Untold lives blog

226 posts categorized "Work"

26 September 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 4: The Lord Chamberlain’s Office and the Policy of Appeasement

The 1930s were a problematic time for the Earl of Cromer, Lord Chamberlain from 1922 to 1938.  It fell to him to balance representations of Fascism on stage with the policy of appeasement that the British Government espoused at the time.


Portrait of Rowland Thomas Baring, 2nd Earl of Cromer 1930Rowland Thomas Baring, 2nd Earl of Cromer after Randolph Schwabe (1930) NPG D20814 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG CC By

In 1933 the Examiner of Plays, George Street, recommended the play Who Made the Iron Grow, for licence, but he suggested that it might present some political difficulties.  The play was a domestic drama that focused on the persecution of Jews in Hitler’s Germany.


Detail from Who Made the Iron Grow Reader ReportDetail from Who Made the Iron Grow Reader Report, LR 1933/4

The Lord Chamberlain disagreed with Street’s assessment and refused the play a licence.  When the author, Alan Peters, took issue with the refusal the Lord Chamberlain laid out the anxieties he had about the play:
‘The whole thing is a strong indictment of atrocities and excesses committed by the Nazis in Germany, and while possibly there is much truth in it all, I did not think that the British stage was a vehicle for this sort of propaganda...’.

Take Heed (1933) by Leslie Reade, was upfront in its criticism of the Nazi Third Reich.  Its plot culminated in the suicide of the protagonist’s Jewish wife and a vitriolic verbal attack on the evils of Fascism.  Street again saw merit in the play saying that he disliked the brutality of the Nazis, but Lord Cromer had the German response in mind and contacted the Foreign Office for advice.  The Foreign Office agreed that the play should be refused a licence, adding that giving a licence could be seen as an official endorsement of its themes.

Detail from Take Heed Reader ReportDetail from Take Heed Reader Report, LR 1934/4


It is this idea of the licence being interpreted as an endorsement that conflicted with the policy of appeasement.  Elsewhere in the UK’s media, the government was seeking to stem the flow of anti-Nazi sentiment, but the policy of appeasement could most easily enforced in the theatre because of the official role of the censor and their importance as a representative of the Crown.

Such policies would be abandoned after Britain went to war in 1939 and in retrospect would be highly criticised by figures such as Winston Churchill.   It is debatable whether these censored plays could have mobilised public opinion one way or the other given the dominance of other media.  However, there is no doubt that amongst these refused plays is a startling insight into the fate of the Jews in Germany.  Authors in 1933 and 1934 were already outlining the shocking consequences of state sponsored antisemitism.

Heroes was submitted in 1934 and promptly refused a licence.  The play described some of appalling experiences that many Jewish people on the continent would soon face, including removal, abuse, harassment, violence and murder.  Its portrayal of a Jewish family suffering under the Nazis emphasised the horrors that were both present and yet to come, but its vision and warning were silenced when public empathy with the Jewish people was most needed.

The Lord Chamberlain’s licence refusal on the Reader Report for HeroesThe Lord Chamberlain’s licence refusal on the Reader Report for Heroes, LR 1934/5


Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume 2 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2005)
Dilemmas, Choices, Responses: Britain and the Holocaust – Online Exhibition The Weiner Library
Lord Chamberlain Plays, Licence Refused: Add MS 68816 - 68850
Lord Chamberlain Plays Reports, Licence Refused: Original Reference LR 1903- LR 1949

 

12 September 2019

Pupils from the Asylum for deaf and dumb children

The Asylum for the support and education of the deaf and dumb children of the poor published lists of pupils’ names with some family details.  Some parents had more than one deaf and dumb child to care for.  I picked a family named in a report of 1817 to try to trace what happened to the children after they left the Asylum.

The Deaf and Dumb Asylum Old Kent Road'

'The Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Kent Road' from David Hughson, Walks through London, including Westminster and the borough of Southwark, with the surrounding suburbs (London, 1817) Noc

Pupils Henry and Louisa Tattler (or Tatler) came from a family of eleven children, four of whom were deaf and dumb. They lived in Plough Court, Fetter Lane, London. Their parents were James Tattler, a jeweller or trinket maker described in the report as ‘insane’, and his wife Mary Ann. In 1816 James was a patient at Bethlem Hospital which specialised in the care of the mentally ill.  He died in 1817, aged 44. 

