nobility and gentry may have a private performance at their own houses by giving timely notice.
Mr. Lee Sugg wrote to the newspaper and advertised his grateful thanks for the acceptance of their performances, "Mr. Lee Sugg embraces the earliest opportunity of announcing to the nobility and gentry of Douglas, the high sense he has of liberal patronage, with which they have honoured his little daughter: and begs their acceptance of his and child's thanks, with the assurance, that their kindness will be impressed on the minds of L. S. and Child with gratitude. Douglas, 19th April, 1806." The Manx Advertiser printed a suitable report of her performances and that of her father,
Man Advertiser 26.04.1806 "The admirers of juvenile excellence, have, for the last week, been much gratified with the astonishing performances of the Infant Billington and Rocius, Miss Lee Sugg: whose versatility of genius, at her years, may certainly be pronounced rare, if not unexampled. Those who have not yet witnessed her abilities, will no doubt avail themselves of the opportunity offered to them, on Monday night, (the last time of her performing in the Island); when a further attraction to the curious, the original and wonderful ventriloquist will display his extraordinary powers. - see the advertisement."
The Lee Suggs' reply was to advertise one more performance on the 28th April. "For the benefit of Miss Lee Sugg, positively her last time of performing in the Island. The Baove Child will give a variety of songs and recitations, in the Assembly Room, Douglas, on Monday evening, the 28th April, 1806: on which occasion, at the earnest solicitation of several persons of distinction. They had to postpone the performance as the child had caught a cold. She recovered quickly for in the next issue we find the following advertisement, "The nobility and gentry of Douglas and its vicinity, are most respectively informed, that, unforeseen and unpleasant causes, Mr. Lee Sugg, with his little daughter, have not been able to leave the Island so soon as expected. He therefore humbly hopes, that by offering the above novelty, - for public patronage,- in Douglas, on Wednesday evening, the 28th May, 1806, will to be deemed to be too intruding: as on that evening, Mr. Lee Sugg, and his little daughter, will take their final leave of the public in the Isle of Man. - with gratitude Mr. Lee Sing will perform in Kk. Michael, on Monday the 26th and in Peel on Tuesday the 27 instant.
Of the numerous performers who entertained in the theatres little is known of what became of them. However with regard to the Lee Suggs two newspaper references have come to light;
In the death announcements for the issue of 20 June 1812 "Thursday se'nnight, (week) the celebrated ventriloquist, Lee Sugg, suddenly at the White Hart Inn, at Moreton-on- Marsh, Gloucester."
Seven years later the marriage announcements noted that, "Married lately, in New York, America, Mr. J. Haskett, Esq., a Member of Congress, to Miss C. D. Lee Sugg, the cidevant infant Billington and Roscia, eldest daughter of Christopher Lee Sugg, the ventriloquist."
The 1807 theatre season commenced in August and Mr and Mrs. Moss made their first appearances on the Island stages with a series of dramatic and comic plays with musical interludes. Three years later he expanded his company of actors and put on more ambitious performances which were praised by the newspaper reports but by October 1810 he was down on his luck and was in debt and maybe even imprisoned. There is no mention of him in the Advertiser after that date so he must have managed to clear his debts and returned to England.
September 1807 the Advertiser commented, "The inhabitants of Douglas have been highly gratified during the last fortnight with the inimitable dramatic performances of the celebrated Mr. and Mrs. Moss from theatres of London, Dublin and Edinburgh. - Report has announced their intention to leave Douglas in course of the early part of the ensuing week on an excursion through the Island; and that they purpose to perform at Castletown, Peel and Ramsey - two nights at each place - previous to their final return to their engagements in England."
On Wednesday the 16th September Mr. and Mrs. Moss took their company to the Theatre at the George Inn in Castletown where the musical instrument department is conducted by Mr. La Glace of the Dancing Master Fame.
Back in Douglas the following week Mr. Moss announces, "for two nights only the public are most respectfully informed that in compliance with the warm solicitations of a number of ladies and gentlemen, the theatre will be open for two nights only, - on Tuesday next, the 29th instant; and the following Friday, the Is' October; with a dramatic selection from the most celebrated authors, - interspersed with a great variety of songs. The whole to conclude with a truly whimsical and satirical oration called a 'Post Haste Journey to and from London to Douglas,' by Mr. Moss, to be spoken in the character of 'Scrub', riding a real ass."
Mr. Moss sitting on a live ass on stage whilst performing caused much hilarity and made the reporter poke fun at the superstitious fisher folk,
"The Manx Advertiser 17th October1807. It is well known that many of the enlightened fishermen have attributed their ill-luck to the theatre; we do not know to what they ascribe their great success on the night of the 9th inst., unless it be to the jack-ass, having made his first appearance on the stage that night. If so, he ought to have a benefit
Last night terminated our Theatre Amusements, for the season, and the inimitable performances of Mr. and Mrs. Moss, - to one of the most brilliant and crowded audiences ever remembered to have been selected together on any similar occasion; who seemed highly gratified during the whole of the exhibition, by giving to the apparent exertions of those truly meritable performers, the most unequivocal tokens of admiration and applause; which were gratefully acknowledged by Mr. Moss, and the close of the evenings amusement, in a neat farewell address to the audience". Although the newspaper reported the last performance of the Mosses the Manx Advertiser 3'd Octoberl807 advertised an other production on the 6th of October in which they were supported by Mrs Muir in "a dramatic selection from the most celebrated authors interspersed with a great variety of songs under the title of 'Parnassian Shrubs or, Monus in Humour."'
Mr. Moss returns to the Island for the two theatrical seasons of 1809 and 1810 having formed a large and impressive company of actors and performers. Indeed he advertised the calibre of his actors to the best affect in the Manx Advertiser, dated the 10th June 1809,
List of the Present Company of Performers Mr. Moss from the Theatre Royal, Drury-Lane Mr. Newton, from the Theatre Royal, Lancaster Mr. Benn, from the Theatre Royal, Dublin.
Mr. Andrewes, from the Theatre Royal, Cheltenham. Mr. Banks, from the Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Mr. Keld, from the Theatre Royal, Manchester
Mr. Andrews, jun., and Masters Andrews and Holiday Mrs. Moss - Mrs. Newton, from the Theatre Royal, Lancaster Mrs. Holiday & Miss Holiday, from Do.Do.
Mrs. Andrews, from the Theatre Royal, Cheltenham Miss Mountfort - her first appearance
Appearing at the Assembly Room Theatre Royal, Douglas.
