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A prompt copy of William Dimond's The Broken Sword: a nineteenth-century melodrama in England and America.

The place of Birmingham in the history of nineteenth-century English theatre is assured: the New Street venue was well-established by the late eighteenth century, obtained a royal patent in 1807, and kept its doors open until demolition in 1902. As a major provincial theatre it received the best London talent and served as a training ground for aspiring performers and managers. One of the most important resources of the New Street venue was its dramatic library, which is extremely rare among English theatres in surviving the break-up of the stock companies. The library owes its preservation to Philip Rodway, the manager of the new Birmingham "Royal" from its opening in 1904 until his death in 1932. The collection then passed to a close friend of Rodway's, Raymond Crompton Rhodes, the theatre critic for the Birmingham Post. Crompton Rhodes did little more than put the printed pieces into order before his death in 1935--at which point the collection was purchased from his widow by the Birmingham Library, where it remains almost intact to this day. (1)

I say "almost" because the subject of this article--a prompt copy of The Broken Sword by William Dimond (c.1784-1837?)--is one of the few items that got away. (2) Its disappearance was probably down to one Mrs Dornton who, with her husband Charles, managed the old "Royal" from Simpson's retirement in 1891 until its reconstruction at the turn of the century. By all accounts the library remained with the theatre until Mrs Dornton departed, taking "with her a souvenir in the shape of some five hundred or so prompt books" (Hinton 1946:13). When this group of books came on the market forty years later the city library declined to buy them, leaving the Enthoven Collection to take first pick before a few were bagged by Crompton Rhodes's friend, and theatre scholar, Percival Hinton.

The Broken Sword seems to have been one of these; together with prompt copies of Tom and Jerry and Temptation; or, the Fatal Brand, it passed into the collection of a former president of the Society for Theatre Research, George Speaight. It does seem that some of the volumes removed by Mrs Dornton were in fact her own property; the copies of Tom and Jerry and Temptation have no Theatre Royal labels, and the latter has the annotation "C Dornton, Swansea, 1862". In any case, the markings in both these texts are limited mainly to the underlining of stage directions, and need not concern us further here. The prompt book of The Broken Sword, however, is different, and clearly one of Mrs Dorton's haul from the Theatre Royal's own library. Although it is now in a tatty condition that reflects its doubtless chequered career, it does contain manuscript markings representing various layers of production history. This alone makes it an interesting find, but what adds weight to the discovery is the existence of a second, roughly contemporaneous prompt copy of the same play from the collection of an English-American stage manager in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC (US-Folg PROMPT B38). (3) We thus have comparative evidence of The Broken Sword as performed on the English and American stages.

The Broken Sword

According to the editor of the first edition, The Broken Sword was adapted from "A slight French Drama intitled, 'La Vallee du torent'", with some changes made to "the management of the story" (Dimond 1816, preface). The drama, or melodrame, in question was written by the one time director of the Odeon, Frederic Dupetit-Mere (1785-1827). In keeping with the French convention of the time, the events of La Vallee were divided into three acts, which Dimond re-arranged into two. This is typical of the English stage of that period, where a tripartite structure was less established and it was just as common to see melodramas (whether translations or not) performed in two acts. The preface to this edition pointedly identifies the piece as belonging to the illegitimate species of the drama. More specifically, the reader is told that "Melo-Drama, [is] nearly as trivial as the Pantomime, [and] demands of its humbler votary, no more than the excitement of curiosity." This apologetic tone is, of course, common to many contemporary publications and speaks volumes about the status of melodrama at this time. Nonetheless, the piece was successful enough to warrant a second edition--ostensibly a reprint, with very minor changes--before the year was out; it is this text we are dealing with when discussing the Birmingham prompt book, whereas the Folger copy is a first edition. (4) Within a decade new editions appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, and the melodrama was subsequently included in all the usual collections of nineteenth-century British stage works (see Dimond 1840,1870 and 1877).

