RICH'S REGISTER--THE CHATSWORTH VOLUME.
Messrs John and Chr M Rich Company of Comedians left of [sic] acting plays, operas &c the 5 Dec. 1732 at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln's Inn Fields and begun to act plays, operas &c at the New Theatre Royal in Covent Garden the 7th of Dec. 1732 under Letters Patent granted by his late Majesty King Charles the 2d to Sr Willm Davenant & Mr Killigrew. Patent was united to Sr Wm Davenant in 1682. Therefore John and Chr. Mosyer Rich Esqrs are both Patentees of the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden pursuant to my Father's Will Chr. Rich Esqr deceased who died Novr 4 1714. (Rich's Register 1723-40, 7 Dec. 1732).
As the quotation indicates, the brothers John and Christopher Mosyer Rich were joint patentees of the theatres at Lincoln's Inn and Covent Garden. (1) Their father, Christopher Rich, left three-quarters of his holdings in the patents to his elder son, John, and one-quarter to the younger Christopher Mosyer. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume were cautious about attributing authorship of the volumes to Christopher Mosyer Rich however, and wrote:
Internal evidence suggests that this record was kept by (or probably for) Christopher Mosier Rich, younger brother of the principal owner and manager, John Rich, who ran Lincoln's Inn Fields from its opening in 1714 to its closure in 1732 and Covent Garden from 1732 to his death in 1761. (130)
It is fortunate that other examples of Christopher Mosyer Rich's handwriting can be found elsewhere, particularly at The National Archives (TNA) in dockets submitted as evidence in the case of Rich v. Sadier (TNA: C 11/2661/12), which was heard in the Court of Chancery 1728-39. The dispute involved Elizabeth Sadier, married daughter of the builder John Evans, and the debts that the Rich brothers had incurred with her father at the very start of their theatrical management at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The Rich brothers submitted a file of dockets to the Court to support their case, which can be found in a separate file (TNA: C 107/171). (2) These dockets cover the years 1717-1725, and there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the handwriting they contain. There are clear differences between the signatures of the two brothers, as can be seen in the example: "Mr Wood pay Mr Evans Eleven Pounds Seventeen Shillings & 6d" [see Plate 1], John Rich merely interpolates his signature above that of his brother, which I take to mean that he wished to assert his position as the dominant partner. Christopher Mosyer Rich clearly wrote all the rest of the docket, and one can see that his script shows an idiosyncratic loop in the upward stroke of the capital letters 'P' and 'R'. These are the most obvious defining characteristics of his hand (a kink in the down stroke of a capital 'E' is another), and these individualities can be discerned throughout all the volumes of Rich's Register [see later examples in Plates 2 & 3], showing that all the books were written by Christopher Mosyer Rich, and not by some other hand.
The Garrick Club volume ends in 1740. In a footnote to their article, Milhous and Hume wrote "the third extant part (1750-73) is in the Folger" (130, fn. 15). Not so. The volume covering these years is in the library at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Little attention has been paid to this third volume, however, and one can understand why. Whereas the first two volumes also contain a record of the nightly receipts, there is no such information in this volume, and it is merely a calendar of the plays performed at Covent Garden and Drury Lane. The first volume includes the takings each night at Lincoln's Inn Fields from 1714 to 1723, except for three seasons between 1717 and 1720. During those years, the management was farmed out to Rich's actors Christopher Bullock and Theophilus Keene (Keene died in 1718, and was replaced by George Pack), and the register lists the takings only for those performances that were benefits for the Rich brothers. The second volume continues to list the nightly receipts until the end of the first season at Covent Garden in the summer of 1733, at which point this detail ceases. The books, therefore, yield valuable information about the profitability of the theatre in the years 1714-1733. However, from the autumn of 1733 onwards the second volume is merely a list of the performances at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and becomes of less interest. It is simply confirmatory evidence of information that can be found elsewhere in newspaper advertisements and playbills. And this format continues throughout the Chatsworth volume. The book therefore holds little of value to a student of eighteenth-century theatre. Its interest, as I shall explain, lies in what it can tell us about about the man who wrote it.
