Lot 264: Frankenstein Playbill. Presumption! Or, The Fate of Frankenstein. Fourth Time, Theatre Royal, English Opera House, Strand, This Evening, Thursday, July 31st, 1823, printed letterpress playbill, advertising as the headline production the fourth performance of the first play to dramatize Mary Shelley's novel, with an eight-line quotation from the preface to the novel, featuring Mr Wallack as Frankenstein, Mr Rowbotham as De Lacey, plus T.P. Cooke et al., also advertising performances of A Roland For An Oliver and The Rival Soldiers, thin wove paper, verso blank, light spotting with one darker spot lower right, 334 x 218mm (13.25 x 8.75ins). (1). Two very rare playbills. Presumption, a two-act play by Richard Brinsley Peake, was the first dramatisation based on Mary Shelley's anonymous novel to be performed on stage. It opened on 28 July 1823 at the English Opera House [Lyceum Theatre, where Bram Stoker was later to work] on the Strand, London. Peake took some liberties in his adaptation, adding several new characters including the first of Victor Frankenstein's various assistants. Notably, he also turned Mary Shelley's well-cultured monster into a mute and rather idiotic creature. On the playbill his character's name is simply represented by a series of dashes. For this first season James Wallack took the part of Doctor Frankenstein and Thomas Potter Cooke the part of the monster. Three years earlier Cooke had first starred as Ruthven in a play called The Vampire. He was to star in the same role in 1826 as seen here for the extraordinary double bill featuring both plays, with a Mr Baker now playing the part of Frankenstein. The Vampire was adapted from a work by John Polidori, who had begun his story during the same infamous summer gathering of 1816 in Switzerland, while staying with the Shelleys and Lord Byron. It was then that Mary Shelley's novel was also spawned. The novel had not been a great commercial success and many had presumed it was written by Mary's infamous husband Percy Shelley. It was his notoriety that possibly kept playwrights away from the work until after his death by drowning in 1822. Mary Shelley had mixed feelings about the play when it opened but, echoing Lord Byron, wrote: 'But lo and behold I found myself famous! Frankenstein had prodigious success as a drama and was about to be repeated for the twenty-third night at the English Royal Opera House'. Mary Shelley herself attended a performance on 29 August 1823. Whatever Mary Shelley's misgivings, having concluded 'the story is not well managed', the public were smitten and undeterred by controversy and protests against its 'attack on the Christian faith'. Indeed, by 1826 there were said to have been about fifteen play versions based to some extent on Shelley's novel. Additionally, a second edition of Shelley's novel was issued on 11 August 1823, this time giving Mary Shelley's name. Its fame in its own right, plus that of The Vampire and all their collective reimaginings in print, on stage and on screen, has meant that Frankenstein, Dracula and all their progeny are forever implanted in the modern psyche.
Dominic Winter's Printed Books and Maps Auction September 2015
Wednesday, 16th September 2015
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