There is very little scholarly literature relating to The Broken Sword, but certain aspects of the piece, and some descriptive titles in later editions, place it within the generic boundaries of what has come to be known as gothic or romantic melodrama: the rugged landscape animated by thunder and lightning; a stage population of noblemen, soldiers, peasants and servants; the mute, whose seemingly limited powers of communication are never less than sufficient. We might also note the anti-gambling motif, which was popular in English playhouses at the time and received attention in early reviews and commentary. (5) As with many melodramas, musical discussion is virtually non-existent, despite the piece being advertised as "Interspersed With Songs, Chorusses, &c." Indeed, The Broken Sword is even included (under the name of its composer, Mr Whittaker) on a list of "operas" performed in Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century (Albrecht 510). And thanks to a playbill for the Theatre Royal, Manchester from March 1817, we know that Whittaker's music was a component part of Dimond's melodrama from the very beginning. Unfortunately, it seems that no score survives, but we do have stage directions for "music", and the words to three set pieces: Song and Chorus for shepherdesses (I.i), Chaunt [sic] of invisible persons from the grove (I.iii), and an Air for the character of Stella (II.i). Whilst orchestral forces varied from theatre to theatre, we can assume that these printed musical cues were realised in most performances.

The first performance--at Covent Garden, 7 October 1816, as an afterpiece to Shakespeare's As You Like It--seems to have left little impression on the reviewer for The Times (8 October: 3): "If estimated by a scale of comparative magnificence this production is obviously inferior to many former exhibitions on the same boards". Tellingly, the main criticism was not of the "wild or incoherent" story--"The public do not, indeed, look either for regularity or consistency of character in this mixed sort of entertainment"--but to the fact that "the exterior appendages [were] not of that imposing description which the managers have themselves taught us to anticipate". This is surprising when read in light of William Hazlitt's description of Dimond's work in general:

The author does not profess to provide a public entertainment at his own entire expense ... but contracts with the manager to get up a striking and impressive exhibition in conjunction with the scene-painter, the scene-shifter, the musical composer, the orchestra, the chorusses on the stage, and the lungs of the actors! (Hazlitt 366)

In any case, The Broken Sword began to reach the provincial theatres in the spring of the following year, and was a highlight of the opening week at New Street, then managed by "the Great Lessee" William Elliston. (6) As with most venues outside the capital, the Birmingham season did not begin until Whit Monday, around the end of May, by which point The Broken Sword had already travelled a lot further than the West Midlands. On 28 April 1817, Dimond and Whitaker's melodrama was staged at the Park Theatre, New York; before long, the piece was appearing on bills in other northeastern cities, including Philadelphia and Baltimore. Although the speed with which a typically successful melodrama could cross the Atlantic now seems remarkable, it was not, at the time, unusual. The Magpie and the Maid, for example, was first performed at Covent Garden on 15 September 1815, then played and published in Boston the following year. While there was no special connection between New Street and New York, the two copies of The Broken Sword testify to the international nature of the theatrical economy, and the sheer extent of trade in plays, performers and stage techniques.

The Birmingham and Folger prompt books

Table 1 (see Appendix) sets Crompton Rhodes' and Hinton's description of the Theatre Royal's dramatic library against some physical features of the Birmingham and Folger prompt copies. It is easy to identify the function and provenance of the Birmingham book thanks to the label on the upper cover (see fig. 1). Simpson and his similarly-named father (Mercer Henry Simpson) were something of an institution on New Street; between them, they managed the theatre for over half a century from 1837 to 1891. As mentioned, the provenance from this point forward is clear enough, but the fact that our prompt book belonged in Simpson's collection--the item with reference number 196 is now missing from the continuous run held at Birmingham Library--does not guarantee that it was used as a working copy at the Theatre Royal, and certainly not that the markings are from 1817, when we know the piece was first performed on New Street. For a start, the theatre burned down under Alfred Bunn's management in 1820, and unlike other books in the collection, The Broken Sword shows no evidence of fire damage. Even if it had escaped the flames, Bunn's near bankruptcy prompted an auction of the "Superb Wardrobe, Theatrical Library, Music, Properties, Scenery, Deal Planks & Other Effects" five years later. (7)

