[‘Theatre Royal Darwar’, 1858: British amusements during the Indian Mutiny.] Seven items relating to the ‘Corps Dramatique’ of ‘Mrs. Comfit’: four handbills and three manuscript items, incl.2 poems and drawing of castigating Englishwoman. See Image.

‘Theatre Royal Darwar’, ‘Opera Comique d’Arwar’, ‘Mrs. Comfit & Co’ [Dharwar, Bombay Presidency, India [now Dharwad, Karnataka]; Indian Mutiny; the Raj; East India Company; British India]
Publication details: 
Three of the eight items dated to 1858, and with the same date on one of the mounts; all from Dharwar, Bombay Presidency, India [now Dharwad, Karnataka].
SKU: 23738

An interesting and evocative collection of ephemeral material, casting light on the social activities and entertainments of the British in India in the last months of the Indian Mutiny, also the year of the dissolution of the East India Company. No other record of this amateur ‘Corps Dramatique’, or of its conductor ‘Mrs. Comfit’, has been discovered. (The named members of the troupe are Mr Melville, Mr Guille, Mr Hunt, Mr Keane, Mr Gordon, Mr Skoulding, Capt and Mrs Paget.) The seven items, and an eighth unrelated item (a letter from an Indian servant to his English mistress), are laid down on three leaves torn from an album. Items 1-7 are in good condition; Item 8 is creased with one closed tear, but with the text legible and complete. Items 1-4 are the four handbills, all lithographed in black ink on one side only of leaves roughly 20 x 26 cm. In Items 1-3 the text is enclosed in illustrated borders. These are attractive and well-executed, and including charming representations of characters from the advertised entertainments. ONE: Lithographed handbill headed ‘Theatre Royal Darwar’, beneath design of crossed rapiers and a comic mask, and with the borders containing two characters seated on chairs, and others within corunucopias. Advertising performances of ‘In for a Holiday’ and ‘A Romance under difficulties’. Text begins: ‘Theatre Royal Darwar - | Under the illustrious patronage of the Heads of Society, a distinguished troupe of Light Comedians, conducted by Mrs. Comfit, having been engaged after much wrangling for a very limited number of nights will on [dash] next, if they feel in the humour, endeavour to struggle thro’ the serio comico fancies, Burletta of [...]’. Ends: ‘Stage manager if he can and prompter if he is prompt - Mr. Melvill | At the rising of the curtain (not of the sun) the audience are requested to sit. | Performance to commence at 8 OC. PM. | God save the Queen’. TWO: Lithographed handbill headed ‘Opera Comique d’Arwar’. Advertising performances of ‘Only a Halfpenny’ and ‘Box and Cox’. With borders illustrated with seven characters, one of whom is represented standing on a giant top hat, another on a giant 1858 halfpenny. Text begins: ‘The Corps dramatique having again settled their differences and secured regardless of expence & with an eye to business some distinguished additions to their number, will, in the absence of anything better (or worse) to do, on Wednesday the 4th. of August, there being no boards, appear on the matting in the following highly prized Tragedy of [...]’ Ends ‘Doors (as there are none) will be open at 8 OClock P.M. | GOD SAE THE QUEEN’. THREE: Lithograph headed ‘Theatre Royal Dharwar’, with text enclosed in a border of wooden logs, to which four characters cling. Advertising ‘Perfection’ and ‘Dearest Elizabeth’. Text begins: ‘For the night only and no mistake. | The Corps Dramatique after multiplying themselves by the distinguished addition of a star of the first magnitude to their already resplendent galaxy of rank, beauty & fashion, with characteristic boldness solicit the attendance on Wednesday evg. next the 1st. Inst. | Of course such a perfect Corps would produce nothing but | [...]’. FOUR: Lithograph headed ‘THEATRE ROYAL DHARWAR’. No illustrations. Advertising ‘the Comic Drama entitled | Ticklish Times’ and ‘the novel farce of | Villikins and his Dinah’. FIVE: Striking manuscript drawing of an Englishwoman setting about four black-skinned ‘natives’ with a bamboo stick. 18 x 11 cm. Headed with caption in tiny hand: ‘Scene 4 | The scene changes to G[?] Minutes later on the 12th March 1858, And the word Gone to something stronger from P[?] N[?]. The alarming effects of B[?] being rather quickly, and unpleasantly put an end to A free application of Bamboo!!!’ SIX and SEVEN are laid down on the same page of the album, which is dated ‘Dharwar 1858’. SIX is twelve-line manuscript poem, captioned on the album leaf ‘An Invitation’. 1p, 12mo. The first of three stanzas reads: ‘Mrs. Comfit & Co trusts Her friends | (If not better engaged by ill chance,) | Will favor them still, she intends | To have a small supper & Dance’. SEVEN is a twenty-line manuscript poem, in five stanzas, dated at the end ‘Dharwar | July 19. 1858’. The first stanza reads: ‘Mrs. Light is desirous in writing the answer, | To do what will most be polite: | Although fond of tarts & a competent dancer | She’s compelled to refuse the invite’. EIGHT: Autograph Letter Signed by ‘[Gupeeruppa?] | Tailor’. 2pp, 12mo. Dated from Dharwar, 10 September 1858. Written in shaky English. He is ‘Honered Miss | I beg respectfully and humbly beg [sic] to inform your honor that I am possessed to serve under your care Now I am going to [Enmour?] there is my Almighty God I want the leave to ten days weekly by weekly (two) 2 days Wednesday and Thursday as five 5 weeks I have necessary to that village that is 21 mile from Dharwar as this is my Gods holy day To the reason I cannot stand here You cannot prevent the give for Leave and you did not give me Leabve if you wish to take my 10 days of pay and you must give me Leave.’