Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Rainsford St Theatre Dublin The Royal Merchant or Beggars Bush 1734

In her memoir and history A Narrative of a Residence in Ireland 1814 to 1815 (Henry Colburn, London, 1817, p.68) the writer Anne Plumptre recorded the following incident in Dublin, which seems to have taken place in 1734.

In response to an extravagant production of Henry VIII at the new Aungier Street theatre the rival Rainsford Street theatre put on a play she describes as The Royal Merchant or Beggars Bush “in which a mock pageant of the coronation of King Clause threw such complete ridicule on the serious one in Henry the Eighth that the latter ceased to attract. Thus the keen edge of the satire being blunted, King Clause also speedily sank into oblivion.”

It is clear from the context that she was describing a historical incident, not a performance she herself attended, but one sufficiently striking to have stayed in the memory of Dubliners.

Plumptre continued, “This was but one among many attempts which have failed to raise this motley production into a standard piece”, an assessment that probably reflects the attitude of the times when she was writing to an old play which no longer met the fashion of the times.  Plumptre was part of the circle of William Godwin who seems to have been fond of the play. The play continued to be performed in Dublin and elsewhere.  Between her visit to Dublin and the publication of her Narrative, and perhaps while she writing it, Douglas Kinnaird’s adaption The Merchant of Bruges had opened in London, with Edmund Kean, who she much admired, as Flores, the romantic lead. That production contained a procession headed by Clause which was noted by Lord Byron.


Posted: April 21st, 2012 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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