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Based on a distant reading of key periodicals, this chapter investigates the music and musicians that received the most contemporary attention – and how recognition developed – throughout the era. It demonstrates in the first instance that the Reich had its own practical repertoire that transcended any one area, national tradition, or group of composers. Contemporaries often referenced musical titles without identifying a composer despite the fact that works could circulate in multiple versions by a single musician, in various settings by different composers, and as adapted texts by dramatists and musicians. But evidence suggests that the years around 1785 marked a moment of increasing normalization during which topics already set to music would be generally avoided and pieces circulating in multiple settings were increasingly linked to the work of just one composer. Establishing which music and musicians received the most attention, their relative importance to one another, and how associations between them altered in time, this chapter demonstrates that the Reich cultivated a shared repertoire that was formed and informed by networks of information and communication.
Chapter 7 moves beyond most scholarly accounts of Black abolitionist transatlantic visits to the British Isles and focuses on Josiah Henson in the time period 1876–1877. I analyze his lecturing tour, his visit to Windsor Palace to meet Queen Victoria, and the numerous artistic responses to him, which included a revised performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the stage, a bust in the Royal Academy, and a wax model in Madame Tussaud's. I argue that Henson exploited adaptive resistance in an entirely new age and to do this, he needed to reawaken British interest and lecture about the memory of slavery. He used assimilationist language to capitalize on his association with the character of Uncle Tom from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin to win fame (and fortune) on the British stage. However, Henson had to negotiate racial stereotypes and work in a climate that whitewashed the nation’s own bloody history of slavery in favor of a romanticized plantation ideal in America. Henson fought against this at every turn and contributed to the Black American protest tradition in Britain a decade after the end of the Civil War.
Chapter 5 examines the importance of the playbill in general in Romantic-period culture. Playbills represent by far the largest body of ephemeral texts that have survived and this chapter explores the history of their interest to collectors and how the theatre, as part of the category of ‘public amusements’, was integrated into ephemera collecting as a whole. The history of the playbill also focuses a discussion of changes in printing technology around 1800 – mainly the introduction of larger typefaces that could be read from a distance – which led to the emergence of the poster and the increasing colonisation of urban space by print. I argue for the importance of ephemera and ephemerality to Romantic-period media history and also to the genealogy of theatre history as a discipline. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the earliest printed document in Australian history to be discovered to date, a playbill for a performance of the tragedy Jane Shore at the ‘Theatre, Sydney’ in 1796.