It is, of course, possible that Simpson obtained the copy from elsewhere, and added the label in the process of cataloguing his own collection. As Hinton puts it:

Simpson must have had the acquisitive type of mind, for he seems to have kept all copies of playbooks, both of those bought and those sent in by authors and publishers and not used ... while a few were evidently brought and left by actors from other Midland theatres. (Hinton 1946:13)


Our book is certainly not one of the clean editions found in the dramatic library, and Simpson's labels only include the designation "PROMPT BOOK" when that term applies. But even supposing the manuscript markings are from a Birmingham staging--or rather, stagings, since more than one person has written in this book--it is very difficult to put a date on the prompters' notes. There is nothing like a comprehensive calendar of Birmingham performances, and newspaper coverage of the city's entertainments in the early decades of the century is patchy at best. Furthermore, I have yet to find a convincing match for the signature (H[?] Barrett[?]) and corresponding stamp (H[?]B) in the Birmingham copy (see fig. 2), which could help to date the manuscript markings. (8) What we do know is that The Broken Sword continued to be called upon to accompany all manner of productions--from Giuseppe Verdi's opera II Trovatore to the anonymous pantomime The Queen of Hearts and Her Wonderful Tarts--as late as the 1860s. (9) Therefore, we must keep an open mind about when (and where) this prompt book saw active service.

The Folger copy's trade stamps provide a clue to the history of the book; these allow us to locate the first point of sale for the text, which, as it happens, was in London. For the years between 1816 (when The Broken Sword was first published) and 1893 (when the eventual owner of the book, John Moore, died) the British Book Trade Index (BBTI) has one match for the name and one for the address. (10) Interestingly, both James Wood (Bookseller, 3 New Court, Coleman Street Buildings) and Sarah Wood (Bookseller, Stationer, 25 Leather Lane) are only recorded as active in 1846. Of course, the BBTI does not claim to be complete, but this does suggest the prompt markings in the Folger copy are from the mid rather than early nineteenth century. This fits with the career of Moore, who left England to perform on the American stage in 1848. Moore soon abandoned acting and found his calling behind the scenes; Hie Broken Sword is one of the many plays he collected (now held by the Folger) while working as stage manager for the likes of Augustin Daly. (11) A section of a playbill pasted to the inside cover of the Folger copy gives further support to a mid-century date and suggests a possible location: the early 1850s at the Bowery Theatre, New York, where John Moore was employed as prompter. Although most of the bill (including the venue and year) is missing, all those named on the cast list were regular or occasional Bowery performers, and The Annals of the New York Stage record that The Broken Sword was put on at the theatre around this time. (12) However, we cannot be certain that the markings in the book correspond to the attached playbill, not least because the succession of scenes advertised on the bill does not match the running order set out in the prompt book. And here is where it gets interesting: both the Folger playbill and the Birmingham prompt copy make the same change to Dimond's dramatic structure by moving the opening scene to the beginning of the second act. This alteration and others are shown in Table 2 (see Appendix).


Alterations to the organisation of scenes and acts

As we can see from Table 2, there are two major alterations to address: the movement of the first scene and the creation of a third act. Let us begin with what was the beginning. Dimond's setting for Li and II.i--the "Goatherd's Cabin at the Foot of the Mountain"--appears only once on the Folger playbill, at the beginning of Act 2. This significantly alters the dramatic timescale. In Dimond's printed scenic description the action begins in "The Pyrenees at daybreak", and by his II.iii it is "nearly dark". With I.i withheld until the second act the play now begins and ends indoors, thus disrupting the sense of a journey from dawn to dusk. This clearly concerned the English audience as little as it did the American, since the same change is made in the Birmingham copy: "Begin Act 1st here" (p. 9) and "Begins with 1st Scene of the 1st Act" above the printed "Act 2" (p. 23). These neat, underlined instructions are reiterated by two notes in more casual script: "out till act 2" alongside the scenic description (p. 5) and "Don't change Scene" (p. 23). This final marking suggests one reason for the reorganization of the melodrama, which could apply equally to the stagings in both countries: it reduces the number of scene changes required.