Bethlem Hospital'View of the new Bethlem Hospital in St. George's Fields' 1814, Maps K.Top.27.56.2 Noc Images Online

What happened to the family after James Tattler’s death?

Mary Ann continued to live in Plough Court. Henry Tattler (born 1804) followed his father into the jewellery trade.  He was apprenticed to Robertson and Co of Villiers Street in March 1820.  In 1851 he was living in Baldwin’s Gardens Holborn with his brother James (born 1793) who was a shoemaker described as partially deaf and dumb.

Louisa Tattler (born 1807) became a bookbinder.  Around 1841 she became a pauper inmate of the West London Union Workhouse.  She was still there in 1861.

Here is what I have discovered about some of the other siblings.

Anne Tattler was apprenticed aged 13 in 1810 to Joseph Anderson, a water gilder in Clerkenwell.  It is likely that she was the mother of Alfred Tattler born in the Shoe Lane workhouse in 1818. Alfred was buried aged three months.

Frederick Tattler (born 1801) lived in the Fleet Street area and worked as a carman and labourer. He married Sarah Wickens in 1839. It does not appear that they had any children.

Sophia Tattler (born 1803) married Joseph Snelling in 1829 but died in 1831 in Holborn.

Emma Rebecca Tattler (born 1805) had mental health problems.  She was admitted in January 1840 to the workhouse in Shoreditch and became the subject of a removal order to her home parish of St Andrew Holborn.  Her mother Mary Ann gave a detailed statement about the family’s circumstances going back to her marriage to James in 1792. The Shoreditch justice suspended Emma’s removal ‘by reason of insanity’ and she was taken to Sir J. Miles’ Asylum. However the removal order was executed in March because she was said to have recovered.  Emma died in March 1842 whilst in the care of the Holborn Poor Law Union.

Charles Richard Tattler (born 1808) was a wine cooper living in Finsbury. He married Susan Lawrence in 1830 and they had five children,

Edwin Tattler (born 1814) was a pupil at the Orphan Working School in City Road.  He then worked as a cooper before joining the Army, serving in the Rifle Brigade.  He deserted in December 1834 and the trail goes cold.

The story of the Tattler family shows what can be uncovered from online resources, especially for those who came into contact with institutions and authority.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Asylum for the support and education of deaf and dumb children of the poor
List of the Governors and Officers of the Asylum for the support and education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor; with the rules ... and an introductory statement of the purposes of the institution (London, 1817)

Family history information can be found from findmypast and Ancestry under a variety of spellings for the surname e.g. St Martin-in-the-Fields Poor Law examination for Henry Tatler 1827 from City of Westminster Archives Centre and. Poor Law settlement papers 1840 for Emma Rebecca Tatler from London Metropolitan Archives.

 

05 September 2019

A librarian’s death on Lake Onega - Roger James Chomeley

The British Librarians’ memorial at the British Library records the names of 142 persons who died during the First World War.  Two died after the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles on 28 June 1919.

Captain Roger James Chomeley M.C. of the Cheshire Regiment died during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War.  The Allies began to withdraw their forces from North Russia in June 1919, but it was a long, drawn-out process.  Chomeley was drowned on Lake Onega on 16 August 1919, aged 47.

Steam tug Azot captured from the Bolshevik forces on Lake Onega  1919Steam tug Azot captured from the Bolshevik forces on Lake Onega, 1919 © IWM (Q 16793)

A naval court of inquiry reported:
‘Captain R. J. Cholmeley was on board the Russian steamship Azod, one of the lake flotilla, on Lake Onega, and on the night of August 16, 1919, he was washed overboard while overhauling machine guns which were required for action at daybreak the following morning.  The vessel was heavily laden, and there was a very heavy sea, hence this imperative duty was most dangerous.  The court considers that Captain Cholmeley sacrificed his life in the execution of his duty’ (Brisbane Courier 20 February 1920).

