William Godwin's Diary


The American playwright John Howard Payne’sBrutus; or, The Fall of Tarquin, an historical tragedy (London, 1818) was performed at Drury Lane for the first time in the season on 19, 20 and 24 November, with Edmund Kean in a title role which he had ‘perhaps more than any other …. appropriated exclusively to himself’ (The Times, Saturday 20 November 1819). Godwin’s interest may have been in the acting of a play about republican history for the first time since the Peterloo Massacre in August. Certainly, Jaffier, another name for Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserv’d, or, A plot discover’d, a tragedy (London, 1682), was deeply contentious during the 1790s for its openness to republican readings. The newspapers do not contain any announcements of performances of Jaffier or further performances of Brutus, so it is possible that both plays were announced at Drury Lane before being withdrawn for reasons of political sensitivity.

See Morning Chronicle, November 1819, passim; The Times, November 1819, passim and John Barrell, ‘“An Entire Change of Performances?”: The Politicisation of Theatre and the Theatricalisation of Politics in the mid 1790s’, Lumen, 17 (1998) 11-50.