By studying the cuts recorded in the Birmingham copy, we can see what it took to meld the printed I.i and II.i together. The Cabin scenes basically involve three characters: Stella, the shepherdess whose Cabin it is; Estevan, the virtuous victim who happens to be Stella's cousin; and Colonel Rigolio, the villain of the piece who framed Estevan for the murder of the dumb orphan's father. In Dimond's version, Estevan and Rigolio do not meet until a fateful recognition in II.i. So, the challenge is to bring Rigolio onstage whilst avoiding any premature encounters. This is achieved by curtailing Dimond's first scene and hiding the cousins in the onstage cabin. Whereas the "voices at a distance" (p. 7) had signalled the entrance of some merry shepherdesses, the manuscript markings at this point--"Exeunt. Enter Rigolio"--suggest this same cue was used for the approach of the villain whilst Stella and Estevan retired to their "citadel of safety". The word "out" written by what would be Stella's next line, and a solid black box around the rest of the scene confirm that this action (including the song and chorus) was axed.

To an extent, this cut was unavoidable. Some of Stella's lines would simply not make sense with this scene coming after Act 1. She cannot, for example, announce that "The son of our good Seigneur returns home this morning" after she has already thrown flowers at his greeting party. Nor can she say "I will return ... in an hour at latest" when she must be in the cabin to answer Rigolio's knocking within a page and a half. As for the loss of the shepherdesses's set piece, this may well have been balanced by the appearance of the same performers in the last scene of Act 1, where they "fill the front of the stage with song and dance". This sequence marks the return of the local Baron's son, who makes his big entrance with his comrade-in-arms, Rigolio. It is interesting to note, in the American version, the prominence given to the character of the villain as compared with Estevan. We might surmise that a side-effect of moving the first scene to the second act is a down-grading of the victim's importance. Whereas Dimond makes Estevan's "worn and emaciated" figure the opening image of the melodrama, the Birmingham copy and Folger playbill leave him as the very last character to be introduced. To add insult to injury, the movement of this scene also impacts on poor Estevan's fatigue. In the printed edition he is invited by Stella "to slumber sink securely, and in dreams be happy!", but with the two cabin scenes merged into one, he has precious little time to gather his strength before offering his services to the double-crossing Colonel.

The second major alteration we can see from Table 2 is the creation of a third act after the visit to the location of Dimond's secondary title, "The Torrent of the Valley". (13) At first glance this change is local to the Birmingham copy and has no parallel in the American texts. With half an eye on Dupetit-Mere's three-act original we may even consider this a Frenchification of Dimond's melodrama. However, the only English language edition to employ a three-act format--aside from a significantly re-written version from 1900--was published in Baltimore in 1836. In saying as much, I do not claim to uncover a causal link, so much as to acknowledge broader contexts in the performance of early gothic melodrama. What our find from the dramatic library underscores is that venues such as the Theatre Royal, Birmingham did not operate in anything like isolation. The pieces, performers, and stage techniques employed participated in various shifting networks of local, national, and international theatrical activity.

Although, for all the reasons we have already stated, we cannot be sure of the date of the Birmingham markings, John Cunningham's history of the New Street theatre reports a taste for aquatic entertainment throughout the nineteenth century. (14) He also records a thunder machine "more elaborate than the usual sheet of tin", and (from Bunn's 1825 auction list) a "bridge with ropes and pulleys", a "sinking piece" and "3 pieces of a torrent" (Cunningham 61 appendix). There is only one scene in The Broken Sword which calls for such stage effects, and it clearly grabbed the (glib) attention of the writer of the New York Annals:

The story [of The Broken Sword], needless to say, involves ... a mountain torrent with a practicable bridge, a thunderstorm in the mountains, the throwing of the boy from the bridge into the torrent, etc. No melodrama was complete in those days [c.1817] without the bridge from which either harmless virtue could be thrown to inevitable rescue or pursuing villainy be hurled to inevitable doom. How many times have we crossed this bridge in our researches? (Odell 2.472)

If he is even half right, we may assume that the torrent scene was milked for all it was worth. In both prompt copies this scene is scrawled with repeated cues for "Thunder" (see fig. 3), and the Birmingham book ratchets up the tension even further by turning the events around the torrent into an act finale. As with the aforementioned movement of Li we may note a practical (as well as sensational) motivation. Realising the fight on the bridge and the fall into the water would require considerable technical equipment, and perhaps too much equipment to be easily shifted in time for the following scene in the chateau. A longer gap--between acts--could have solved this problem.

