Charles Dickens' Amateur Theatrical Company, Papers relating to

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers relating to an amateur performance by Charles Dickens' Amateur Theatrical Company at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, as part of a brief provincial tour in June and July 1848 for the purpose of raising funds for an endowment for the curatorship of William Shakespeare's House in Stratford-upon-Avon which had been purchased by London and Shakespeare Committee in 1847.

These papers relate to the administrative and publicity arrangements made by Charles Dickens for this performance on 9 June and comprise a letter to the secretary of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution about the arrangements and publicity for the performance, a draft playbill and draft ticket in his hand which were sent to the Birmingham printer, Hugh Hutton, together with a printed version of the finalised ticket. The papers also include a letter relating to the provenance of the papers, 1948.

Charles Dickens' Company included various of his literary and artistic friends as well as his brothers.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1847, the London and Shakespeare Committee purchased Shakespeare's House, in Stratford-upon-Avon and wanted to appoint a suitable person to administer the birthplace. Charles Dickens, who was a member of the Committee, formed a touring amateur theatrical troupe in 1848 for the purpose of staging amateur theatricals in order to raise funds for an endowment for the curatorship of the house and then to install the recently bankrupted dramatist Sheridan Knowles as the first incumbent. Dickens had previously staged a benefit performance for Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), English essayist and poet. Two productions in aid of the were held at the Haymarket in London and subsequently at Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Dickens took full responsibility for running the tour in the provinces and making all the administrative and publicity arrangements.

There were two performances in Birmingham, the first on 6 June of Jonson's 'Everyman in his Humour' and Mrs Inchbald's farce 'Animal Magnetism' at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham and to which this collection relates.

No appointment was in fact made to the position as curator of Shakespeare's birthplace, which became the responsibility of the Stratford Shakespeare Committee, but the company made a donation to Knowles from the profits of the tour.

Source: Research Libraries Bulletin Number 7, Spring 2000, 8-12

Conditions Governing Access

Access to all registered researchers

Acquisition Information

Presented by the Lee family in November 1998

Other Finding Aids

Please see the full catalogue for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

The manuscript playbill and the design for the tickets were sent to the printer, Hugh Hutton in advance of the performance. These documents, together with the associated letter from Charles Dickens were retained by the Hutton family until 1948. In 1948, his grandson, Robert Hutton, passed the papers to Stephen. G. Lee because of the close connections between the two families: Robert Hutton's sister, Ellen Hutton, was former governess to Stephen Lee.

Bibliography

For further details about this theatrical venture, see 'Charles Dickens at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, 1848' in Research Libraries Bulletin Number 7, Spring 2000, 8-12