The Manx Advertiser is once again very supportive of the theatrical team put together by Mr. Moss:
"Theatricals. - The lovers of drama will be gratified to hear that Mr. Moss, a name well known in the theatrical world, and who will justly impress himself a favourite with the public, on a temporary excursion to this Island, about two years since, has, in return for a hospitable reception he met with on that occasion, brought over this season a numerous company of performers; not only respectable for public talent, but amiable in their private conduct. The number of new dramatic pieces lately brought forward in London, and which have never been exhibited in Douglas will, no doubt, enable Mr. Moss to gratify the town and amateurs, with a constant round of variety, united in novelty. In the list of company we are happy to read the name of our little laughing Thalia Mrs. Moss, also of Mr. and Mrs. Newton, whom we have frequently heard of, as highly esteemed in the Lancashire circuit; upon the whole, we possess every confidence, that, from the numerous visitors expected this summer, our Thespians, will be rewarded, not altogether with fame, put profit likewise."
The newspaper critic of the day comments and compares the performances to classic proportions:
"Theatricals. - That a well regulated stage must tend to the improvement of society is an axiom established since the progress of science overthrew barbarism. Greece and Rome, as they grew in grandeur, cultivated the stage; and it is a well known fact, that Cicero was modelled from Roscius; nor can it be denied, that a Pitt, a Burke, and a Sheridan imbibed their first lessons of elocution from Garrick. - But as the stage is a vehicle of extensive instruction it becomes an incumbent duty to watch strictly over its pursuits least the streams of virtue should be corrupted to a current of abuse.
The Douglas theatre opened on Monday evening, with the celebrated comedy of the 'Soldier's Daughter' - replete with sentiments of ardent patriotism, (particularly at such a crisis as the present) where the merchant and the soldier, the prop and the protector of his country, is so justly delineated: we therefore cannot wonder at the unbounded applause on the occasion. - On Wednesday was performed Shakespeare's admired tragic comedy of the 'Merchant of Venice,' and was much admirably sustained through all its characters till the final close of the piece. - and on Friday was also acted, the admired witty comedy of the ; 'School for Scandal,' and most ably supported - That no English dramatist has more successfully courted the comic muse that Mr. Sheridan, is unnecessarily here to mention. - And from the promised novelty for the ensuing week, we may now assert, that Mr. Moss, our praiseworthy and indefatigable manager, has verified his promise of treating his patrons with renovated vigour, in his selection of the drama, and of reviving Athens and Rome at our little temporary theatre in the Isle of Man. - Candidus."
Success follows success and the advertisements take up large columns of print space. Once again Candidus, the critic, sings the praises of Mr. Moss and his Company: "Theatricals - That the strictures of a just critic are necessary to overlook public entertainments, every candid person must allow; and in an insulated Island like ours, it is more incumbent, particularly as theatrical amusements should even be considered a vehicle of moral instruction. - That the justly admired dramatist R. B. Sheridan, Esq. has ever preserved this object in view, is remarkable in all the finished pieces he has wrote (written) for an admiring world; but in none of his productions has he evinced more strongly that the spirit of patriotism which shines through his (allow me to say not translation) original English drama of 'Pizarro,' which was performed at our theatre on Wednesday the 28th ult. and surely ever true subject must have been alive to the sentiments of loyalty breathed by fictitious characters, and animated by one genuine British desire - by saying with Araliba in the play -
'Be the word of battle, 'G-d, and our native land', The musical entertainment of O'Keeffe's 'Poor Sailor' followed - enriched by humour peculiar, we may add, to this second English Aristophanes, and was really an apparent treat to the friends of the comic muse. - The manager, it should seem, in compliment to a personage of high distinction, changed the regular night of performance from Friday to Saturday, - when a crouded (crowed) and brilliant audience shed the tear of compassion over Lillo's lamented youth, George Barnwell, and were once happily enlivened by the inexhaustible humour of O'Keeffe, in the whimsical opera of his farmer - 'Honest John Bull' also made his first appearance in Douglas on Monday evening; to the perfect satisfaction of every spectator present: - Rowe and George Colman were happily united on Wednesday evening, to soften the heart and elevate the spirits, by admirable performances of the tragedy of 'Jane Shore;' and the laughable farce of the 'Review or, Wags of Windsor.' - And on Friday, (by desire) the inimitable comedy of 'the Honey Moon' was performed, to which the manager affixed with much propriety, a new farce, called 'Rival Soldiers, or British Bravery,' - which in reality we sincerely hope, may be gathered on every brow engaged in the present British though gigantic cause, to rescue from despotism enslaved nations, and transmit genuine freedom unimpaired to prosperity. - That Mr. Moss, the manger of our theatre, in uniting novelty with instruction, morality and entertainment deserves the just critic's praise, candour must allow; and while such judgment and assiduity mark his endeavour to please, his conduct has the warmest wishes for success from - Candidus."
The Manx Advertiser theatrical reporter again adds his weight to the excellence of the performances:
Manx Advertiser 22.07.1809 - "Theatricals. - It is one of the peculiar blessings that providence bestows on these Islands, that during a long and unequally continued warfare, the attention of the opulent has been directed to the humble but happy sons of industry - the real source of our national strength; the source that enables England not only to protect her own rights, but to eventually to become the arbitress of Europe. - The Agricultural Societies, formed from the first class of classes of our citizens and nobility, have strengthened the nerve of the peasant, and united every voice in exclaiming 'Speed the Plough.' M. Moreton, the author of this popular play has happily availed himself of this patriotic ardour, and in a well told tale of fiction, has cemented instruction with entertainment. The approbation of a crowded audience paid the justly earned tribute of alternate smiles and tears, to its representation on Monday last, to the poet's fancy-wrought story, and there could not possibly be a dissenting voice to the author's pertinent and just reflection - 'Happy Country,' that in the midst of direful war can call forth your rustic train, to join the festive dance, as securely as if peace again had blessed the world' - the laughable entertainment of 'The Ghost', completely frightened away the prejudices of superstition; and, roars of laughter, the spectators left the house with rational resolution, that apparitions are productive of mirth and not melancholy - The highly diverting comedy of 'The Wonder of a Women Keeps a Secret', attracted a brilliant audience on Wednesday evening. We must with sincerity breath a wish, that the wit of Mrs. Centilivre, as well as many of our old dramatists, could be cleared from the apparent dross with which their productions too frequently abound; - but the attic salt of the eloquent entertainment of the Sultan ?? as, ample amends for it is certainly a well deserved and well conceived compliment to the best of Queens, and sentiments, truly British. Unite loyalty with amor patria - The friends of Stern (and who must not the friends of him, that so explicitly evinced himself the friend of human nature) were highly gratified with Colman's dramatic paraphrase of 'My Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim,' in his play of the poor gentlemen - we are thankful to Mr. Moss, our active manager, for so frequently favouring us with best productions of this rich and inexhaustible genius, whose poetical eye, 'in a fine frenzy rolling,' has glanced closely at human nature, and in his works are clearly to be perceived the exertions of the artist and scholar, and the gentleman. - the musical farce of 'Greta Green,' set all the girls a madding, and we hear that a petition is to be forwarded to Rory, the old blacksmith person, that he may come and nail the happy together in the Isle of Man."