Whilst the Birmingham copy makes a "cliffhanger" of the torrent scene, there is an alternative climax to The Broken Sword. Rather than a delay in the retribution, the succession of scenes advertised on the Folger playbill suggests a speeding up of events. In the very smallest font, we read that "The Dumb Boy is Dashed into the Torrent and Rescued by the Galley Slave", immediately followed by the "Meeting of the Murderer and the Outcast". In Dimond's text a busy scene in the chateau comes between these events, and that's on top of the "interval" prescribed in the Birmingham prompt book. I suggest that the headlong rush in the Folger playbill is towards the following scene, advertised in large type: "THE BROKEN SWORD. The Hour of Retribution. The Deep, the Damning Proof". The decision to highlight this tableau, in which Rigolio's guilt is proved by his possession of the shattered weapon, may have been influenced by the various editions which include a rendering of George Cruikshank's engraving of the same image, complete with caption: "The Deep, the Damning Proof". We may also draw conclusions about the appetite for melodramatic justice among the largely working-class audience at the mid-century Bowery Theatre. However, there is also the more tangible issue of running time. The Broken Sword is the concluding piece on the Folger playbill, not the main attraction as it had been in the 1817 season at New Street. The different space afforded the same melodrama in the English and American billings is borne out by the cuts made to Dimond's printed text. Other than the shortening of the first cabin scene, there are only three further cuts in the Birmingham book, each of which is short and largely insignificant. (15) By contrast, the Folger copy makes a short-and-snappy afterpiece of The Broken Sword, with cuts on a third of the pages, some of which remove references to sights or sounds that were presumably left out of American stagings. (16)


From England to America ... and back again

Earlier in the article, I implied that there is very little written about The Broken Sword. That's not entirely true. Almost every dictionary of quotations published since the late nineteenth century has included a reference to "Dimond, William" or "Broken Sword, The" as the source of the slang term "old chestnut", as in "anything trite, stale, or too often repeated" (OED chesnut n. (and a.)). The offending lines are easy enough to locate in I.ii:

Zavier ... when suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree--

Pablo (jumping up) A chestnut--Captain, a chestnut

Zavier Bah! You booby, I say, a cork.

Pablo And I swear, a chestnut-Captain! This is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story ...

The phrase apparently entered popular circulation in the 1880s after the Boston comedian William Warren invoked Pablo's lines as a rebuff to some tiresome story told over dinner. However, there is an extra twist to this etymological tale: the name of one of the earliest American venues at which The Broken Sword was performed was The Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, whose auditorium was modeled on the Theatre Royal, Bath, where a certain Mr Dimond replaced his father as manager not long before writing a two-act trifle adapted from the French. If such connections are best left as coincidence, the wider history of Dimond's melodrama does register many points of convergence between English and American theatrical activity. (17) At the same time, our discovery highlights the flexibility (within conventional limits) of dramatic-musical texts such as The Broken Sword; by rearranging, reducing, or adding to the action, nineteenth-century melodramas from Birmingham to the Bowery were continually adapted to fit available resources and audience tastes.

Table 1. Physical features of the Birmingham and Folger prompt books

 Rhodes Collection (18) BS Birmingham

Condition Not in 'collector's Battered and bruised; 5cm
 state'; thumb-marked and (approx.) rip through all
 dogeared and stained with the pages; no charred
 lamp oil; some books have edges.
 charred edges.

