Collection News / Penn Libraries

Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage

Death of the Queen of France - a refused play

The Death of the Queen of France, a play which was refused license in 1804 and never produced.

The Penn Libraries recently added a new database to its collections: Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage. Eighteenth Century Drama contains scans of plays from the John Larpent Collection, housed by the Huntington Library.

The Licensing Act of 1737 required theatre managers to submit all plays for government inspection prior to staging in Britain. Plays containing revolutionary language or anti-government sentiment could be refused a license and prevented from production. John Larpent served as the English Inspector of Plays in the late 18th-century and early 19th century, and saved original submissions to his office. Over 2,500 of these submissions – including censored works – make up the bulk of the collection.

An important reference work accompanies the plays, organized as a searchable database: The London Stage, 1660-1800. Compiled from theatrical reviews, advertisements, and diaries, The London Stage serves as a catalog of performances. Filter by actor, theatre, performance, or character to compare produced plays to the submitted manuscripts in the Larpent collection. The database also features a data associations text analysis tool.

Other documents in the collection include digitized playbills, scrapbooks, correspondence, financial and legal notes, and the complete diaries of Anna Larpent, wife of the English Inspector of plays and co-censor of submissions.

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