News of the excellent performances must have reached the Duke of Athol and his family who decided to attend the theatre,
Manx Advertiser 29.07.1809. "Theatricals - On Monday evening, the Most Noble, the Duke of Athol and Family, honoured our temporary theatre with their presence: whose appearance, as was expected, attracted a brilliant and crouded (crowed) audience. - On which occasion, the performance of the excellent comedy - 'Speed the Plough,' was most ably supported, and met with its deserved applause throughout. The musical and diverting after-piece of the 'Coopers or, Love in a Tub,' followed, and sent our noble visitors home, accompanied in sentiment, with a grateful acknowledgement of an admiring multitude. On Wednesday was performed Mr. Farquer's entertaining comedy of the 'Beau's Stratagem,' followed by a truly whimsical farce of O'Keeffe's 'Merry Mourners' both of which performances failed not, as usual, to keep the audience in excellent humour during the remaining part of the evening. To draw the attention of the public to the apparent and uninterrupted industry of our active manager, Mr. Moss, we have only to mention his producing, for Friday evening, the admired comedy of a 'Cure for the Heart Ache,' by the same author as 'Speed the Plough' - of the representation of which, and the musical entertainment of 'The Poor Sailor or, Little Bob and Little Ben,' the gratified public present, were surely the best judges; suffice only to say, that the entire of this evening's exhibitions were most conspicuously marked by a lively and spirited exertion in the performance, that fully merited the bestowed approbation of a numerous and crouded (crowed) audience."
This month also brought pleas from the various actors for support for their benefit evenings which I imagine were evenings when any profits went in their individual pockets!
Manx Advertiser 12.08.1809. "For the Benefit of Mr. Moss who returns his sincere and grateful acknowledgements to the ladies and gentlemen, ras'iant and visitant's of Douglas and its vicinity, for the very liberal patronage the company has experienced during the whole of the season, and further pledges himself to the public, that in all future seasons (wherein he may be concerned in the Management of the Theatre) strict care shall be called to furnish a company, who by uniting a certain degree of excellence both in their public and private characters, cannot fail to afford general satisfaction. Mr. Moss humbly solicits that countenance on the present occasion which is seldom withheld by a liberal public, from one whose chief study ever has been to merit their kind indulgence and support. On Monday evening, the 14th of August 1809 will be performed the celebrated play of, Henry Fourth, written by Shakespeare
This play is a perfect master-piece of the immortal bard. - The tragedy and comedy parts being so finely connected with each other, as to render the whole regular and complete, and yet continued with such boldness and propriety, as to make the various beauties of each most perfectly conspicuous. The character of Falstaff is acknowledged one of the greatest originals, draw by the pen of that inimitable master. None of Shakespeare's plays (says Dr. Johnson) are more seen or admired than Henry the Fourth, as no author has afforded so much true delight. The events are interesting; for the fate of the Kingdom depend on them; the slighter occurrences are diverting; the incidents multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention; and the characters diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, possibly to be conceived by the skill of man.
For the Benefit of Mr. Banks who with respect he will ever entertain a liberal and enlightened public submits the ensuing bill of fare for their approval and censure. - It is unnecessary to add, he has selected them with an anxious study to satisfy that audience whose approbation he has humbly endeavoured to merit, and whose protection will be acknowledged with pleasure, and ever gratefully remembered. On Monday evening, the 21st August 1809 will be performed, the interesting drama of the Mountaineers or, Wild Man of the Mountains.
To conclude with the much-admired musical farce (never performed here) called, The Turnpike Gate,
Mr. Moss thanks the public for their support in a The Theatrical Card.
"Mr. Moss, Manager of the Douglas Theatre, respectfully addresses to the Ladies and Gentlemen of the town and environs,
Your condensation, by honouring me with your appearance at my Benefit on Monday last, calls for the warmest testimony of my gratitude; and though I find myself totally at a loss to express, what can only be conceived, yet I cannot forebear thus publicly making known [however feintly (faintly)] what feel I on the occasion: your condescension makes me hope, it will meet with the wished for reception, if it should, I shall then be indeed completely happy. Many in the line of life have received countenance and protection from the liberal inhabitants and visitors of Douglas and its vicinity; almost a stranger among you, and processed of nothing more, than an inclination to please, what could I hope for? Yet to that very inclination alone, all was
granted - by such conduct, the innate goodness of the heart is ever characterized; in you it shone, with most uncommon lustre. I know not what to say, that can convey even an idea of my gratitude; it operates so strongly on my mind that silence only, can express it. - in future, it shall be my study to make known, by every exertion possible, the perfect sense. I shall entertain of all your favours.
I am, Ladies and Gentlemen, Your very much obliged, And obedient servant,
W. H. Moss. Cubbin's Hair Dresser, Duke-Street, Douglas Aug. 19, 1809"
The other actors followed suit in thanking the theatre goers,
Manx Advertiser 26.08.1809. "For the Benefit of Mrs. Newton. Mr. Newton begs to return his sincere thanks to the Ladies and Gentlemen of Douglas and its vicinity, for the very liberal encouragement experienced at his benefit, and hopes the evening's entertainments, selected for Mrs. N's night, will meet their approbation and support, which has been their chief study to deserve. On Monday evening, the 29th Ausgust1809 will be performed, the fashionable comedy, called,
The West Indian"
Manx Advertiser 02.09.1809 "For the Benefit of Mrs. Andrewes on Monday evening, the 4th of September, 1809 will be presented, an admired comedy, called, Secrets Worth Knowing."
Manx Advertiser 09.09.1809. "For the benefit of Mr and Mrs. Keld (Stage and Wardrobe Keepers) who respectfully beg leave to solicit a proportionate share of that patronage and support so liberally bestowed by a generous public on their predecessors, which they will ever gratefully acknowledge on Monday evening, the 1 lth September, 1809 will be presented, an admired comedy called,
'Clandestine Marriage.' written by Garrick and Colman)."
