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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the status of the British theatre as a national institution through a discussion of the 1832 Select Committee on Dramatic Literature, and as an example of the application of Reform principles to British cultural life. The Select Committee’s Report of the Minutes of Evidence was published in August 1832, and comprises over 250 pages of evidence documenting the minutiae of theatre management, play writing, theatre finances, London audiences, and views on the regulation and legitimacy of the contemporary theatre industry. However, the Select Committee did not mark a watershed moment of radical change: rather, it demonstrated the endurance of privileged elites. Nevertheless, the paper trail of documents and public debate surrounding the Report leaves a rich record of the contesting views of the early nineteenth century theatre and ideas about theatre as a national institution which reverberate through the rest of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

Keywords: national drama, reform, parliament, legitimacy, Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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