This collection consists of official manuscript copies of plays submitted for licensing in Great Britain between 1737 and
1824 that were in the possession of John Larpent (1741-1824),
the examiner of plays, at the time of his death in 1824. The collection includes 2,399 identified plays as well as an additional
104 unidentified pieces including addresses,
prologues, epilogues, etc.
John Larpent (1741-1824), after posts in the foreign service and a term as secretary to the Duke of Bedford in Paris and to
the Marquis of
Hertford in Ireland, was appointed
to the position of Examiner of Plays in November 1778. Larpent was assisted in his work by his wife, Anna Margaretta Larpent
whom he married in 1782. Larpent continued as Examiner until his death in 1824. The licensing act of 1737 required that copies of all plays and other entertainments
designed to be performed on the stage in Great Britain be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain
for license fourteen days before their presentation. In order to carry out the provisions of
the new law, the office of Examiner of Plays was established, and the first Examiner, William
Chetwynd, was appointed on March 10, 1738. Chetwynd acted almost entirely through deputies: first Thomas Odell (1738-1749)
and second Edward Capell (1749-1781).
At the time of Chetwynd's death on April 3, 1770, apparently no successor was designated; and Capell acted as
Examiner until the appointment of John Larpent on November 20, 1778. Larpent died in office on January 18, 1824.
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