Studio photograph of Roger James CholmeleyRoger James Cholmeley, lecturer in Classics, The University of Queensland, c1910?  Fryer Library Photograph Collection

Roger James Cholmeley was born at Swaby, Lincolnshire in 1872, the son of the Rev. James Cholmeley and his wife Flora Sophia. He studied at St Edward’s School in Oxford, before gaining an open classical scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, graduating in 1894.  He afterwards taught at Manchester Grammar School and the City of London School.  Roger married Lilian Mary Lamb in Oxford on 12 August 1896.  They had one daughter Katharine Isabella born at Wimbledon in 1903.

Having already served with the East Surrey Volunteer Corps, Cholmeley enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry at London in March 1900.  He served in South Africa until June 1901. He obtained a commission and, on his return to the UK, continued to serve with the volunteers and the Territorial Force.

In 1901 Cholmeley published his edition of The Idylls of Theocritus.  He returned to South Africa in 1905 to take up a post as professor of Latin at the Rhodes University College at Grahamstown, where he also acted as librarian.  In 1909 he moved to Australia, teaching classics at Scotch College, Melbourne.  In 1911, he was appointed to a lectureship in classics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, combining teaching with sorting out the University Library.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Cholmeley once again offered his services.  He was initially employed as a military censor in Australia, a post using his considerable knowledge of French, German, Russian, Dutch, and Greek.  He was rejected by the Australian authorities for active service, so in June 1915 he sailed to the UK where he obtained a commission in the Cheshire Regiment.  Chomeley wrote the preface to a revised edition of his Theocritus on the voyage over, lamenting the war’s interruption to scholarship.


Cholmeley's preface to his new edition of The Idylls of TheocritusCholmeley's preface to his new edition of The Idylls of Theocritus shelfmark 2280.d.10 Noc

Despite his age, Cholmeley served with the 13th (Service) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on the Western Front, being wounded twice.  In September 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions as brigade intelligence officer.

After the Armistice, Captain Cholmeley was posted to Northern Russia.  In expectation of his return from military service, the University of Queensland promoted Cholmeley assistant professor of classics, but he died before he could take up the post. 

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

Further reading:
Damien Wright, Churchill’s secret war with Lenin: British and Commonwealth military intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918-20 (Solihull: Helion, 2017), pp. 75-85.
Ian Binnie, 'Captain Roger James Cholmeley, MC', Moseley Society History Group
The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 20 September 1919, p. 9
Brisbane Courier, 20 February 1920, p. 2
J.M.S., 'Roger James Cholmeley', The Classical Review, 34 (1920), pp. 76-77
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), The Idylls of Theocritus (London: George Bell & Sons, 1901).
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), Principiorum Liber (London: Edward Arnold, 1910).
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), The Idylls of Theocritus, new ed. (London: George Bell & Sons, 1919)
Albert C. Clark, Journal of Hellenistic Studies, XLI (1921), pp. 152-154

 

 

02 September 2019

The Great Fire of London and the East India Company

On the morning of 2 September 1666, the Great Fire started its sweep through the City of London.  Some idea of the effect of the Fire on the East India Company headquarters in Leadenhall Street is provided by the petty cash accounts of its Secretary John Stanyan.  Large quantities of goods were moved to safety. It was thirsty work judging from the number of entries for the cost of drinks!

Fire of London T00017-81Samuel Rolls, The Burning of London in the year 1666 (London, 1667) 291.b.29 Noc
  Images Online

2 September 1666
Given to musketeers who guarded the warehouse door when Mr George Day came to demand his goods, fearing they would be burned in Leadenhall - 5s

3 September 1666
Given to Red Coats who pressed carts to carry goods from Leadenhall to Blue Warehouse at St Helen’s – 3s 6d
Drink for the porters and for myself and Captain Proud – 2s
Drink for men at the pump and women sweeping the kinnell [gutter?] – 3s
Paid 6 men pumping all day – 12s
Cartage of 52 bales of cloth from Leadenhall to Blue Warehouse @ 12d per bale -  £2 12s

4 September 1666
For 6 pails - 6s

6 September 1666
Paid 2 carmen who carried 9 bales to Doctor Clarke’s house at Stepney from Leadenhall @4s per bale - £1 16s
Paid 2 men who removed bales from the wall at Leadenhall ‘for fear it should fly out’ and for drink – 5s

