Private Theatricals

John Moultrie

John Moultrie was a friend of Winthrop and one of his collaborator’s at Eton on the periodical The Etonian.  He was a poet himself and even wrote a sonnet to Winthrop:

In youth and early manhood thou and I
Thro’ this world’s path walk’d blithely side by side,
Unlike, and yet by kindred aims allied,
Both courting one coy mistress — Poesy …..

Littell, in his Living Age 4th Series Vol1, April, May, June 1886, commented about Moutrie:

“After all, the vein of Praed and of his closest followers is rather the voice of brilliant boyhood than of poetry in its prime. Its fountain was Eton: the epoch of its rise was one of singular brilliance in politics and literature. Two mighty meteors, Byron and Canning, shone in the sky, charming and haunting the excitable imaginations of youth, less easily stimulated by the calmer radiance of the steadfast stars of thought. Cannin and Frere at an earlier, Gladstone and Arthur Hallam at a later date, felt a similar literary impulse but were far less successful than the youthful group of whom Praed, Moultrie, Nelson Coleridge, Sydney Walker were the prominent figures. Marvellous boys all of them.”


The Stranger

Theatre historians usually consider the runaway success of The Stranger, the English version of Menschenhass und Reue, in both England (where it opened in 1798) and the United States as one of the harbingers of the emerging popularity of theatrical melodrama, which dominated European and American stages for the first seventy-five years of the nineteenth century.  The Stranger was written by August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue (1761 –1819), a German dramatist and writer who also worked as a consul in Russia and Germany.


Fustian Hall etc

Fustian, meaning bombastic or pretentious, was the name given by Henry Fielding to one of the protaganists in his satirical play Pasquin and also appeared in a similar role in The Life & Death of Common Sense an allegory about the overthrow of Queen Common Sense by Queen Ignorance.  The style of play is a sort of rehearsal in which protagonist Fustian is himself the author of a play, a tragedy, within the main play.

Interestingly, Lady Arabella Fustian and Fustian Hall also appear in Peter Schaffer’s comedy play Lettice and Lovage.



The Princess Huncamunca appears in Fielding’s satirical Play Tom Thumb and the Tragedy of Tragedies.  She is “Daughter to their Majesties King Arthur and Queen Dollallolla, of a very sweet, gentle, and amorous Disposition, equally in Love with Lord Grizzle and Tom Thumb, and desirous to be married to them both”.

The Tragedy of Tragedies was an expanded and rewritten version of Tom Thumb.  Fielding altered the play because although audiences enjoyed the play they did not notice the satire directed at the problems of contemporary theatre; the rewrite was intended to make the satire more obvious. The play was first performed on 24 March 1731 at the Haymarket Theatre in London, with the companion piece The Letter Writers.  Its printed edition was “edited” and “commented” on by Fielding’s pseudonym H. Scriblerus Secundus, who pretends not to be the original author.  It contains a frontispiece by Hogarth, which serves as the earliest proof of a relationship between Fielding and Hogarth.

Interestingly the novelist Frances Burney played Huncamunca in private productions of 1777 and Frances (Fanny) Burney came to Teignmouth in the summer of 1773 where she made her famous diary entries about the “Fishing Women” of Teignmouth.