This third volume was included in the sale of the antiquarian Joseph Haslewood's library, following his death in 1833.1 assume that the book was bought at the auction by the Duke of Devonshire, and so made its way to Chatsworth House. The entry in the auction catalogue reads--
1309 RICH'S REGISTER. A Register of the Performances at Covent Garden Theatre from 1750 to 1773, by C. M. Rich, the original Manuscript. V This Register is in continuation of a prior one commencing 1714, which will be found transcribed into Mr. Haslewood's collection relating to Plays, Players, and Play-houses. See Mr. H's. note in this Volume. (A Catalogue of the Curious and Valuable Library etc., 70)
Joseph Haslewood (1769-1833) was a collector of ephemera, including a large amount of material relating to the theatre. The transcript referred to above can be found in the third volume of a series of scrapbooks that are now in the British Library (BL), given the overall title Of Plays, Players, and Play-Houses, with Other Incidental Matter (BL: pressmark J/11791.dd.18). The library catalogue describes these as: "A collection of cuttings from newspapers and magazines, from plates and MS. notes, made by J. H., i.e. Joseph Haslewood? Continued from 1820 until the end of 1837, by J. R. Smith". The transcript in this scrapbook is dated 15 January 1818 at the end, and initialled "J.H." It is clearly written in the same hand as a preface to the Chatsworth volume in which Haslewood states how he came by the book--he similarly initials and dates this at the end. We can conclude that the British Library transcript was made by Joseph Haslewood himself, and there is no need for the cautious '?' in the library's attribution.
Haslewood's introduction to the Chatsworth volume reads:
The compiler of this register was Christopher Mulso [sic] Rich, brother (I suppose) of John Rich, the long-esteemed Harlequin, and the joint proprietor, successively, of Lincoln's-Inn-ffields, and Covent Garden Theatres. He commenced his Register in December 1714 and continued same to June 1740 in two small quarto volumes, about cyphering book size, but varying in both size and thickness, and which were in the library of the late J. P. Kemble [Esq.sup.re].
In the year 1817 Mr. Kemble to assist my theatrical enquiries very kindly lent me these two volumes with full permission to transcribe same; of which permission I availed myself, and the transcript may be found in Vol. 3 of my quarto collection of M.S. on 'Plays Players and Playhouses.'
I returned the volumes to Mr. Kemble and have a note by me to acknowledge the receival but was somewhat surprised at his death, when a part of his library was sold not to trace either of the quarto volumes yet found the following of a folio size, in unquestionably the same hand writing, with a worn and rough calf exterior and purchased same as well knowing its value.
This portion of the register commences with the opening of the Season (Septr) 1750 and ends with the close of the Season (June) 1773, so that there appears as between the quarto and folio volumes a hiatus of about ten Seasons therefore it is probable a vol: has been unfortunately mislaid if not lost.
Where Mr. Kemble obtained the two quarto vols: I do not recollect that he informed me at the time of the loan but as he entered very fully into the object in view that of supplying the history of our English theatres and did not at the same time show me the present volume, or notice its existence, I am inclined to infer the possession of the folio volume, was not obtained until after the loan to me of the quartos.
That Mr. Kemble after his marriage with the widow Brereton, so well known in her early theatrical career as Miss Pop Hopkins, obtained through her mother-in-law, the widow of Hopkins the prompter, the large collection of play-bills formed by said Prompter (and which with Mr. Kemble's own collection of plays are now in the Duke of Devonshire's library) and much other Theatrical matter gathered by him is generally known and I only refer to the circumstance under the hope it may possibly supply a clue to find the part wanting in Rich's Register. (Rich's Register 1750-73).
The final paragraph was clearly written at a different time: there is an obvious change in ink and pen.