15 September 1666
Paid 4 men for 5 nights apiece watching calicoes at Doctor Clarke’s @2s per night - £2
Paid 3 men for half a day piling goods at Leadenhall – 3s

16 September 1666
Paid 4 men for 1 night watching at Dr Clarke’s - 6s

17 September 1666
Paid 4 men for 1 night watching at Dr Clarke’s - 6s
Paid 4 men for 1 day helping to pile goods and for drink – 8s

22 September 1666
Paid 4 men for 4 nights watching at Dr Clarke’s - £1 12s
Paid cartage of 375 bales and 3 bundles from Pinners Hall to Leadenhall - £7 16s 6d
Paid 8 men for 4 days helping to load and unload these bales and piling them - £3
Paid 1 man for 4 days helping with these goods – 12s
Given for drink – 3s

27 September 1666
Cartage of 52 bales from Blue Warehouse to Leadenhall @4d per bale – 17s 4d
Paid 5 men for 4 days piling and loading - £2
Given for drink – 2s

29 September 1666
Paid 4 men for 7 nights watching at Dr Clarke’s - £2
Paid 9 men for 2 days helping to lade and unlade calicoes from Dr Clarke’s - £1 16
Paid to the porters for their dinners because they worked all noon times for 3 days – 5s 8d

2 October 1666
Paid 9 men for 2 days helping to load and pile bales from Dr Clarke’s - £1 16s

13 October 1666
Paid Goodman North for bringing 69 bales and cases from Dr Clarke’s to Leadenhall - £1 9s 6d
Paid Mr Wright for bringing 73 parcels from Dr Clarke’s - £2 16s
Paid Goodman Grigson for bringing 54 parcels from Dr Clarke’s  - £1 16s
Paid to servants of Doctor Clarke, Mr Crowther and Captain Proud when bales were fetched away - £1 3s

The accounts then return to their normal pattern of expenditure.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/H/17 John Stanyan’s petty cash accounts
More on the Fire of London and the East India Company: ‘A most fearefull and dreadfull fire’
More on John Stanyan - Decorating the East India Company's records

27 August 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 3: George Street

George Street (1867-1936) became Examiner of Plays in 1914.  Street was already a published journalist, critic and novelist.  He wrote summaries of every play he read leaving behind a valuable historic record of the topics that were of most concern to the censor at the time.  Chief among these concerns was the increasing discussion of women’s rights and sexual autonomy in plays submitted for licensing.

Photograph of George Street from Evening Standard 1914Photograph of George Street  from Evening Standard 1 January 1914  - copyright Evening Standard

Maternity was written by Eugène Brieux and translated by Charlotte Shaw.  The play examined the theme of choice in parenthood and voiced the grievances of a woman expected to continue having children.  The result was the woman’s death during an abortion.  This ending prompted the examiner to consider whether it was useful to license the play, as it would serve as a warning to women, but he decided against this stating:
‘I do not think this play can be justified as useful propaganda…the subject of abortion has not so far been allowed on our stage, and is not so treated, in my opinion as to serve a useful purpose..’

In 1923, Street refused a licence for a play entitled Married Love.  This was a fictional adaption of Marie Stopes’ book of the same name.  The play explored themes of sexual satisfaction within marriage.  The play was quickly refused with this damning conclusion:

Play Report rejecting Married Love, calling it unnecessarily disgustingPlay Report for Married Love, 1923, LR 1923/9 Noc

Shortly after the submission of Married Love, Stopes submitted a play entitled Our Ostriches (initially named The Ostriches) under her own authorship.  The play considered the merits of birth control and advocated for women to have more agency in deciding how many children to have.

Cover of Our OstrichesCover of Our Ostriches, 1923, Add MS 68822 L Noc

Street deemed the play less aggressive in its views than other plays and actually recommended it for licence with certain omissions.   However, the Lord Chamberlain was less sympathetic and he refused it a licence.

Anniversary by Frederick Witney presented a different problem to the censor.  The play was an honest portrayal of a woman on the day of her divorce considering her past and present loves.  It was candid in its female-centred view of an intimate relationship.  Street refused its licence on the basis that:
‘its general freedom of discussion and intimacies are more than is generally allowed on the English stage’.

The play entitled Alone offered another perspective on female desire.  Authored by Marion Norris, it was a rewrite of the banned novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.

Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness 1930, Add MS 68834 B Noc

Alone was refused a licence because of its lesbian theme, but not before Street summarised the anxieties of his age with this statement:
‘I think people are indifferent to the abnormality in women with which it deals until it becomes aggressive…’.

These plays all faced censorship because their content presented women’s sexuality or agency in an affirmative rather than submissive way.  Despite George Street’s best efforts, such themes could not be hidden from view and women continued to make their voices heard on the stage.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Steve Nicholson, The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume 1 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2003)
Lord Chamberlain Play’s, Licence Refused: Add MS 68816 - 68850
Lord Chamberlain Plays Reports, Licence Refused: Original Reference LR 1903- LR 1949

The Theatre Censors Part 1: George Colman

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

 

20 August 2019

Practical and Reasonable – A history of the Association of Disabled Professionals

The Archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) is now available to research in the Manuscripts Reading Room.  To celebrate the release of this archive, Diana Twitchin, a member and author of a history of the association, writes about the establishment and importance of it.

Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) Noc

The Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP) grew out of the 1960s.  It was one of the first organisations managed entirely by disabled people and sought to challenge and change age-old perceptions of disability.

The ADP’s inaugural meeting identified the issues facing disabled students in achieving their full potential through lack of access to higher education and on to university.  Similar issues faced those professionals who, having acquired a disability, were demoted at work, or were not permitted to return to their job, their disability being used to dismiss them.  Attitudes concerning disability within the education and university systems raised a spate of personal experiences from participants highlighting the urgent need for staff training at all levels.  The historical support systems for disabled people, keeping disabled people ‘out of sight, out of mind’ contributed to general ignorance on issues regarding them.  ADP deplored the fact that disabled people were not themselves consulted about their requirements.

ADP committed itself to raising awareness within government, industrial and charitable organizations around issues concerning general and higher education.  They would work with other groups on other issues affecting disabled people, pooling resources to help increase awareness and get results.  This included overseeing government bills, lobbying and commenting on them at Committee stage and encouraging the inclusion of disability issues where relevant.

Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) Noc

The Association also set up a membership network to assist disabled people seeking entrance to school or university; to assist those with work issues; to inform ADP of good and bad practice that they encountered; and to support ADP in collecting facts and information that would be used to inform and influence policy makers and service planners.

All those who worked for ADP were unpaid volunteers assisted by a paid part-time secretary.  It remained a small organisation working from 1971 to 2011, when it was transferred to the Vassel Trust.  In 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act was made into law and received Royal Assent in November that year.  This was repealed and replaced with the Equality Act in 2010.

I was starting from two points when writing the history of the Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP): my own disability and issues that arose during my working life and the journey for all disabled people over the last 60 years.  Today’s generation of disabled people have a very different perspective to the disabled individuals of the 1960s/70s who fought for change that would eventually lead to anti-discrimination legislation.

In producing a history of ADP, I have had a walk through time recalling so many colleagues and the issues we were involved with.

Diana Twitchin (née Irish)

 

06 August 2019

Indian Police exams August 1919

August being the month of national GCSE and ‘A’-level results, today’s post is about a set of examinations taken exactly a century ago.

After the end of the First World War it was widely recognised that demobilised servicemen needed to be found suitable employment.  In 1919-20 the India Office collaborated with the Civil Service Commission to offer a set number of places in the higher grades of the Indian Police Force to British subjects of good character born between June 1894 and August 1900 who had served in the conflict.

Indian Police group photographPolice group at Dera Ghazi Khan 1924 Photo 348/(29) Images Online Noc

They did not, however, take in simply anyone who applied. The candidates were required to sit five papers in English, arithmetic and general knowledge, over nine hours in total, on 28 and 29 August 1919, and were expressly forbidden from trying to bring any undue influence to bear on the results:

‘Warning. Any attempt on the part of a candidate to enlist support for his application through Members of Parliament or other influential persons will disqualify him for appointment …'.

The English tests included making a 250-word precis of four pages of text, answering questions on extracts from Dickens and Sheridan, and writing an essay on one of the following:

1. Popularity as a test of merit.
2. The value of camouflage in military operations.
3. The advantages and drawbacks of official appointments in India, as compared with Home appointments.
4. An appreciation of President Wilson, or Mr Lloyd George, or M. Clemenceau.

