Theatrical Oligarchies: The Role of the Examiner of Plays
This chapter traces the day-to-day workings of the Lord Chamberlain’s Examiner of Plays, the official post of stage censor occupied between 1778 and 1824 by John Larpent and then by the successful ex-playwright, George Colman the Younger. Although theoretically limited to London’s Westminster, the Examiner controlled all Theatre Royal playhouses outside of Ireland and, in any event, Covent Garden and Drury Lane exercised their own pressures to preserve their monopoly. The chapter concentrates on the 1790s, coinciding with the French Revolution, the Napoleonic War, and civil disturbance. Until the mid 1790s, John Larpent included his wife, Anna Margaretta, in his decisions, both of them reading plays aloud and commenting on their suitability. A number of case histories are examined. Larpents’ own ideological preferences are discussed, as revealed by Anna Margaretta’s manuscript diaries, including their flirtation with the Association for Preserving Liberty and Property Against Republicans and Levellers.
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