It were cold and uncharitable to stop here having stated that the several M.S.S. passed through the hands of Mrs. Hopkins & being under her immediate controul: The common inference might be--a female careless of literary gems the M.S. has been destroyed: But 1 think not--I knew her well--She was a woman of business and could not be charged with any such mawkish inattention as to suffer that of value to be wasted or destroyed.--Let me tritely add she was in company always lively; never theatrically overbearing: apposite in remark; one, that it might be expected, would, as she did, sustain the character of Mrs. Heidelberg and leave an impression on her auditors that when she passed away, we should not look speedily upon her like again. I am now speaking some more than forty years gone by, but I still retain a vivid impression of her dramatic powers: and if a season need be assigned for such endurable reminiscience, take the fact: no young man was more enamour'd with her Bones than JH Xmas 1830
(Rich's Register 1750-73)
[The folio volume was Item 1648* in the auction of John Philip Kemble's library (Evans, J H). Priscilla "Pop" Hopkins (1756-1845) was an English actress, and Kemble was her third and last husband. The Mrs Hopkins referred to was her mother, the actress Elizabeth Hopkins (1731-1801), not her mother-in-law. Mrs Heidelberg is a character in The Clandestine Marriage (1766) by George Colman and David Garrick, and was a role played by Elizabeth Hopkins in Garrick's company at Drury Lane.]
This introduction has now been bound into the volume, together with a title page, in Haslewood's hand, reading:
J P Kemble
To accompany my bills
Nessun maggior dolore, che ricordarsi del tempo felice ne la miseria
(Rich's Register 1750-73)
The final line is a quotation from Dante Alighieri's Inferno (5.121-23), which can be translated as: "There is no greater sorrow than to be reminded, in one's misery, of happier times". John Philip Kemble died in 1823, and Haslewood clearly still mourned his death.
Observations on the Chatsworth Register
One can see immediately that the Register at Chatsworth was written by Christopher Mosyer Rich. The handwriting contains the idiosyncrasies in the letters P and R that I have already described, and this is particularly apparent on the first page of the book, which contains an abundance of the letter R (see Plate 2). The 1750-51 theatrical season started with a confrontation between Covent Garden and Drury Lane when, for thirteen consecutive nights, both theatres performed Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Drury Lane had Garrick and George Ann Bellamy in the title roles, while Covent Garden countered with Spranger Barry and Susannah Cibber. Interestingly, Christopher Mosyer Rich records that Covent Garden brought the episode to a close with a performance of John Gay's Tire Beggar's Opera on Friday 12 October because "Mrs Cibber would not act in Romeo no longer". This ended the run of performances at both theatres.
In 1759, John Rich tried to purchase the portion of the patents owned by his brother. This is generally well-known, as an indenture for the proposed purchase, dated April 1759, can be found in the British Library (Add Ch 9320). John Rich offered to pay 5,000 [pounds sterling] but, for whatever reason, the sale did not proceed. Shortly afterwards, during the 1759-60 season, John Rich did succeed in purchasing all the Skipwith family's holding of the majority share of the patents. Although there has always been uncertainty over the exact proportions, it is generally accepted that Christopher Rich only owned one-sixth of the whole, which he passed to his sons, and the remainder was owned by the Skipwith family ("The Killigrew and Davenant Patents"). The Deed Poll showing the purchase by John Rich and change of ownership was "indorsed" on 3 March 1760 (TNA, C 12/1728/34 Schedule 2).
At the end of this 1759-60 season, Christopher Mosyer Rich repeated the declaration that he was a joint patentee, writing:
An Acct of Plays, Opera's Acted at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden under Letters Patent granted by his late Majesty King Charles the 2d to Sr Wm Davenant & Mr Killigrew. Patent was united to Sr Wm Davenant in 1682. Therefore John and Chr. Mosyer Rich Esqrs are both Patentee's of the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden Pursuant to the Will of my Father Chr. Rich Esqr Deceased who Died November 4th 1714. (Rich's Register 1750-73, June 1760)
The format is virtually identical to the words he used in 1732, quoted earlier. It is the only time this declaration appears in the Chatsworth volume, and it could be construed that Christopher Mosyer Rich felt it necessary, after the events a few months earlier, to emphasize, once again, his status as a patentee. After the acquisition of the Skipwith family's share, John Rich owned approximately 96% of the total, Christopher Mosyer Rich merely 4%.
