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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 816

Richard Brinsley Sheridan papers connected with the Drury Lane Theatre


Correspondence and documents concerning Richard Brinsley Sheridan and the Drury Lane Theatre in London.


  • 1768-1825

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


1 linear feet (2 boxes)
Includes autograph manuscript letters and typescript transcripts of letters from Richard Brinsley Sheridan to others; manuscript legal documents supporting Thomas Shaw's claims again the management of Drury Lane Theatre; manuscript deeds, grants, agreements, and other legal documents concerning Drury Lane Theatre, some on vellum; and miscellaneous other manuscript letters to Sheridan and others about the theater.

Among persons represented here are: Sir Robert Barclay, Richard Peake, Thomas Shaw, John Grubb, George Coleman, and Samuel Whitbread.

Many items have been pasted onto other sheets of paper.

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 theaters. 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 theater on the same site. The second theater 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 was born in Dublin, Ireland and raised in 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 theater 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 theater burned in 1809, Sheridan was deeply in debt and had to agree for Samuel Whitbread to take charge of funding and rebuilding the theater. 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. Letters from Sheridan to others
  2. II. Thomas Shaw's claims
  3. III. Deeds and agreements
  4. IV. Miscellaneous letters to Sheridan and others

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

54M-287. Purchased at the Sotheby sale, 25 May 1954 lot 274 through Maggs Brothers; received: 1954 July.

Some of this material was included in Phillipps MS.25786.

Related Materials

See also: Sheridan-Grubb Papers Concerning the Drury Lane Theatre (MS Thr 527); and check HOLLIS and OASIS for additional Sheridan materials held by Houghton Library.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt
Link to catalog
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 1751-1816. Richard Brinsley Sheridan papers connected with the Drury Lane Theatre, 1768-1825: 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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