- Museum number
- Object: High Committee, or, Operatical Contest
The managers of the two rival opera houses (the Pantheon and the King's Theatre the Haymarket), stripped to the waist, are engaged in a pugilistic encounter, their respective backers behind them. 'Mr O'R' (O'Reilly), much the larger of the two, faces 'Mr T------' (Taylor). The belt of the former's breeches is inscribed 'Real Irish', that of the latter 'Lingham's Elastic'. Behind Taylor are his bottle-holder, Sheridan ('Mr S------'), holding a bottle inscribed 'Sherry', and the Prince of Wales ('The P-------'), wearing a hat with three feathers and the motto 'Ich Dien'. Behind them and on the extreme right stands the Chancellor, Thurlow, holding a paper inscribed 'Equity', with Mrs. Fitzherbert by his side. Behind O'Reilly stand Lady Salisbury, holding a bottle inscribed 'Wiskey', and her husband, the Lord Chamberlain, with his wand of office ('L---d & L---y S------'); he holds a string attached to the nose of the King who stands with Queen Charlotte on the extreme left. Under O'Reilly's feet is a music-book: 'Stoney Batter'.
Behind the two parties are buildings symbolizing the two opera houses (resembling stage-boxes); between them a street recedes in perspective: on the roofs of the corner houses stand two cats miaowing at each other. On the left is the 'Pantheon Opera', showing three half length figures performing: on the extreme right Mme. Mara sings seated (cf. BMSat 7067), her hands meeting at her waist; next her is a vocalist wearing a feathered helmet, probably Pacchierotti, and on the left is a violinist. Below is the inscription 'Rehearsal Gratis'. On the right is the 'Haymarket Opera' with half length figures: a man plays a hurdy-gurdy which is slung to his shoulders, a goose hisses; a man (? David) sings in an attitude resembling that of Mme. Mara; a man leans out of the box, in profile to the left, holding out his hat, and saying, "By Cot my Poetic Fame will support de House vidout von bit of Stone". He resembles the (?) Alfieri of BMSat 6315. (Alfieri made his fourth visit to England in 1791, arriving in April. 'Vita', 1807, ii. 202.) c.October 1791
- Production date
Height: 245 millimetres
Width: 349 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
The Haymarket Opera House was burnt down 17 June 1789, but was rebuilt in time for the season of 1791. In the meantime the Pantheon had been transformed into a theatre, the Lord Chamberlain's license had been secured, together with the sanction of the King to call it 'his' theatre. The proprietors of the Haymarket had also engaged performers (according to advertisements at a cost of £15,000) without ascertaining whether they could obtain a licence. They at last got leave to open the theatre for music and dancing, but not for dramatic performances. One opera, 'Pirro', was heard only at one rehearsal gratis. The only singer of tolerable merit was David. At the Pantheon operas were regularly performed, the duets of Mara and Pacchierotti being especially remarkable. Party feeling ran high (the position of Thurlow, with the Opposition, should be noted, cf. BMSat 8097, &c): the patrons of the Haymarket 'being rancorous against the Lord Chamberlain and the Pantheonites'. Mount Edgcumbe, 'Musical Reminiscences', 1827, pp. 69-76. Mrs. Sheridan in June 1790 'overheard Lord Salisbury advise Miss Boyle "by no means to subscribe to Taylor's Opera, as O'Reilly's would certainly have the patent".' R. C. Rhodes, 'Harlequin Sheridan', 1933, p. 153. The Pantheon opened for opera on 10 Feb. 1791, the Haymarket, for music and dancing, on 26 March, the Prince of Wales in the pit; proceedings against the performers under the Vagrancy Act for an unlicensed performance were then believed to be pending. 'Lond. Chronicle', 28 March. Walpole wrote, 18 Feb., 'the contest will grow politics .. .'. 'Letters', xiv. 379; see also pp. 388-9, 399-400. For William Taylor (afterwards M.P. for Leominster), a protégé of Sheridan, brought into Parliament by the Duke of Norfolk on the recommendation of the Prince of Wales, see Farington, 'Diary', i. 40. See also BMSats 7840, 8007, 8008.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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