John Rich died in 1761, and there are aspects to the entry recording his death, and the continuing entries, which I find most odd. The first of these is that the death was written formally in the register:
John Rich Esqr Master and Patentee of the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden Died Thursday Novr 26th about 6 a clock in the Evening at his House Adjoyning to the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden in the 70 year of his Age and Mrs Priscilla Rich a sole Executrix of the Will of John Rich Esq' Deceased. (Rich's Register 1750-73, 26 November 1761), see Plate 3.
Christopher Mosyer Rich does not refer to John Rich as his brother, which is curious since he always writes "my father" in the declarations that he was a joint patentee. This is not how one would expect him to write in a private journal--even if they were estranged. One therefore questions the purpose of these registers. Were they public or private documents? Previous writers have suggested that the first two volumes were prepared for an official theatrical purpose. Milhous and Hume hazarded why they were written:
The Rich brothers had been on bad terms during the company's early years, and one motive for the register may have been to ensure that income was not under-reported to the minority partner. Another motive was pretty clearly to create a record that would help the company judge the competitive impact of the plays on offer at the rival theatre (130).
These are plausible suggestions. However, the first makes no sense if the register was actually compiled by the minority partner. And the second motive does not hold true after 1733, when the nightly takings are no longer recorded. The entries certainly allow a modern historian to "judge the competitive impact" of Drury Lane on Lincoln's Inn Fields from 1714 to 1732, but this cannot be the reason why the books were compiled in the first place. If it were so, the books would have continued to list the takings or, if this information was unavailable, the writing would have ceased. The author would not have doggedly continued to compile them, without purpose, for a further forty years. It also seems unlikely that the financial information was ever intended for public view. The Rich brothers would surely not have wanted their financial position to be readily available to their rivals, especially in the early years before The Beggar's Opera (1728), when they struggled to remain solvent. And one is therefore drawn to the conclusion that the registers were intended to be a private record. Nevertheless, the formal description of John Rich's death leads me to believe that this third volume was not written simply for the author's personal use, but was available, at the very least, for other people to read, although access may have been restricted. Interested parties could include the renters (investors) in the theatre. Even though the book was merely a list of the performances at the two theatres, it could have been a handy reference source, as the information it contained would not otherwise be readily available. We are fortunate today that there are published records of the theatrical performances in London, and we may forget that they were culled from sources such as this and other documents fortuitously kept by collectors of theatrical ephemera. If the Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817) had not assembled his archive of newspapers, for example, our knowledge of theatrical performances would be severely compromised.
Christopher Mosyer Rich makes a break in the entries at the death of his brother. He gives the total of performances thus far in the season, and then starts again with a description of the new managers. He had previously described Covent Garden theatre, at the beginning and end of each season, as 'under the management of John Rich'. He clearly accepted that he had been marginalised from this position. Indeed, as I have argued in my biography of John Rich [Jenkins, 133-35], I think one of the reasons for building the Covent Garden theatre was to remove Christopher Mosyer Rich from active participation in the management. He was not involved in raising the finance, or signing the contract for the construction. He was not named in the relevant ledgers at Hoare's bank, nor was he involved in the later dispute with the builder, Edward Shepherd. All of which, I submit, is evidence that he was not involved in the project in any way. One can also infer this from the fact that the register stops listing the nightly takings at this point, implying that he no longer had access to the theatre accounts. Nonetheless, he still owned his very small fraction of the patents, and still retained his legal rights as a patentee. It was the management that changed at his brother's death, and he now describes the theatre as "under the Management of Mrs Priscilla Rich Executrix of the late John Rich Esqr Deceas'd, Mr Wilford and Mr Beard". This was not strictly accurate. Priscilla's brother, Edward Wilford, was an executor of John Rich's will, but was not designated to be a manager of the theatre. One can therefore discern that Christopher Mosyer Rich was not privy to the substance of John Rich's will.
