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Comic Acting and Portraiture in Late-Georgian and Regency England


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  • Date Published: April 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107491717

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About the Authors
  • The popularity of the comic performers of late-Georgian and Regency England and their frequent depiction in portraits, caricatures and prints is beyond dispute, yet until now little has been written on the subject. In this unique study Jim Davis considers the representation of English low comic actors, such as Joseph Munden, John Liston, Charles Mathews and John Emery, in the visual arts of the period, the ways in which such representations became part of the visual culture of their time, and the impact of visual representation and art theory on prose descriptions of comic actors. Davis reveals how many of the actors discussed also exhibited or collected paintings and used painterly techniques to evoke the world around them. Drawing particularly on the influence of Hogarth and Wilkie, he goes on to examine portraiture as critique and what the actors themselves represented in terms of notions of national and regional identity.

    • Offers an original and innovative study of a neglected area of English theatre history
    • Explores the significance of the visual arts to the understanding and critiquing of comic performance c.1780–1830
    • Provides an informed and accessible introduction to the range of critical perceptions underlying art and comic acting during this period
    Read more


    • Winner, 2017 David Bradby TaPRA Award, Theatre and Performance Research Association

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107491717
    • length: 290 pages
    • dimensions: 245 x 170 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 76 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. English Comic Actors and their Representation:
    1. The low comic actor
    2. Artists and comic actors
    3. Perspectives on comedy and comic acting
    Part II. Humorous as a Sketch by Hogarth:
    4. Comedy and caricature: Joseph Munden and Isabella Mattocks
    5. John Liston: caricaturing preachers and cockneys
    6. The low comedian as material object
    7. Caricature, degradation, persona and portraiture
    8. Paintings by George Clint
    Part III. Chaste as a Picture by Wilkie:
    9. Wilkie, everyday life and the theatre
    10. Acting from nature and observation
    11. John Bannister: 'the best kind of Englishman'
    12. John Emery: 'this Wilkie of Actors'
    13. Actors as artists and connoisseurs
    Part IV. Alone I Did It! The Case of Charles Mathews:
    14. Charles Mathews 'at home'
    15. Charles Mathews: paintings, portraits and prints
    16. The Harlow portrait of Charles Mathews.

  • Author

    Jim Davis, University of Warwick
    Jim Davis is Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick. As a researcher, he specialises in British theatre during the long nineteenth century. He has published a biographical study of John Liston, an edition of the plays of H. J. Byron and an edition of the diaries of the stage manager of the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, Frederick Wilton. With Victor Emeljanow he co-wrote a prize-winning study of nineteenth-century theatre audiences, Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing 1840–1880 (2001), and more recently he has edited a collection of critical essays on Victorian Pantomime (2010) and a volume on Edmund Kean. He has also co-convened Theatre Historiography groups for the International Federation for Theatre Research and for the British Theatre and Performance Research Association, and is an editor of the journal Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film.


    • Winner, 2017 David Bradby TaPRA Award, Theatre and Performance Research Association

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