- Museum number
- Object: The rival Richards!!!
In a broad space between a temple of 'Fame' (left), composed of volumes lettered 'Shaks[peare]' and 'New Readings', and 'the Theatre Royal Drury Lane' (right) is a violently kicking donkey on which sits a large figure with three faces representing Folly. Under the ass's fore-feet are three prostrate Richards; one of them, lying on his back, exclaims: "Perdition catch Thy arm the chance is Thine." The ass directs upon him a flood of urine inscribed 'Damnation'. From the animal's heels two other Richards flee to the right; above both is etched 'Shade of Oblivion'. One exclaims: "would he were wasted, marrow bones and all ['3 Henry VI', iii. 2. 125] Ol Ol My Aitches!!" (showing that he is Kemble who so pronounced 'aches', see No. 11424). The other cries: "So wise and yet so Young" [cf. 'so wise so young, they say, do never live long', 'Richard III', iii. i], showing that he is C. M. Young. Yet another Richard (half length) emerges from the ground under the ass's hind-legs, resting an elbow on a wine-bottle, and saying: "to me this restless world's but hell." Folly has an elaborate conical cap decorated with bells and a cock, and holds out in his right hand a bauble (jester's bâton), in the other, evenly balanced scales, the beam inscribed 'Folly'. The base of each scale is a large volume, one (left) inscribed 'B-TH', the other 'K N'. On each stands a Richard III, much alike: Booth holds a bâton (in one of Kean's poses) and says: "I'll climb be times without remorse or dread"; Kean, resting his hand on his sword, which is held vertically, says: "Why'now my Golden dream is out."
On the right is the façade of 'The Theatre Royal Drury Lane', with a crowd struggling to enter. Next it, but farther from the spectator, is the 'Theatre Royal Covent Garden'; on the steps before the pediment is one tiny figure, evidently Harris, holding up both arms in a frantic gesture. In the background (left), a pendant to Covent Garden, are two provincial threatres of barn-like construction, both inscribed 'Theatre Royal' and evidently representing the theatres of Worthing and Brighton. In front of them another Richard (Booth again) postures violently, and exclaims: "My Souls in arms and eager for the Fray." One of many actors standing behind him says: "But then tis placed on such a fearful height." A tiny figure rushes from one of these theatres making gestures towards Booth.
In the foreground (right), close to the spectator, is a (large) man (head and shoulders only), representing the public, looking towards the ass. His mouth is extended by a substance inscribed 'Puffs' which a man (on a much smaller scale) is ramming down his throat with a (? paviour's) cylinder inscribed 'Management' (of Drury Lane). The victim is blindfolded, the end of the bandage being held by a boy who carries on a pole a large placard inscribed: 'Theatre Royal / Drury Lane / Richard / the / Third / Kean / Booth'. At his feet are the letters 'F S'. A fashionably dressed man sits on a pile of 'New Pieces', crouching over a block inscribed 'Box Office' on which he writes. Behind him (left) is a 'Patent Clapping Machine': two sticks terminating in hands pivot on a block. On the extreme left in the foreground the heads and shoulders of little figures, serving as stalks for large mushrooms, emerge from the ground, which is inscribed 'Bed of Ambition'.
- Production date
Height: 242 millimetres
Width: 353 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
A satire on Booth's rivalry with Kean in the part of Richard III; Folly exalts both at the expense of Kemble, Young, and other actors. After acting in leading parts at Worthing (where he was Acting Manager) and Brighton, Booth was engaged at Covent Garden to rival Kean. He played Richard III on 12 Feb. 1817, with success, but with opposition from partisans of Kean. He quarrelled with Harris over his meagre salary and accepted an engagement on liberal terms from Kean for Drury Lane, appearing, 20 Feb., as Iago to Kean's Othello. Finding that he was not allowed to compete with Kean, he returned to Covent Garden on the Drury Lane terms, disappointing the Drury Lane audience (22 Feb.) as he had done that of Covent Garden, and having signed a three years' engagement with both theatres. His reappearance at Covent Garden was met with a storm of opposition and with demands that Young should play Richard. Apologies and loss of reputation followed, and he sank from the place temporarily reached by publicity and his rivalry with, and resemblance to, Kean. After the storm had subsided it was suggested in the 'European Magazine' that he should retire to some provincial theatre instead of remaining where better actors 'must render his attempts at "new readings" and extravagant distortions more apparent'. See 'Europ. Mag.' lxxi. 145-51, 244 f., 342; 'Examiner', 1817, 16 Feb. - 9 Mar. (Hazlitt, 'Works', ed. Howe, v. 354 ff.); G. Playfair, 'Kean', 1939, pp. 170-6. Young (1777-1856) succeeded Kemble as the leading English tragedian until supplanted by Kean. See Nos. 12326, 12919, 13370.
The original drawing for the print is now in the Folger Library in Washington (information from Erin Blake: see http://titania.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/z924lr ). This is signed 'F.Str Delt. 1817'. The same initials 'F.S.' appear etched at bottom right in the print. The etched initials at the bottom left that Dorothy George records must probably be read as 'G.P. Ivt. [for invenit]. This implies that G.P. came up with the idea for the print, which his friend F.Str. (who is evidently an amateur) turned into a visual image, making both the drawing and the etching. Neither man is yet identified. (AVG, September 2010)
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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