John Rich wrote in this will that his brother was to receive 4,000 [pounds sterling] when the Covent Garden patent was sold (1,000 [pounds sterling] less than he had offered a couple of years earlier), and interest of 200 [pounds sterling]per annum on this sum until such date. The family decided he should be paid off immediately, as is shown by an indenture in the Treasury Solicitor's papers, which states that it would be to the advantage of all the parties interested, and facilitate the management and execution of the Trusts, to pay the 4,000 [pounds sterling] forthwith (TNA: TS 21/1897). This decision was taken on 2 January 1762, but the executors were unable to make the payment immediately, as there was insufficient cash to hand. The family solved the problem by borrowing the money on the open market, and the Probate Accounts show a payment of 4,000 [pounds sterling] to Christopher Mosyer Rich on 22 July 1762, when he relinquished his claim to any portion of the patent (TNA: C 38/687). (3) The date, and manner, of the pay-off was surprisingly not known to Milhous and Hume who wrote "though he had apparently sold his one-quarter interest in the theatre by about 1760" (130).
Christopher Mosyer Rich makes no acknowledgment in the register of the pay-off he received from Rich's executors. This is surprising in itself, but he also makes no reference to the fact that he had thereby yielded up his share of the patents, was no longer a patentee, and therefore had no further interest in any aspect of the theatre management. His status was something he had been at pains to stress in the registers, as has already been described. But when his association ended, it occasioned no comment of any sort. Admittedly the payoff came in the summer, when the theatre was closed, but the list of performances starts again at the beginning of the new 1762-63 season as if nothing had changed. Christopher Mosyer Rich also relinquished his interest in the theatre without demur, which, again, is strange. He had no need to obey the dictates of his brother's will. His share in the patent was a profitable investment that was his by right. He could have held on to it, and used it to influence the new managers, or sold it to whomever he chose. He might have been able to negotiate a better price from a third party. But he didn't. He did what the executors required, and took the money that was offered.
Christopher Mosyer Rich continued to compile the register even after all his connections with the theatre had ceased, recording how it came under the successive managements of: Mr Colman, Mr Powel, Mr Rutherford and Mr Harris (1767); Mr Powel, Mr Colman, Mr Harris and others (1768); Mr Colman, Harris and the widow Powel and others (1769); and finally Mr Colman alone (1771). (4) It is beyond the scope of this article to analyse the contents exhaustively, but they do contain isolated examples of information that cannot be found elsewhere. For example, the register states that an oratorio scheduled for Friday 13 February 1761 was cancelled "because of the war with France". The Loudon Stage makes no reference to this, and I have found nothing in the newspapers to corroborate the assertion, or indicate that a performance was even planned for the date. However, apart from these titbits of information, the Chatsworth volume tells us no more about the theatre than the title of the play each night at the two patent houses. There is nothing about the financial aspects of the management, or the casts and repertoire. It does confirm the authenticity of the handwriting of Christopher Mosyer Rich (and also, incidentally, Joseph Haslewood) but, more importantly, it illustrates his isolation from any active involvement with the theatre and its management. This leaves us with the unanswered questions of why it was compiled, and the purpose it served. These questions can also be applied to the earlier volumes in the Folger Shakespeare Library and Garrick Club. As I have already stated, Milhous and Hume suggested they could have been compiled to ensure that income was not under-reported, and to show the competitive impact of the repertoire. These justifications may be partly true for the early years at Lincoln's Inn Fields, but they certainly do not apply after the move to Covent Garden when the revenue figures cease. Nevertheless, there must have been a reason, beyond an obsessional routine, for Christopher Mosyer Rich to continue his compilation. It is a conundrum that still cannot be satisfactorily explained. Clearly, he did not keep this register because he was a patentee, otherwise he would have stopped in 1762 when he was paid off. Surely this volume was not simply written for posterity. But the formality does suggest it was written for public, and not private, consumption.
Christopher Mosyer Rich died early in 1774 aged 80, and was buried at St Mary Islington on 13 February. Although there is still a lost volume covering the years 1740-50, it is clear from the handwriting that he compiled these registers without a break for 59 years, from 1714 through to 1773. Milhous and Hume were not strictly accurate when they wrote that "C. M. Rich (and perhaps others) kept the register going until the time of his death in 1774" (130). The entries end on Wednesday 2 June 1773, at the close of the 1772-73 season. The handwriting was that of Christopher Mosyer Rich to the very end, although it deteriorates somewhat, and the final entry: "No Play" once again contains the idiosyncratic capital letter P.
