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|Special Topic : French Street Theatre, Southampton
Written by JulieW
(5/9/2004 3:07 a.m.)
The theatre in Southampton was a far cry from the theatres she knew in Bath and in London.
It was a place where amateur and provincial theatre companies performed. I suppose we can say they were probably not always first rate performances.
Stars from London made occasional visits-for example Mrs Siddons and Dorothea Jordan in 1802 and 1803.
Southampton was gaining popularity as a spa town and for sea bathing. Charles Dibdin, the dramatist born in Southampton related the popularity of Southampton to the increasing number of;
“genteel families who have made it their residence”.
Amateur dramatical performances took place in the theatre as well as professional ones.
In 1807 Hume’s tragedy Douglas- was performed by the local grammar school boys for the benefit of British prisoners of war in France. This may explain why Jane Austen put these words into Tom Bertram's mouth, when he was reminiscing about reading aloud at home;
“And I am convinced to the contrary. Nobody is fonder of the exercise of talent in young people, or promotes it more, than my father, and for anything of the acting, spouting, reciting kind, I think he has always a decided taste. I am sure he encouraged it in us as boys. How many a time have we mourned over the dead body of Julius Caesar, and to be’d and not to be’d, in this very room, for his amusement? And I am sure, my name was Norval, every evening of my life through one Christmas holidays”
Jane Austen took her niece Fanny Knight to the theatre in French Street in 14th September 1807,where they saw John Bannister in “The Way to Keep Him” and a musical adaptation of Kotzebue's "Of Age Tomorrow".
Jane Austen's Life & Times is maintained by JulieW with WebBBS 3.21.