Four out of twelve questions had to be chosen in the two hour general knowledge paper, such as

        How has the war affected the position of women?
        To what extent is the United Kingdom dependent on imported food supplies?
        Discuss the importance of the establishment of a Ministry of Health.
        Compare the constitution and powers of the House of Lords with those of the House of Commons.
        Describe the position and importance of the ex-German colonies.

The (anonymous) examiners marked the papers from A+ to C-.  A total of 70 brave applicants took the examinations, of whom 52 were selected for interview. While the answers submitted have not survived, the leading candidate was undoubtedly J.E. Reid, whose efforts garnered a range of A grades (including the only A+ awarded, for general knowledge), whereas the hapless A.R. Anderson and E.T. Everett could only muster a variety of C’s.  The examiners considered E.I. Wynne-Jones’s essays worthy of only a C+, but he managed A’s and A-‘s in everything else.  Mercifully B.M. Mahony, E. Allenby-Peters and W.N.C. Scott never knew how close they came to passing, their mix of B and B- grades just failing to better the efforts of F.W. Cresswell, R.A. Foucar and R.W. Jewett, who each gained one precious B+.

Little is known of the careers of the successful candidates, but let us hope that Mr. Reid’s opinion of President Wilson, and his knowledge of former German colonies, later helped him to catch lots of criminals in India.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
IOR/L/PJ/6/1631, file 6510

31 July 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

William Bodham Donne became Examiner of Plays in 1857.  He officially assumed the role after the death of John Mitchell Kemble, but Donne had already been examining plays on his behalf since 1849.  Donne was dedicated to his job and took time to publish his thoughts on theatre in his Essays on the Drama.  In this collection, he deplored what he saw as a fall in standards in contemporary drama.

Photograph of William Bodham DonneWilliam Bodham Donne from William Bodham Donne and his friends ed. Catherine B Johnson (London, 1905)  Noc

Chief among his concerns was the celebration of the petty criminal on-stage.  He believed that productions involving such criminal characters as Oliver Twist and Jack Sheppard would inspire the working classes into a life of crime.  With this in mind, Donne was quick to refuse licences to plays in this tradition.

Jack Sheppard adaptions were endlessly popular and this had been an issue of contention even for Donne’s predecessor.  Kemble had sought to ban these productions in 1844, but they kept on arriving on Donne’s desk.  This version by Sydney French was refused a licence without explanation in Donne’s Day Book.

Front page of 'Jack Sheppard' by Sydney French Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1868, Add MS 53069 T  Noc

In 1853, Donne refused a licence to a play entitled, Wrath’s Whirlwind, because of its rebellious content. From the entry in the Day Book 1852-1864, we can see that the Lord Chamberlain agreed with Donne’s action against the playscript. In particular, he mentions the setting of the saloons, which ‘have a tendency to lower the morals and excite the passions of the classes who frequent these places’.

Front page of 'Wrath’s Whirlwind'Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1853, Add MS 52942 U  Noc

Another example of a play that did not make it past the censor is The Blood Spot by William Suter.  Suter had a habit of depicting the felon on stage.  His titles included Dick Turpin, The Robbers of the Pyrenees and The Felon’s Bond, but these were inoffensive enough to pass the censor.  The Blood Spot, however, seems to pushed Donne a little too far, and he scrawled his dismissal across the front of the manuscript.

Front page of 'The Blood Spot'Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1858, Add MS 52974 J  Noc

With these contentious plays out of the public eye, Donne could feel he had done his best to protect the morals of British theatre audiences, but as a man of detail there was little he would not consider suppressing for the sake of the nation.  A good example is his objection noted in the Day Book 1866-1870 concerning the play Faust in a Fog.  He stipulated the play could be produced, so long as long as the ‘Can-Can dance was excluded from the Bills’.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
William Bodham Donne, Essays on the Drama (London: John. W. Parker & Son, 1858)
J. R. Stephens, The Censorship of English Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)
Add MS 42865- 43038, Plays submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office for licensing under the provisions of the Acts regulating the performance of stage plays
Add MS 53702-53708, Chamberlain’s Office Day Books. Registers of plays received in the Lord Chamberlain’s office

 

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