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|The Birth-Day :The Inspiration For Two JA novels?
Written by JulieW
(11/29/2006 8:45 a.m.)
The Orchard Street Calendear :1750-105, details all the performances given at the theatre during these years,and for the evening of Saturday the 22nd June, 1799, two pieces are listed: The Birth-Day, as the mainpiece with Bluebeard as the afterpiece.
I'll post more on Bluebeard later, but in this post I'd like to discuss The Birth-Day.
As you are probably aware, the Bath theatre was second only to London in it's fashionableness and in the quality of it's actors and producions.
Many of the "greats" of the era began their careers in Bath, for example Elliston,JA's favouite comedian was a very poular actor in Bath.See here for my old post on the Bath theatre from the Special Topic on the Theatre, which I wrote for the last Mansfield Park GR.
The Orchard Street theatre staged productions that were classics and also new favourites: I suppose what I am trying to say is that it was not just any provincial theatre:-)
So it was no surprise really that it staged The Birth-Day, a translation of Auguste Von Koztebue's play Reconcilliation, only 2 months after its premiere in London at the Covent Garden Theatre.( It was premeiered there on the 8th April: see The London Stage :1660-1800,paragraph 2102, ).
This version of Kozebue's play was tranlated by Thoms Dibdin, who in his introduction to teh play (published in 1800) has this to say:
As it was last year the rage to applaud, it has now become the fashion to decry the introduction of the German drama to our theatres. On this point I dare not presume to give any other opinion , than that a play which recommends peace,amity and benevolence will be grateful to the feelings of an Elglishman, whether the offspring of his own or any other counrty
I think JA migth have agreed.
Let me explain.
The names of the characters and their siutations as featured in this play may sound rather familiar to you....Do look at this passage from Paula Byrne's fabulous book Jane Austen and the Theatre:
The plot is centered on a feud in the Bertram family.
Twin brothers estranged over a law suit, are finally reconciled on their sixty-third birthday by the efforts of their children, cousins who are in love with each other.
The heroine, Emma Bertram, is devoted to her father and has voved never to marry until she is finally persuaded by her cousin.
"But if a man could be found who would bestwo on your father a quiet old age, free from every sorrow; who , far from robbing teh father of a good daughter, would weave the garland
Sound familar, people?
There is also a sub plot which maybe of interest too:
Two of the best comic charcters in the Birth-Day are a boatswain ,Jack Junk and a meddling housekeeper, Mrs Moral, who has taken over control of Captain Bertram's household and has contriubuted to the family estrangement for her own devious means.
Mansfield Park in which a different Kotzebue adaptation is staged, shares with this other Kotzebue play not only the family name "Bertram" but also simialr comic sterotypes in the person of the bullying interferring Mr Norris and the rum drinking oath swearing Mr Price.
It's intersting to note that JA does not mention the plays she saw by name at all in her letter to Cassandra ..but I do think that The Birth-Day had a significant inlfuence on her and her plots?
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