During September 1809 Mr. Moss put on a charity show for the poor of Douglas and received the thanks of the Trustees in the columns of the newspaper dated 6th September. The show raised £15.17.6
"The Company's last performance in Douglas was on 18th September with (the never acted in this Island) the celebrated, fashionable, and much esteemed comedy of 'The Hypocrite' originally from the French of Molliere, and since altered for the English stage, by Colly Cibber and Jacob Bukerstaffe, Esqrs."
Another charity event took place on 8th December 1809 at Ramsey, Manx Advertiser 16.12.1809 "Ramsey Theatricals - The dramatic amusements of this place terminated for the season, on Friday the 8th. Inst. With a variety of entertainments, and appropriate address, delivered by Mr. Moss, the Manager, couched in most lively and forcible terms of gratitude to the public, for the very liberal support himself and company had met, during the period of two months; marked by a truly successful and generous patronage, wholly unexperienced (inexperienced) by any prior set of performers, visiting the place, under similar circumstances; nor, and we injustice, finally close this article of our observation, without mention of the liberal and humane disposition on the part of Mr. Moss, the Manager, by his appointment of an evening's performance, for relief of the indigent poor of the town and its neighbourhood; a circumstance that must ever reflect the height of encomium (encomium) on a public character, for so liberal and praise-worthy a motive, especially when so honourable acknowledged by the under signatures of those gentlemen who were induced to officiate as stewards on the occasion."
Dear Sir, - We feel great pleasure in conveying to you the blessings and thanks of forty-four indigent persons, who have been seasonally relieved by the distribution of eleven pounds and fifteen shillings, British, being the neat produce of a benefit play, given so humanely by you and the rest of your company, on Monday the 4th inst. And remain, dear Sir,
Your obedient servants,
Wm Kissack, jun, Daniel Lace Gelling, Ramsey, 7th Dec. 1809"
The 1810 season opened on 28th May at the Theatre Royal, Douglas with the production of 'Curiosity or, A Dramatic Pledge.'
Among the cast is the name of Master Holiday, no doubt the son of Mr. and Mrs. Holiday, the same young man who may be found in concert recitals with Mr. Lantihw. (See Concerts)
July sees the actors soliciting the support of the public for their benefit nights at the theatre,
Manx Advertiser 14.07.18 10 "Theatre, Douglas. Mr. York most respectfully begs leave to inform the nobility, gentry, and others, that his benefit is fixed for Monday evening, the 15th instant, on which occasion he presumes earnestly, to entreat the honour of their support."
Manx Advertiser 21.07.1810 "Theatre, Douglas. Mrs.Andrewes most respectfully informs the nobility, gentry, and public of Douglas and its vicinity, that her benefit is fixed for Monday evening, the 23rd instant, upon which occasion she humbly solicits for a share of those favours, which have been so liberally bestowed on the company in general, which, as they will essentially served so they will ever be gratefully remembered."
Manx Advertiser 04.08.18 10 "Theatre, Douglas. Mrs. York most respectfully begs to acquaint the nobility, gentry and others, that her benefit takes place on Monday evening, the 6th instant; on which occasion she fervently hopes to be honoured with their patronage, and for which she presumes to solicit."
Manx Advertiser 11.08.18 10 "By Particular Desire. For the benefit of Mrs. Moss who is induced, respectfully, to solicit the patronage of her friends and the public, on the present occasion, in consequence of a failure in her former attempt; owing to the inclemency of the weather, which prevented the attendance of many families (her friends) who had politely signified to her, their liberal intention to attention of support. The honour of any commands for tickets or places in the boxes, will be thankfully acknowledged.
Mr. and Mrs. York, respectfully return their most grateful thanks to the nobility, gentry and the public of Douglas, for the liberal patronage they have experienced at their benefit."
Unfortunately Mr. Moss, despite his efforts and appeals to the public, fell into debt. What happened? Perhaps the economy of the Island slumped, fewer visitors to the Island, the herring season failed; Mrs Moss sights the inclemency of the weather. The Manx Advertiser has sympathy for Mr. Moss and hopes he may escape imprisonment and be able to pay off his creditors and leave the Island.
Manx Advertiser 08.09.1810 "Mr. Moss with the utmost diffidence and respect, begs leave to acquaint the liberal inhabitants of Douglas and its vicinity, that, during the present theatric (theatrical) season, the nightly expenses have so very considerably exceeded the receipts, as to involved him into very serious difficulties and embarrassment, by not having the means immediately in his power, to discharge those demands on the theatre, without the necessity of making this pointed appeal, to the consideration of a generous public, on the present occasion, he presumes respectfully to hope it may be such as will fully enable him to clear off and discharge those debts so unavoidably incurred during the present unsuccessful season, which he will ever most gratefully remember as an essential favour of conferred obligation." Desperately Mr Moss puts on one more production and appeals to the public for support to his theatre in order that he may pay off his debts.
Manx Advertiser 27.10.1810. "The Theatrical season is at an end, and whatever measure of amusement it may have afforded to the public, we cannot but regret the consequences to the manager, whose personal liberty, we are sorry to add, is the unmerited price of his exertions. Had this occurred through any avoidable extravagance, or gratification of unreasonable appetites, he would have had the less claim on our compassion; but we believe (and we know the public will second us in this opinion) that no company has ever yet remained so long among us, who, one and all, have conducted themselves with more unassuming decorum, or laboured with inoffensive industry to afford general satisfaction. Humanity enforces the desire that some method may be devised to enable them to retire from the Island if not enriched, at least with the credit due to harmless efforts, for at best but a precarious livelihood." Did Mr. Moss and company manage to pay off their debts and return to England? They must have done for there is no further mention of them in the newspaper.
With the loss of the Moss company of actors there were no theatre productions on the Island until the arrival of Mr. Kean. in May 1818, a gap of some 8 years.
Mr. Kite made a brief appearance in the Island theatres during the year 1808 with his. The dictionary's definition of this word being "a shifting scene of real or imagined figures" which leads me to believe he may have been an illusionist.
"Theatre Douglas. Phantasmagoria. The public are most respectfully informed that the days of performing next week, will be on Monday 6th, Tuesday the 7th, Wednesday the 8th, and Friday the 10th of June. - An entire change of performances will be brought forward each night; the particulars of which will be expressed in the Bills. Mr. Kite embraces the opportunity of returning his sincere thanks to the inhabitants of Castletown, for the liberal encouragements they were pleased to honour him with." Manx Advertiser 11.06.1808. "Douglas Theatre. - Among the variety of entertainers to be brought forward at this Theatre, in the course of the week, we believe that none has excited, more surprise and admiration, than the Phantasmagoria; this extraordinary exhibition has been viewed with great applause by all ranks; though the audiences (except last night) have not been so numerous as might have been expected, from so curious and novel an entertainment.