Cover A large number remain in Rudimentary (possibly
 the wrappers in which they original) cover of rough
 were originally issued. brown paper; Simpson's

Numbering Crompton Rhodes says 'It '53[?]8' written
 has been a long task to directly on the top left
 sort them into order.' of the cover; 'B[?]81' on
 paper round the 'spine';
 '196 ' on Simpson's
 label, in lighter
 calligraphy than play

Underlining Scored and underlined. All stage and performance
 instructions underlined.

Interleaving They are interleaved. Not interleaved; the
 succession of marginal
 numbers suggests a
 separate 'cue sheet'.

Trade Not discussed. None.

Ownership The greater part of them Cover label: 'Theatre
Markings bear a label, 'Theatre Royal, Birmingham. PROMPT
 Royal, Birmingham. The BOOK 196 of Broken Sword.
 Property of Mercer Hampson The Property of Mercer
 Simpson'. Hampson Simpson'; 'H[?]B'
 stamped 6 times
 throughout the book; and
 the signature of 'H[?]

 BS Folger

Condition Similar to the Birmingham copy, but without the rip.

Cover Not included on microfilm copy.

Numbering 'B38 ' on inside front cover. This book is PROMPT
 B38 in the Folger catalogue. It is unclear when or
 where this numbering system began.

Underlining All stage and performance instructions underlined,
 except the first scenic description (I.i), which is
 partially underlined.

Interleaving The entire book is interleaved, with numbered stage
 instructions corresponding to cues in (or written by)
 the printed text.

Trade 'JB ' (for J. Barker, publisher) printed on title
markings page; 'J. B. Wood, Bookseller and Stationer, 25
 Leather Lane, Holborn' stamped on title page and p.

Ownership Signature of the English-American Stage manager
markings 'J[ohn] Moore' on cover, p. 5 and p. 43.

Table 2a. The organisation of scenes in the 2nd edition prompt book.

Act 1 i. Pyrenees ii. Chateau iii. Garden
 pp. 5-8 pp. 9-17 pp. 17-22

Scenic Pyrenees at Apartment in On one side is
description as daybreak; cabin chateau the entrance to
printed towards front a cyprus grove,
 with casement across which an
 window; crag; artificial
 cross screen of
 boughs has been
 placed; bust
 [of orphans
 father] behind
 ascending path
 on one side;
 one direction
 is towards the

Set, props Bench and table Chair Tables
 brought from

Music Song and chorus

Act 2 i. Pyrenees ii. Chateau
 pp. 23-28 pp. 23-28

Scenic As Act 1 Sc.1 As Act 1 Sc.2 Door in centre
description of scene; windows become
as printed illuminated with lightning

Set, props As Act 1 As Act 1
 Sc.1 Sc.2

Music Chaunt and song and Air

Act 2 iii. Torrent iv. Chateau v. Castle Hall
 pp. 34-36 pp. 36-40 pp. 40-43

Scenic Across the head of As Act 1 Folding doors
description the torrent a foot- Sc.2 in the centre
as printed bridge is cast to of the scene;
 the summit of a another door
 perpendicular rock, where Estevan
 on which the ruins intercepts.
 of a chapel are
 perceptible; mass of
 rock; Winding path
 and lower paths to
 torrent; torrent,
 waters, a second
 fall, banks.

Set, props As Act 1 Table in centre
 Sc.2 of Castle Hall
 on which lights
 are burning


Table 2b. The organisation of scenes in the Birmingham prompt book.

Act 1 i. Chateau ii. Garden
 pp. 9-17 pp. 17-22

Scenic Apartment in chateau On one side is the entrance
description to a Cyprus grove, across
as printed which an artificial screen of
 boughs has been placed; bust
 [of orphans murdered father]
 behind boughs; ascending path
 on one side; one direction is
 towards the house.

