John Levitt Collection of Correspondence and Theatrical Memorabilia

Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence between Charles James Mathews and Charles Dance and between Charles B. Cochran and Maurice Willson Disher, including rough drafts and typed transcripts.

The theatrical memorabilia comprises paper and silk playbills, black and white photographs including performance photographs, drawings and paintings including costume designs, press clippings, magazines, scripts, scores and lyrics. The memorabilia relates to music hall, pantomime and Sarah Bernhardt. Items of interest include an original cartoon of Charles B. Cochran, a pencil and watercolour cartoon of Stanley Lupino as Idle Jack, a print from Vanity Fair of a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt and a photograph of Vesta Victoria, Maude Lloyd and Lloyd’s second husband Alec Hurley, the music hall coster singer.

Finally it includes John Levitt’s correspondence regarding the collection and a researcher’s notes on impresarios and music hall performers of the 19th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles James Mathews (1803-1878) was born in Liverpool and initially worked as an architect. His acting career began in 1835 and continued until the year of his death, encompassing performances in the United Kingdom, United States of America and France. Between the late 1930s and 1955 he and his wife Lucia Elizabeth Vestris (1797 –1856), known as Madame Vestris, managed venues including the Olympic Theatre, the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and the Lyceum Theatre.

Charles Dance (1794-1863) combined his work as a dramatist with various legal jobs mainly in the Insolvent Debtors' Court. Dance had a professional friendship with Mathews and Madame Vestris, helping them to negotiate the lease for the Lyceum Theatre and also contributing Olympic Revels as the opening piece of their first season. Many of Dance’s works have been printed in Lacy's ‘Acting Edition of Plays,’ Duncombe's ‘British Theatre,’ Webster's ‘Acting National Drama,’ and Miller's ‘Modern Acting Drama.

Sir Charles Blake Cochran (1872-1951) attended Oxford University, began his career as an actor and later worked as a press representative, agent and author. From 1916 until his death he produced plays, musicals and musical revues including work by Noël Coward and Vivian Ellis. He was knighted in 1948 and elected to the Légion d'honneur in 1950.

Cochran’s friend Maurice Willson Disher (1893-1969) was a theatre historian, author and playwright.

George Leslie Brook (1910-1987) was professor of English Language and Medieval English Literature at Manchester University from 1945 to 1977. George Brook was a collected literature covering subjects including theatrical history and theology. His collections are now distributed at academic institutions including Baylor University, Texas and Manchester University. Brook may have known Charles B. Cochran.

John Henry Levitt (1923-2005) attended Manchester University and was taught by George Leslie Brook. Levitt began his teaching career in 1948 at the Workers' Educational Association and later worked at Keele University, retiring as its Director of Adult Education. He was an English literature scholar and a contributor to the ‘Oxford Companion to English Literature’ and the ‘Dictionary of National Biography.’

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Separated Material

The following materials have been removed from this collection and have been integrated into the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance's core collections.


  • "The Saturday Programme and Sketch-Book", July 10, 1875
  • "The Courier", Manchester Opera House, No. 5, Vol. 1, Nov. 1932.
  • "The Courier", Manchester Opera House, No. 6, Vol. 1, Dec. 1932.


  • Globe Theatre, The Promise of May
  • Royal Albert Hall, Chaliapine,1927
  • Grosvenor House, Mammoth Cabaret, 1935
  • Palace Theatre, Flashbacks: The Evolution of the Movies, 1938
  • Globe Theatre, International Season, 1930s
  • King's Theatre & Theatre Royal Glasgow, Forthcoming Attractions, 1930


  • Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, School for Scandal, 1816
  • Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, As You Like it, The Gladiator!, The Duchess of Ormond, 1836
  • Theatre Royal, Worcester, The Mother's Secret, Betsey Baker, 1855
  • Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre, Ours!, 1866
  • Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre, A Winning Hazard, School, Intrigue, 1869
  • Prince's Theatre, Henry V, 1872
  • Pullan's Theatre of Varieties, Wises, George & Lily Grey, Harry Phillips, Young & Dean, Pongo, Elva, Cockrill Family, Fred Wilton, Leno, 1878

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Charles B. Cochran biographies, as well as the ..... in general may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.