There are no further entries, although the author died halfway through the following season. To my mind, this is further confirmation that the register was written up annually, during the summer break. The neatness of the entries, and the quality of the ink and nibs being used, also indicate that several pages, at least, were written at a time. The book was not compiled on a day-to-day basis, and that would have been an onerous task indeed, unless one was an official of the theatre employed for the purpose. However, if the register was written up annually, one then has to ask what source(s) did Christopher Mosyer Rich base his entries on? He must have kept rough notes, and that would always have been essential for the performances at Drury Lane, since he never had any official association with that theatre. It is possible he kept a personal diary that recorded the performances, and then extracted the details for his register, but these registers are clearly not that diary. It is therefore impossible to tell how the registers were compiled, which adds to the mystery of why they were written.
Terry Jenkins is a retired opera singer. For twenty-five years he was a principal tenor with the English National Opera. He made his Covent Garden debut in 1976, and performed widely in Europe and the USA. His articles "The Will of John Rich--Probate and Problems", "Christopher Rich--From Puritan to Theatre Manager" and "Two Account Books for Covent Garden Theatre, 1757-58" have been published in Theatre Notebook. (Vols 64, 12-27; 66, 85-95 and 70, 109-125). He is the author of "John Rich, the man who built Covent Garden Theatre" and "Tire Royal Licensing of London Theatres in the Seventeenth Century: A History of the Killigrew and Davenant Patents granted by Charles II".
(1) Christopher Mosyer Rich spelt his name as "Mosyer" in the register. It was also the spelling he used in his will. However, the name can be found elsewhere as Mosier. Such differences were commonplace at the time. Instances where it is spelt Moyser, or Moiser, as occur in some sources, are certainly inaccurate.
(2) The title of this supplementary file, C 107/171, has been incorrectly transcribed as Rich v. Sadler in the TNA indexes.
(3) see also: Jenkins "The Will of John Rich: Probate and Problems", 23; and Jenkins John Rich 247-48.
(4) Covent Garden theatre and the patents were sold in 1767 to George Colman (the elder, dramatist), William Powell (actor), John Rutherford and Thomas Harris. Little is known of the backgrounds of Rutherford and Harris.
A Catalogue of the Curious and Valuable Library of the late Joseph Hasleivood Esq. F.S.A. W. Nicol, Cleveland-row, St James's, 1833,'70: Item 1309.
Evans, R. H.: A Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Miscellaneous Library, Choice Prints, and Tlteatrical Portraits of John Philip Kemble Esq. etc. London, Bulmer & Nicol, 1821, 333: Item 1648*.
Jenkins, Terry: John Rich, the Man who built Covent Garden Theatre. Barn End Press, 2016.
--: "The Will of John Rich: Probate and Problems." Theatre Notebook, Vol. 64, No. 1 (2010), 23.
Milhous, Judith and Robert D. Hume "Theatre Account Books in Eighteenth-Century London," Script & Print: The Bulletin of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, 33 (2009), 125-135.
Of Plays, Players, and Play-Houses, with Other Incidental Matter. [A collection of cuttings from newspapers and magazines, with plates and MS. notes, made by J. H., i.e. Joseph Haslewood? Continued from 1820 until the end of 1837, by J. R. Smith.], Vol. 3. British Library, London.
Rich's Register 1723-40, Garrick Club, London.
Rich's Register 1750-73, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.
"The Killigrew and Davenant Patents." Survey of London: Volume 35, the theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Ed. E H. W. Sheppard. London: London County Council, 1970.1-8.
Caption: Plate 1. Detail from a docket submitted as evidence in Rich v Sadier (1739). The idiosyncratic loop on the up-stroke of the letters 'P' and 'R' is clearly visible.
Caption: Plate 2. Detail from the entries in autumn 1750 when Covent Garden and Drury Lane both performed Romeo and Juliet for 13 consecutive nights.
Caption: Plate 3. Entry recording the death of John Rich, 26 November 1761.
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2018|
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