Last Night. (For the Benefit of Mr. Benjamin Kite, who has been six months ill) At the Theatre, Douglas, on Wednesday the 13th instant, will be performed, the tragedy of 'George Barwell;' with the Phantasmagoria and other amusements, the particulars of which will be expressed in hand-bills. Mr. Kite returns his grateful acknowledgements for the favours of last night, and hopes to be honoured with the liberal patronage of the public on the above occasion. - June 9th, 1808."
Manx Advertiser 18.06.1808. "Theatre, Douglas. Mr. Kite takes the liberty of informing the ladies and gentlemen of Douglas that he will bring forward a variety of entertainments here on Monday evening; after which the theatre will be closed for a short season, having contracted an engagement to perform three nights next week at Kk.(Kirk) Michael, viz. Wednesday and the two following nights; he also proposes visiting Ramsey and Peel, after which he will return to Douglas, when a variety of fresh performances will be brought forward for the entertainment of the public. Mr. K. returns sincere thanks to the ladies and gentlemen of Douglas, for the liberal encouragement he has already received, and hopes that his future exertions to please will merit a reception of their favours. June 18, 1808."
Mr. and Mrs. Banks, members of the Moss company, tried to drum up some support for their own performances but he also failed;
Manx Advertiser 01.09.1810. "Theatre Douglas. For the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Newton on Monday evening the 3rd instant, will be performed a laughable comedy, called,
A Bold Stroke for a Wife.
To conclude with the much admired farce, called Chrononhotonthologos.
Chrononhotonthologos is a satirical play written in 1734 by the English poet and songwriter, Henry Carey. It describes a mythical King and Queen and their unconsummated marriage.
"Theatre, Douglas. Mr. Banks, having sustained a heavy loss by his late attempt at a benefit, he a second time, takes the liberty of soliciting the patronage and support of a generous public. His benefit is fixed for Wednesday evening next, when every exertion will be made to render the entertainments of the evening worthy of the approbation of the public and to prove his grateful remembrance of the liberality he experienced last season."
The Manx Advertiser, dated the 14th November 1816, was liberal in its praise for Mr. Hindmarsh's performance and defended him when it was alleged that he was accused of being in favour of suicide. The paper even picked up on his successful performances as reported in the Liverpool Mercury.
"Elocution. Last night we had the satisfaction of again witnessing the exertions of Mr. Hindmarsh, and confess, we derived unusual pleasure from his oratorical powers, - Mr. H. was most successful in displaying the duties of the barrister, in his excellent essay; in the energetic pieces, he roused his hearers to an enthusiasm delightful to the feeling patriot; and we noticed, with much pleasure, an addition in 'Othello's Address,' which could not fail to make every British heart exult in the laurels they have so gloriously acquired; in the pathetic parts, Mr. H. was equally happy. We regret to state, that tomorrow-evening, this gentleman will take his leave of us, with a selection which seems particularly calculated to excite expectation. An explanation of the subject of Rhythmus, is both new and interesting; and being especially adapted to regulate the taste and the feeling, it is supposed will excite universal pleasure. Rhythmus is a medieval Latin poetic encomium on the city of Verona composed between 795 and 806 A. D.
"A report, (which he never heard until late last night) has most unaccountably gone abroad, that Mr. Hindmarsh favours the horrid practice of suicide. He takes this opportunity of most solemnly denying so foul an aspersion; - he does, indeed, recollect, one evening in a private family circle in Castletown, having recapitulated some of the principle reasoning generally used by advocates of this inhuman crime, and for argument's sake; but, he unreservedly declares, that, in point of fact, he never entertained a doubt on the subject; and, as a sincere believer in the 'Christian Dispensation' he regards it as one of the most violent outrages that can be committed against the Laws of Heaven. Thursday Morning."
"Manx Advertiser 01.05.1817 - Liverpool Mercury. Mr. Hindmarsh - Elocutionist We are happy to see Mr. Hindmarsh's reading at the Salon, Music Hall, so fully and respectfully attended on Tuesday evening last, on which occasion, as well as his two former readings at the Freemasons' Hall, he seemed to give universal satisfaction to his audience. We have not room to expatiate upon his delivery of each particular piece; but we can safely say, that we have not met with any person who has studied elocution with greater effect, nor one who understands the subject better." Edmund Kean 1819
Manx Advertiser 07.10.1819. "Now performing at Dixon's Assembly-room, Douglas. The ladies and gentlemen of Douglas and the Isle of Man at large, are respectfully informed that Mr. Kean will positively close in the Island on Saturday evening. He will perform on that day, at twelve o'clock, for the accommodation of ladies and gentlemen that may be unable to attend the evening's performance. A band of music will accompany Mr. Kean's performance."
This must be the famous Edmund Kean (1789-1833), regarded as the greatest Shakespearian actor of his time.
Manx Advertiser 14.10.1819. "Mr. Kean - The London papers state that this celebrated actor has given up the idea of his trans-Atlantic expedition. That the misunderstanding between him and Mr. Elliston, is now at an end; and that Mr. Kean is to make his appearance on the boards of the Old Drury early in November." Mr. Kean did go to America a few years later!
Mr. Munro was the actor manager of the Waterloo Theatre in Wellington Buildings, the newly built undercover market hall in Duke Street, and had a successful run of plays during 1819 and 1820.1 reckon that the Wellington Buildings probably abutted Wellington Street and Duke Street and perhaps the theatre area of the buildings was rebuilt or refurbished in 1858 and opened as the Theatre Royal.
Mr. Munro took the newspaper editor to task about a remark about profit,
"Mr. Monro is sorry for the severe disappointment of a certain splenetic editor, who has recently published to the world his bitter lamentation in the following remarkable strains:-'I hailed with satisfaction the expected arrival of a party of players lately in the Isle of Man; and anticipate pleasure and profit* from the booked for event.' But alas Sir, my expectations have been severely disappointed. *PROFIT - Aye there's the rub."
The critic from the Manx Advertiser wrote his review in the issue dated 4th November 1819, "We congratulate Mr. Munro upon the brilliancy of the audience last night, in the Waterloo Theatre, to witness his performance of 'the Stranger;' and feel confident he must be gratified by the repeated remarks of approbation bestowed by the audience on his manifest endeavours to please. - Mr. Heney is very respectable in his cast of characters, as is Mr. Andrewes; (Was this the Mr. Andrewes previously a member of Mr. Moss's company?)) and young Mr. Heney's naturally comic humour is repaid by the laughter of the gods in the gallery. We could wish Mr. Gardener to be more conversant with his author, and attentive to the graces. Mrs. Heney has a powerful melodious voice, and exerts it with success. To conclude our observations on the company, we regret that Mrs. Munro is compelled every night, to exert herself in such arduous characters, in both play and farce, but are happy to find that the audiences duly appreciate and applaud her talent."