Set, props Chair Tables

Music Chaunt and song and dance

Act 2 i. Pyrenees i. cont. ii. Chateau iii. Torrent
 pp. 5-8 pp. 23-28 pp. 29-34 pp. 34-36

Scenic Pyrenees at As Act 1 Across the
description daybreak; Sc.2 Door head of the
as printed cabin in centre of torrent a
 towards scene; foot-bridge
 front with windows is cast to
 casement become the summit
 window; illuminated of a
 crag; cross with perpendicular
 lightning rock, on
 which the
 ruins of a
 chapel are
 mass of
 Winding path
 and lower
 paths to
 waters, a
 second fall,

Set, props Bench and As Act 1
 table Sc.2
 brought from

Music Song and Air

Act 3 i. Chateau ii. Castle Hall
 pp. 36-40 pp. 40-43

Scenic As Act 1 Sc.2 Folding doors in the centre of the
description scene; another door where Estevan
as printed intercepts.

Set, props As Act 1 Sc.2 Table in centre of Castle Hall on
 which lights are burning


Works Cited

Albrecht, Otto E. "Opera in Philadelphia, 1800-1830." Journal of the American Musicological Society 32.3 (1979): 499-515.

Cunningham, John Edwin. Theatre Royal: The History of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham. Oxford: George Ronald, 1950.

Crompton Rhodes, Raymond. "The Early 19th-century Drama." Library 16.2 (1935): 210-31.

Dent, Robert Kirkup. Old and New Birmingham: A History of the Town and its People. 3 vols. 1880. Wakefield, England: E. P. Publishing, 1972-73.

Dimond, William. The Broken Sword: A Grand Melo-Drama, Interspersed with Songs, Choruses, &c. As Performed at the Theatre-Royal, Covent-Garden, with Universal Applause. London: J. Barker, 1816.

Dimond, William. Hie Broken Sword ... A New Edition. Printed from the Acting Copy as Performed at the Theatres Royal, London, with Remarks, Biographical and Critical, by D.-G. [i.e. George Daniel], Etc. London: John Cumberland & Son, [1840]). Cumberland's British Theatre 41. No. 330.

Dimond, William. The Broken Sword ... A New Edition, The music Composed by Mr Whitaker. London: Thomas Hailes Lacy [1870]. Lacy's Acting Edition 85.

Dimond, William. The Broken Sword ... A New Edition. London: J. Dicks [1877?]. Dicks' Standard Plays 272.

Drama on the World Stage: Prompt Books and Performance Records. Series 1. The Folger Shakespeare Library. Reading, England: Research Publications, 1989.

Hazlitt, William. The Complete Works of William Hazlitt. Ed. P. P. Howe. 21 vols. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1930-34.

Hinton, Percival. "R. Crompton Rhodes Collection (Dramatic Library of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham): Plays in Manuscript." Birmingham Central Library Archives, 1937.

Hinton, Percival. "The Dramatic Library of the Old Theatre Royal, Birmingham." Theatre Notebook 1.2 (1946): 12-13.

Odell, George. Annals of the New York Stage. 6 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1927.

Prompt books [non-Shakespeare] from the Folger Shakespeare Library, reel 5. Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications, 1989.

Timms, Colin. "Handelian and Other Librettos in Birmingham Central Library." Music & Letters 65.2 (1984): 141-67.

Winter, William. Brief Chronicles. 1889. New York: Lennox Hill, 1970.


(1) For further discussion of the dramatic library see Hinton 1937 and 1946, Crompton Rhodes and Timms.

(2) The Birmingham copy of The Broken Sword is now privately owned by Dr Michael Burden (New College, Oxford), but will, in future, be found in the Burden Collection, Barr-Smith Library, University of Adelaide.

(3) The Folger copy is also included on a microfilm series Prompt Books from the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is accompanied by a printed inventory entitled Drama on the World Stage.

(4) In addition to Dimond's name now given on the title page, the second edition includes one change of actor in the cast list, and additional scenic description below this list placing the piece in the Pyrenees between the French and Catalan borders. II.i sees the only change in dialogue; the second half of Stella's line "Speed thee, dear kinsman ..." (given to "Girl" in the first edition) is deleted.

(5) Though only mentioned briefly in Rigolio's second II.i monologue, the gambling theme was easily picked up by The Times reviewer (8 October 1916). Audiences would have been familiar with portrayals of this vice in The Gamester, which is given a nod in D.-G.'s (George Daniel's) "remarks biographical and critical" to The Broken Sword (see Dimond 1840).

