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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 527

Sheridan-Grubb papers concerning the Drury Lane Theatre

Documents and correspondence of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and investor John Grubb, concerning the Drury Lane Theatre. Also includes some associated theatre papers.


  • 1765-1841
  • Majority of material found within 1795-1806

Language of Materials

Collection is in English, with some French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


1 linear feet (3 boxes)

Collection includes correspondence with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Grubb, and others concerning the management and finances of the Drury Lane Theatre, primarily from 1796 to 1806.

Includes: autograph manuscripts by Sheridan and others; manuscript legal documents; manuscript literary compositions related to the Theatre including prologues; manuscript invoices, receipts, construction agreements, account statements, legal documents, financial records, and deeds.

Biographical / Historical

The Drury Lane Theatre (also later known as the Theatre in Drury Lane; the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane; and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) is one of London's most famous theatres. It was first erected under a charter granted by Charles II in 1662, and it opened in 1663 but burned down in 1672. There have since been three rebuildings of the theatre on the same site. The second theatre was opened in 1674 and much later fell into disrepair. The third Drury Lane Theatre, designed by Henry Holland, opened in 1794, but burned down in 1809. The fourth Drury Lane (which still stands in 2008) opened in 1812.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) was a playwright, theatre proprietor, and politician. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and later moved to London. He became the manager and part-owner of the Drury Lane Theatre in 1776. He wrote several plays, including the comedies The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1780). He also served as a Minister of Parliament from 1780 to 1812.

Sheridan negotiated to buy David Garrick's controlling share of the second Drury Lane Theatre, and in September 1776, the theatre opened under Sheridan's management. From 1791 to 1794, Sheridan was involved in the rebuilding of the third Drury Lane Theatre and became involved in complicated financial dealings and debts to fund the venture. Other proprietors at this time were Joseph Richardson and John Grubb; all three were later involved in civil law suits concerning financial mis-management. When the third theatre burned in 1809, Sheridan was deeply in debt and had to agree for Samuel Whitbread to take charge of funding and rebuilding the theatre. When the fourth Drury Lane Theatre opened in 1811, Sheridan was excluded from any share in the management. Sheridan died penniless in 1816.

John Grubb of Horsenden (1751-1812) was a friend of Sheridan's and an investor and joint-proprietor in the third Drury Lane Theatre.


Arranged into the following series:
  1. I. Correspondence with Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Volume I: items (1) - (123))
  2. II. Letters to John Grubb (Volume 1: items (124) - (138))
  3. III. Other letters (Volume I: items (139) - (141))
  4. IV. Documents concerning the Drury Lane Theatre (Volume II: item (142) - (184); and Volume III: item (185))

Physical Location

b, pf

Immediate Source of Acquisition

52M-16, 52M-17, 52M-18. Purchased with the Frank E. Chase fund at Sotheby's, lots 402-4, 406, 408-12; received: 1952 July 15.

Separated Materials

See also MS Thr 491 (accession 52M-19) that formed part of this original accession, but was cataloged at an earlier date as a single item as HOLLIS number 010070291.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Collection was originally cataloged in 1952 and included this processing note: "The division into lots arranged for the [Sotheby] sale has not been preserved in this list." Collection was recataloged in 2008, and the arrangement established in 1952 was retained, but the description was enhanced.
Link to catalog
Sheridan-Grubb papers concerning the Drury Lane Theatre,1765-1841: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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