Although Mr. Munro was popular, the Advertsier of the 2nd of December 1819, was quick to note that audiences were not as good as they had been on previous occasions, "We sorry we cannot congratulate Mr. Munro upon the success of the theatre for the last fortnight, and lament that his manifest endeavours to obtain the support of the public, by procuring every novelty, have not received their reward. The melodrama of 'The Hunter of the Alps,' and the pantomimic spectacle of 'Raymond and Agnes,' were however, last night, honoured with reiterated bursts of approbation. The latter piece is to be repeated tomorrow evening, with our revered Shakespeare's tragedy of 'Richard the Third,' when we anticipate a full house, as we learn, several of our leading families are resolved to honour the Waterloo Theatre with their support." The following week the reporter gave a glowing report of the current production, "Last night Shakespeare's admired tragedy of 'Richard the Third' was repeated at the theatre. The house was well attended, and the performance went off with considerable ëclat, though we were sorry to observe in Mr. Munro's acting a deficiency of that energy and force which marked his delineation of the crook-back'd tyrant on its first representation arising, we understand, from a severe cold and sore throat, occasioned by his exertions in that arduous character on Friday last. His love scene with Lady Anne, his crafty villainy till he obtained the height of his ambition - the crown, and his blood-thirsty determination to maintain it, his hurried bustle in the fourth act, his absent manner of acting in the fifth, his fight, and death, all met with merited approbation. We were sorry to observe the diffidence which overcame the gentleman who so laudably volunteered his services in the character of Richard. He, however, met with deserved applause, and sustained his part with feeling and effect. The other performers acquitted themselves in a respectable manner. The farce of 'the Review' passed off with great applause, and the company retired highly gratified with the evening's entertainment."
Mr. Munro was very popular and when he fell and broke his arm in Market Place, Douglas, in early December 1819 his local supporters rallied around him and the newly formed Gentlemen Amateurs performed a benefit night for him, no doubt under his guidance and production. They gave a number of charity performances for the Ladies' Soup Dispensary.
Mr. Munro with the assistance of The Gentlemen Amateurs and one of his company, Mr. Heney continue to put on entertainments but he must have found it too much of strain and decided to close the theatre until he had recovered sufficiently, "We sorry to observe that Mr. Munro, the manager of the theatre, has had the misfortune to break his right arm, by a fall which he accidentally met with in the Market Place, on Thursday night last. Mr. Munro's admirable style of acting has rendered him a favourite with the lovers of the drama, who have evinced much regret at an occurrence which will, of course, deprive them of, for a time, of the pleasure of witnessing his performance. - This deficiency has however, been remedied by several gentlemen of Douglas, who have kindly volunteered the services and ably supported several characters. We cannot conclude this paragraph without bestowing our need of praise on Mr. Heney, for his uncommon exertions in Mr. Munro's absence. Since writing the above, we learn that Mr. Munro has very judiciously determined, after tomorrow night, to close the theatre till his recovery, which, it is hoped, a few days will effect."
On the 29th December, "The Waterloo Theatre re-opened last night, with the play of 'John Bull,' for the benefit of Mrs. Heney; but we are sorry to observe that the house was not so well attended as on former occasions. The performers acquitted themselves in an able manner. Mr. W. Heney's Dennis Brulgruddery in the pay and his Endless the lawyer, in the farce of 'No Song, No Supper,' received merited applause; and Mrs. Munro's endeavours to please the audience was rewarded with her usual share of approbation. We understand that the theatre will close for the season in the course of a few days - tomorrow evening the favourite comedy of the 'Heir at Law,' and the farce called 'the Age of Tomorrow,' for the benefit of Mr. Gardner". January 6th 1820 the Advertiser reported that, "On Monday evening the favourite comedy of - 'A Cure for the Heart Ache,' was performed at our theatre, for the benefit of Mr. W. Heney. The house was crowded and Mr. H. expressed his grateful acknowledgments on the occasion. The lovers of drama will perceive, by referring to an advertisement in a subsequent column, that in consequence of the serious accident which has befallen Mr. Munro, the manager of our theatre, a party of gentlemen have, with the most praiseworthy benevolence, volunteered their services to perform a play and farce, on Friday evening, the 21 st of this month, for the benefit of that deserving actor; and we have no doubt but their laudable exertions will be liberally patronized, as Mr. Munro's former exertions entitle him to the support of a generous and enlightened public."
The Manx Advertiser issued on 2& January congratulated the committee of Management for their spirited exertions on behalf of Mr. Munro and, "as we hear their endeavours are already crowned with the approbation and support of the nobility and gentry of this Island. We learn, from undoubtable authority, that the abilities of the gentlemen who are performing tomorrow evening will more than fulfil the expectations of the admirers of the drama. We also find that the theatre has undergone a complete alteration, and that every attention has been paid to the convenience and accommodation of the public. Mr. Munro has, at considerable expense, provided new characteristic dresses for the occasion, we therefore doubt not but his attention will prove him deserving of their distinguished exertions on his behalf. The Bill of Fare (see adv) announces the domestic tragedy of 'Douglas' - a play which has kept possession of the stage, with the peculiarity of having frequently been selected for the debut of amateurs. The afterpiece 'Miss in her Teens' gives great scope to the versatility of talent, which the stage has ever afforded to those, whose dramatic powers are called into action. A short quotation, from the great dramatic bard, will not be inapplicable to the promoters of Mr. Munro's interest, on the present occasion. -'It blesseth him that gives, and him that receives. - Merchant of Venice, Act 4, scene l."'