(6) The first performance was on Tuesday 27 May and the piece was repeated a number of times throughout the summer. We may also note the choice of Charles Robert Maturin's Bertram for the opening night; another fresh import from London's patent houses, this was also among the pieces produced at the Park Theatre, New York in the 1816-17 season. As was Guy Mannering, which preceded Dimond's melodrama at Covent Garden and was among Bunn's auctioned "Books of the play, &c." in 1825.

(7) Dimond's The Broken Sword is not one of the 300 plus titles given, though it is possible a copy was counted with the 55 unnamed manuscript pieces up for sale. Multiple copies of the auction book are kept in the Birmingham Archives, including one marked up with estimates of value. Lists of the scenery and dramatic library can also be found in an appendix to Cunningham's history of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham.

(8) The name does not stand out from any histories of the theatre, and neither of the possible matches in the index to Robert Krikup Dent's standard reference work on the city seems a likely candidate. Mr J. F. Barnett is recorded for his cantata "The Ancient Mariner" at the 1867 Triennial Festival, and Mr F. T. Barrett was assistant librarian in 1869. One H. Turner Barrett acted in London in the 1870s, and an H. Barnett was acting manager at the Lyceum in 1863, but nothing links either of these two with the Birmingham prompt copy.

(9) These bills of entertainment were advertised in the Birmingham Daily Post on 13 December 1858 and 11 March 1864 respectively.

(10) There are three entries for James Wood, member/apprentice of the Stationers' Company (1814, 1816 and 1818), but no address is given to link him to Holborn.

(11) John Moore's prompt books have been mined by numerous theatre scholars, principally for the information they provide on Shakespearean performance.

(12) The earliest reference to The Broken Sword at the Bowery Theatre is for "the last nights of 1843" (Odell: 5.23). Further performances are recorded for 27 June, 4 July, and 1 October 1851, and 9 December 1852 (Odell: 6.33; 133; 223).

(13) We can read "End of Act" at the close of the torrent scene in the Birmingham copy, followed by "Act 3d" at the start of the scene in the chateau.

(14) Shakespeare's The Tempest (1796) featured "a storm and shipwreck in Act Two", an anonymous piece entitled Caravan (1815) concluded with a "Cascade of real water", "The [water] tank was in comic employ" for the 1816 pantomime, and a "later version of [an unspecified version of] Uncle Tom's Cabin ... [included] a chase across an ice-field which is breaking up". Not to mention the "large octagonal fountain with four hundred jets" sold before the 1902 demolition (Cunningham 51-3).

(15) Rosara's speech (I.ii), in which she elaborates a botanical metaphor in contrast to Zavier's sea-faring wisdom, is reduced from 17 lines to three. Stella's "Speed thee, dear kinsman ..." (which anticipates the opening and refrain of her following air) is struck out at the end of ILL And Zavier's interruption of his nephew Claudio (II.iv) is removed entirely. No practical reason springs to mind for these changes, but Rosara's speech is relatively wordy and does not affect the plot, so this may have been deemed uninteresting and/or unimportant.

(16) Zavier does not mention the "triumphal arch and gardens" (10), and Rosara skips a line about bells (18). By contrast, the Birmingham copy accounts for Dimond's "chime of bells" (9) with "Bells ready = x shouts".

(17) For the record, George Holland, whose acting career ended with accolades in New York in the 1860s, made his debut at the Theatre Royal Birmingham in May 1817, playing a monk in Charles Robert Maturin's Bertram and the Baron in The Broken Sword. Intriguingly, Holland was later re-employed at New Street, not as an actor, but as prompter (Winter 156-57).

(18) These descriptions are found in Crompton Rhodes 92 and Hinton 13.

Jonathan Hicks is a Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, Oxford. His principal research interests are in music and urban geography in early-twentieth-century Paris. He is also a research associate for The London Stage 1800-1900 project, which is creating a digital and printed calendar of theatrical performances in nineteenth-century London.
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Author:Hicks, Jonathan
Publication:Theatre Notebook
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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