12mo, pp. [2 (advertisement)], 408, with engraved frontispiece portrait by Heath after a bust by Lochée with tissue-guard; preliminary advertisement as ‘The Fifth Volume of the British Theatre’, separate title for each play but register and pagination continuous; marginal dampstain to upper outer corner of portrait, occasional light foxing; a very good copy in contemporary marbled calf, gilt red morocco lettering- and numbering-pieces to spine; a little rubbed at extremities, corners bumped.
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The School for Scandal, a Comedy [– The Critic …; – The Rivals …; – A Trip to Scarborough …] … adapted for theatrical Representation, as performed at the Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane …
The first attempt to publish a collected edition of Sheridan’s dramatic works, forming the fifth volume of The British Theatre, an assembly of pirated plays by the Dublin bookseller William Jones.
This collected edition testifies both to Sheridan’s wildly popular appeal and to Jones’s savvy negotiation of the crowded market for plays such as The School for Scandal, which produced at least twenty-three separate Irish editions in little over a decade. In the preliminary advertisement which here serves as a general title, Jones heralds the authenticity of the text, which was ‘Regulated from the Prompt-Book. By Permission of the Managers’ and includes lines omitted from the performance, ‘distinguished by inverted Commas’. The series ‘marks an accelerating tendency in the late eighteenth century to treat works for the theatre as serious literature, worth reading and studying even for those lines not spoken on the stage’ (Morash, p. 330). Byron famously regarded Sheridan’s work as ‘always the best of its kind’, a view reflected in the playwright’s enduring appeal from the eighteenth century to the present day (quoted in ODNB).
The present volume offers a complete collection of Sheridan’s plays, except only The Governess (the Irish piracy of The Duenna), which would appear in the following volume. The second edition of 1795 appears to be, in fact, a reissue with a general title, but retaining the dated part-titles.
ESTC N21602. See Christopher Morash, ‘Theatre and Print, 1550−1800’ in The Oxford History of the Irish Book: Volume III: The Irish Book in English, 1550-1800 (ed. Gillespie & Hadfield, 2006), pp. 319-334.
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