The theatre critic, in the issue which followed the opening night given by the Amateurs, gave extensive coverage of the performances and performers and then apologised for not having sufficient space to make further comment. None of the Amateurs' names were printed. Perhaps they felt that was not in keeping with their status, and their friends and family would know who they were anyway. The drama critic gave a gushing critique which was well and truly over the top but maybe the Amateurs were his friends. Here is the report in full for the reader to judge for himself
"The drama has ever been considered a medium of polite recreation and rational amusement. Science and taste have been uniformly connected with the cultivation of the historical art. history, poetry, painting, statuary, and sculpture; - in a word, all science and arts have mutually aided each other. The stage however, has frequently been decried as to its ill effects on the morals of the people. The devout Christian sometimes, for observing the abuse of the thing, has utterly denied the possibility of its usefulness; and in the fury of its misguided zeal, even denounced the anathema
against it! It must be confessed that there are representations which are too apt to influence the habitual bias of a depraved mind, and thus furnish allurements which are too speciously calculated to influence the passions of the dissolute sensualist, who is invariably a prey so the illusions of his own polluted imagination. But there are many and various kinds of dramatic composition, which, as to morals are unexceptional. Tragedies are, for the most part, of this species. We might as well condemn to the flames all the moral compositions and poetical productions of ancient and modern times, - all the dusty folios of the schoolmen, - tomes of religious controversy and casuistical (casuistic) disputation, and the long count of bodies of divinity, from Tertullian down to Whitfield and Wesley, and cover in utter oblivion, with one broad blot of eternal obliteration, all arguments and inducements to mental improvement or literary excellence, - the numberless beauties of composition, models of virtue, - of genuine piety and classic elegance, with which the pages of various literature abound, merely because they are things exceptional contained in them; but this would not be to act rationally. Nor would it be any augment against religion, that rancour and contention, malignant reflection, and infuriate debate; that heterodox and schismatical (schismatic) tenets formed so great a proportion of those works which were originally intended at once to civilize, to convert, and to save mankind; and which, notwithstanding every abuse, have in reality conducted to the moral amelioration of the world. But with respect to theatricals, the moral tendency of the representation depends on the choice and directions of the manager; and from what we have experienced of the chief of our little theatre in this town, we have no reason to expect other, that a judicious and choice selection of moral pieces. The tragedy team of 'Jane Shore' is one, the performance of which is favourable to morals. We regret that Mr. Munro has been unfortunate as to meet with an accident which has, for some time, disabled him from affording us that fund of good entertainment and of which his personal abilities are so capable. The circumstance has however afforded us an opportunity to witnessing the spirit and humanity of the gentlemen who did us the honour and pleasure of exhibiting, on Friday last, a display of talent in the drama line which evinced not only the liberality of their breeding and tone of superior cast, but the extreme accuracy of their judgment in the province which they assumed. To make no comment on the individuals as they appear in support of their respective characters, were to deny ourselves a gratification, while it would merit the imputation of our want of that proper interest in whatever pleases or entertains so considerable a portion of readers. With respect to the professional ladies who played the characters of Lady Randolph and Anna, any observations we could make must appear merely common place - their merits being so well and generally known.
'To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue Unto the rainbow, or with taper light To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.'
Lord Randolph was ably supported. He appeared a Scottish chief and moved with all the martial elegance of an accomplished soldier.
Old Norval was admirably done. Every voice bore the echo of his praise. The effect of his acting was perfectly irresistible; - the feeble, old and the energetic spirit of the old Shepherd were firmly blended.
Glenalvon moved steadily on with firm purpose of revenge - we would not say, too tamely. His irony was well conceived, and had he not been so well supported by an able Norval it would have gone near to have been a masterpiece of acting.
But the young and gallant Norval had appeared - a meteor refulgent in the blaze of its transit - for, from his debut to the awful denouncement of the tragedy, when the curtain fell, the house rung, whenever he appeared, with reiterated peals of applause. His person, formed to perfect symmetry, possessing every grace of attitude with the most consummate agility, moved on the boards with all the ease of a dramatic veteran. He trod the stage as of he had ever trod it; and with the gay and sprightly port of a youthful warrior, animated by sentiments the most chivalric and noble, he charmed the fascinated public.
--------------------------when he spoke The air, a charter'd libertine was still, And the mute wonder lurk'ed in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honied (honeyed) sentences'
When he arrived at the castle with Lord Randolph, - his meek, yet dignified simplicity of air and manner - 'the action so well suited to the word, and the word do the action,' to see so well exhibited that native candour and genuine bravery of spirit which marked the noble shepherd, was a treat indeed, as and such as the spectators - a respectable and numerous audience - approved themselves capable of appreciating. The moonlight scene in the grove (Act 5, scene 1) was touched off in superior style; and upon the entrance of old Norval, in the triumphant consciousness of newly acquired greatness - attempted sweetly with native generosity and kindness, was admirably expressed.
'Thy wish'd for presence now completes my joy,'was said as Douglas would have said it. His invocation of the stars, was a grand climax -
'Like Douglas conquer, or like Douglas die' was most happily declaimed. But the parting scene between him and his lady mother, when they separate, and she says. ------------------------------gaze not on me'
The final affection, mingled with the mournful apprehension of the present danger - the tenderness, the burst of feeling which the eye on that occasion expressed, beggars description. But all, notwithstanding, would have been incomplete, had his efforts failed here. In was in the death that young Norval appeared truly inimitable, and those who have witnessed that part performed by the first actors confess they never saw it better done. It was not an awkward, break-neck, clumsy fall; it was not the death of a coward, shrinking from pain and stumbling on his death though terror; it was the fall of a hero gracefully grand, reckless of life, save for the sake of a beloved parent - gradually fainting from loss of blood, and so gradually and so naturally, that imagination of such a death could scarcely go beyond it. He fell elegantly dormant - in this one respect similarly to Caesar - falling by the hands of the conspirators, that to the last he preserved a due regard to a decent propriety and dignity of character. In short it were a moot point to decide which was the more admirable - his conception of the vent, or the extreme promptitude of address with which that conception was executed - The catastrophe was so well wound up, we should have been really alarmed to suppose him fairly gone - had we not be relieved from our apprehensions on the fall of the curtain, when, to our agreeable surprise, we heard out hero from behind cry out - "Richard's himself again." We understand it is contemplation with the gentlemen who favoured us last Friday evening, to give another performance of the benefit of the Ladies Dispensary. We trust it may be carried into effect, as that institution is not so deserving of encouragement, and that the gentlemen will not fail to avail themselves of so fine an opportunity of showing (showing) their polite attention to the ladies.
Mr. Munro was very grateful and printed a letter in the same edition expressing his thanks. The Manx Advertiser 27th January 1820. "A Card. To the nobility and gentry &c., of the Isle of Man; to the gentlemen who proposed my benefit; to the Committee who so ably arranged; and to the Amateurs who so admirably enacted the characters undertaken by them; I beg leave to return my sincere and heartfelt thanks for the distinguished honour which they conferred upon me, on the night of Friday the 21 st instant; and which it will ever be my studious care to merit.
