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London Theater during the Regency: Covent Garden

I think you judge very wisely in putting off your London visit, and I am mistaken if it be not put off for some time. You speak with such noble resignation of Mrs. Jordan and the Opera House, that it would be an insult to suppose consolation required…
Jane Austen to Cassandra
January 8, 1801

The Austen family loved the theater. They loved attending plays, talking about plays and performances, and they enjoyed acting in plays. Some of Austen’s earliest works are in the form of a play and many scenese of plot developement in her novels revolve around the acting in and attending of theatrical events.

In Austen’s day, it was not unusual for a serious work to be followed by a lighter piece of comdey or opera. Many evening performances included two or even three works in a row. When visiting the London home of her brother, Henry Austen, Jane seems to have visited the theater as often as possible, viewing some of the greatest stage artists of her time including Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Jordan and Edmund Kean in his acclaimed role as Shylock.

Austen, herself, seems to have preferred the light comedic plays to those of operatic prowess. In 1814, she wrote to Cassandra that, “We are to see “The Devil to Pay” to-night. I expect to be very much amused. Excepting Miss Stephens, I daresay “Artexerxes” will be very tiresome.”

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