The Irving Society Newsletter No 73

The Irvingite


20th AGM

Sunday, 21 February 2016 was a thankfully bright and warm day for our for Members as they gathered at Sir Henry Irving’s Statue on Charing Cross Road and watched Luke Irving ascend the ladder to place a wreath at his famous great-great-great Grandfather’s feet.

After the wreath laying, the party assembled at the Concert Hall of the Concert Artistes’ Association in Covent Garden, London for the Irving Society’s 20th Annual General Meeting.  Our Chair noted continued thanks to Member Glen Hayes – who is also of the CAA – for his continued help in ensuring that this annual gathering is a success.  Thanks were also recorded to the newest Committee member Paul Campion who, in the autumn of 2015, organised a very successful trip for the Society to Northampton.  A number of locations for future Society trips were suggested, and Members are encouraged to continue to share their ideas for such events with the Committee.

Condolences were extended to the family and friends of Members who had passed away in the previous year, including Doreen Brown, Keith Hutton, Roger Mason, Brian Manvell and Nicholas Smith.  In particular honour of the life and memory of Nicholas Smith, his poems Theatre (1963) and Last Night (1968) were warmly read in tribute by the Chair.

The meeting concluded with updates on the Society’s membership numbers, financial position and new website – and with the re-election of all Committee Members and Officers.  As business drew to a close, the Chair led all of those assembled in a chorus of Happy Birthday – both for Sir Henry Irving, as well as for our Vice Chair, Alex Bisset!  Birthday cake duly followed.

Entertainment for the Society’s 20th Anniversary was especially memorable, as Chair Frances Hughes and Members Mary Greenslade and Rosemary Macvie joined actor Tony Wise in a light-hearted interlude for four voices: Reading the Will: 1616 – 2016 (pictured above).

Thanks to all who were able to attend.  Here’s to another 20 years!


BBC Somerset Logo

Our Chair, Frances Hughes, was interviewed by Claire Carter for BBC Radio Somerset on the morning of Monday, 21 March 2016.  Topics of conversation included the Shakespeare 400 and Sir Henry Irving, Irving’s links to the Somerset area, and the work of the Society more generally.  Many thanks to Frances for spreading the word about the Society and for helping to promote it in such a public way!  We are hoping to obtain a recording of her interview from the BBC and, if successful, will send a link to members in due course.


Dracula Cover

The month of May brought two Irving related anniversaries.  On 24 May 1895, actor Henry Irving was officially granted his Knighthood.  And on 26 May 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – for which Irving was claimed to be the inspiration – was first published.


Members may be interested to see the following article, published recently in the Birmingham Post, and which mentions a connection to Sir Henry Irving.  The article reports on the former Harborne and Edgbaston Institute, opened by Irving in 1878, and which served as an entertainment and cultural hub in Harborne for over 25 years. During its time as an arts centre, the Institute hosted an array of notable performances – even a supposed reading by the poet Hilaire Belloc!  The Grade II listed building has undergone a number of changes in use over the past century and a half, most recently undergoing a transformation into a development of luxury homes.

A brief mention of Irving’s association with the Institute can be found in the excellent book Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor and His World by Jeffrey Richards.


Throughout his life, Irving had a great number of honours bestowed upon him.  Aside from his Knighthood, Irving was a member of the House Order of Combined Saxe-Coburg Gotha and Saxe Meiningen as well as Doctor of Letters of Dublin University, Doctor of Letters of Cambridge University and Doctor of Laws of the University of Glasgow.

As for the last, thanks is sent to our former Editor and Society Member Michael Kilgarriff for unearthing the following piece from The Stage, published on 23 February 1899:

“It is good news to learn that the University of Glasgow proposes conferring upon Sir Henry Irving the degree of Doctor of Law.  When this has been accomplished Sir Henry will hold the degree for England, Ireland and Scotland — an honour that has never been the lot of any other actor.  Sweets to the sweet, and Sir Henry deserves all that comes to him.”


regency theatre conference image

Theatre in the Regency Era: Plays, Performance and Practice: 1795 – 1843

From 29 – 21 July, 2016 the Society for Theatre Research (STR) will hold its much anticipated conference: Theatre in the Regency Era: Plays, Performance and Practice: 1795 – 1843.  The STR has invited fifty speakers to present papers at the conference and their subjects will explore the period’s dance, music and drama from a range of historical and methodological perspectives.

The conference will be held on the beautiful campus of Downing College, Cambridge and in its traditional nineteenth century neo-classical rooms and Georgian inspired theatre auditorium, dating from 2010.  The fully-restored college was designed in 1806 by William Wilkins the Younger, the architect who designed the National Gallery and the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, among other significant buildings.  The College’s theatre, also built in 1814, will provide a rare opportunity for conference attendees to see an original surviving Regency three level horseshoe auditorium.

Members interested in finding out more about the Conference – or, indeed, booking a place to attend – should visit its dedicated website.


The following requests for assistance from the Membership have been recently received.  If Members are able to help, please contact the Honorary Secretary at and she will put you in touch with the relevant parties:


Howard Ostrom oversees an excellent website, the A-Z Index of Sherlock Holmes Performers, and he is seeking information about a particular performer, Clarence Hague.

Hague, whose real name was James M Hague, was a Welsh actor born in 1857 and is known mainly for his roles in productions of Cymbeline, Henry VIII, Faust and King Arthur which were performed with Henry Irving’s Company between 1894 and 1895.

Clarence Hague played a parody of Holmes (Hezekiah Hurlock Sholmes) in a 1900 production of R.F. and M.F.: or, the Two Are One.  Mr Ostrom is seeking any information about – or photos of – this production.


Stephen Hall (Programme Leader, Drama at the University of Winchester) has contacted the Honorary Secretary regarding a research/ creative practice project which he is presently undertaking.  He wonders if members might be able to assist with providing information about James ‘Jimmy’ Allen.


  • Members are invited to submit content for inclusion in either of the Society’s publications. Submissions should be sent directly to  Submissions for inclusion in The Irvingite will be considered by the Honorary Secretary, and submissions for inclusion in First Knight will be considered by the Editorial Sub-Committee.
  • Members are reminded that The Irvingite will now be published on the Society’s website. To continue receiving this publication by email, Members should subscribe by entering their email into the relevant subscription box at the bottom of the website.  Anyone who requires assistance with this can contact the Honorary Secretary and she will be happy to help.  Members without email addresses will, of course, continue to receive postal subscriptions.
  • At our most recent AGM an updated Constitution was put before the Membership, and this has now been ratified. Any Members who would like to receive a copy of these amended Rules should contact the Honorary Secretary.
  • And finally, as a reminder, should any members no longer wish to retain single or multiple back issues of First Knight, the Editorial Committee would be pleased to receive such copies to meet the needs of those seeking to fill gaps in their collection – lost or mislaid – or for the benefit of new members seeking to add to their collection.
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