Henry Loftus Munro. Theatre, Jan 26,1820" He introduce a team of new actors,
"Our theatre opened on Monday evening for the second season, with a new company, arrived from England, at the instance of the manager, Mr. Munro. We trust their talents and conduct will entitle them to the approbation of the public, and that we shall have occasion to congratulate him on is judicious selection. - The tragedy of 'Jane Shore,' and the melodrama of 'Ella Rosenberg' were the evening's entertainments: the heroine of each piece were most ably represented by Mrs. Banks (An other member of the Moss company?), who elegance of deportment, and strict adherence to narrative, justly gained the warmest plaudits of an admiring audience. Mrs. Munro's Alicia was finely portrayed, and received its need of applause. We were happy to recognize, in the representative of Lord Hastings, an old favourite of the Island, Mr. Banks, whose personation (impersonation) of that patriotic character was given with all the energy which was so eminently possessed by the unfortunate lover of his country. Mr. Rutherford's Dumont, was highly respectable, and delivered with great force and feeling. The Duke of Gloster, (Glouster) by Mr. Andrewes, was very ably supported - Mr. Mackrall's song was highly comic, and rapturously applauded.
We are sorry to our limits will not allow us to particularize the characters of the alterpiece; but we must not neglect to mention another debutant; Mrs. Rutherford, in the character of Mrs. Flutterman, whose eccentric humour, blended with kind hospitality, proved happy support to the unfortunate Ella, so happily represented by Mrs. Banks - Last night, the Rev. T. C. Martin's celebrated new tragedy of 'Bertrae,' was performed with great success; and in the course of the evening two performers, Mrs. Mackrall and Miss Knight made their first appearance with great ëclat.
By February Mr Munro was fit again and the paper reported, "Theatricals - We are happy to observe that Mr. Munro, the manager of our theatre, has so far recovered from his late severe accident, as to resume his part on the stage. He appeared last night in the character of Penruddock, in the 'Wheel of Fortune;' and tomorrow evening he will perform the part of Shylock, in Shakespeare's tragedy of the 'Merchant of Venice' when it is expected the company will be favoured with a share of liberal patronage, which we think, their talents and conduct entitled then to." Following the observance of the death of the King the Theatre opened its doors again on the 17th February, 1820.
In March Mr Munro gave notice of his intention to open a theatre in Ramsey with, "a judicious selection of the most fashionable pieces, will insure to him that patronage and support which will be is chief study to deserve."
The Gentlemen Amateurs went from strength to strength and in March gave a performance for the benefit for the Ladies' Soup Dispensary which raised £16. Another production for the Relief of the Poor of Douglas saw a second charitable performance by the Amateurs.
"Last night, agreeably to appointment was performed of the benefit of the sick and convalescent poor of this town, the popular play of Douglas; and the receipts were, as we might have been expected, an additional testimony to the charitable disposition of the people. The acting was excellent, as we would naturally be led to anticipate from amateurs who on a former occasion evinced so great a degree of ability, who well confirmed their reputation for dramatic tact, by representing those characters to the life on the stage, which they knew so well how to appreciate in the closet. It were quite superfluous for us to advance one additional observation on a theme, upon which we have heretofore taken the liberty to enlarge, which we feel inclined to repeat, and unite our continued plaudits with rapturous acclaims of a respectable audience. On Tuesday evening next, the 'Lady of the Lake', with the melodrama interlude of 'Bombastes Furiosos' and a farce of the 'Deaf Lover,' will be performed at our theatre, by the Gentleman Amateurs, for the benefit of the company of Comedians; and as it will be the last night this town will be favoured with the amusements for a season, we have no doubt but there will be on this occasion an overflowing house. - see advertisement."
Mr Munro seems to have left the Island around about this time. Mr. Rutherford, a member of his company stayed behind. He may have done so to help with the charity production by the Amateurs or most probably, from the tone of the report in the paper, didn't have the boat fare. They gave a benefit for him and his family before they left the Island. An actor's life was precarious,
Manx Advertiser dated 16th November 1820, "Theatrical. Amateur Performance
The Gentlemen Amateur Performers who have undertaken to perform a play and farce for the benefit of Mr. Rutherford, to relieve the very pressing difficulties which this respectable actor and his family labour under, from a series of domestic misfortunes" The critic, commenting on the performances, was once again glowing in his report, to say the least, "With respect to the success of the Amateurs last Friday night, our anticipations have been happily realized. The benefit amount to about £30. Of the actors, it were (is) superfluous to say anything, their respective exertions being so well known. One anecdote however, we beg leave to relate relative to one of the performers, who so highly distinguished himself. - A lady, of the most approved taste, from the other side of the country, having attended to witness the performance, was heard to exclaim, 'I had been led to expect a second Kemble here to-night, and I have not been disappointed!"'
The Amateurs gave two performances; one for the benefit of Mr. Rutherford and one for the charity of the Ladies' Soup Dispensary. This was to be the last performance of the kind to take place that season as Mr. Rutherford moved back to England and took all his scenery with him.
Mr. Ryley was an author and lecturer who gave humorous performances during August and September 1820 after a successful week at Dixon's Assembly Room, Douglas he moved to Ramsey and Castletown for one night stands as reported by the Manx Advertiser dated 24th August 1820.
The editor of the Manx Advertiser in December 1816 was sent a copy of a farce written by a local writer offering the script for presentation in the newspaper. The editor declined and suggested that the author seek publication.
"'The Departure"' - we promise ourselves no inconsiderable amusement from a perusal of this notice 'minor drama' - We have read the first scene, which exhibits a lively imagination, and exposes, in the most ludicrous manner, the too usual custom of leaving trades people in the lurch. - The dialogue is easy, spirited and appropriate; and the conceptions„ were ornament. Or consistency is wanting, if not brilliant, are happy and probable. And we are lead to hope, that such a performance will not be without its use; for, as Horace observes 'Ridicule is frequently employed with more power and success, than severity' - Though we had an offer of presenting 'The Departure' to our friends through the medium of 'The adventure,' yet we advised the author to print it as a pamphlet, because we could not have inserted the whole in fewer than three or four papers; and because we feel a conviction that it will be sought after with avidity by almost every individual". - See the advertisement
"05.12.1816 Advertisement. The Departure in the Press, and speedily to be published, Price sixpence, British. The Departure, a la Francoise or Whitehaven Packet; A modern insular farce in one act. Douglas, 4th of Dec, 1816."
16.12.1809 To Let, a large garden, well stocked with fruit trees, opposite new church. - Also a cellar under the playhouse. - Apply Mrs. Moore, adjoining the Playhouse. Douglass 15th Dec. 1809
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