The Irving Society Newsletter No 78

The Irvingite


Sunday 11 February, 2018 was cold and damp as a strong contingent of Irvingites gathered in the warmth of the Concert Artistes’ Association on Bedford Street for the Society’s 22nd Annual General Meeting.

Following the ceremonial laying of the wreath at the Irving Statue on Charing Cross Road, members assembled at the CAA for proceedings and a celebration of Sir Henry Irving’s Birthday – replete with refreshments and a cake fit for the Guv’nor himself!

As the meeting opened our Chair, Frances Hughes, expressed her thanks to members of the committee who had continued their work during a difficult year when many had been struggling with poor health.  Special thanks were recorded to Alex Bisset, our long standing Vice-Chair, who announced that he would be standing down from his position after serving the Society so faithfully over many years.  Thanks were also recorded to the Honorary Editor, Piers Henderson, and Honorary Secretary, Megan Hunter – who also announced that they would be seeking members to replace them in their posts during the coming year.

The Society reflected on those members lost during the previous year; in particular, respects were paid to longstanding Society member Virginia Surtees who had recently passed away.

On a brighter note, a series of ambitious plans for 2018 and beyond were shared including a visit to Abney Park Cemetery and Chapel where Mary Brodribb’s grave could be sought out, as well as an autumnal trip to Westminster Abbey in order to pay respects at the grave of Henry Irving.  And the Chair shared exciting news that she had been assembling scripts – and would soon begin assembling a cast – for a staged dramatized reading of Tennyson’s ‘The Cup’.

Members will be kept informed about these and other developments as more information comes available.

The Chair’s report concluded with a request for members to spread word about the Society in the hope that membership numbers might continue to grow!

Following the meeting, the Society’s Honorary Treasurer Dr Kristan Tetens gave a rousing talk entitled ‘Henry Irving, Hall Caine, and the Missing Mahomet’.  The discussion surrounded a play that might well have changed the course of British theatrical history had it been produced: a four-act historical drama by Hall Caine based on the life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, that was commissioned by Henry Irving in 1890. Caine had the play half written when word came from the Lord Chamberlain that it would not be licensed for production. Kristan’s talk explored why the play was banned and its impact on the careers of both Caine and Irving.

Kristan’s PhD thesis, recently completed at the University of Leicester, is the first study of Caine’s writing for the stage and his collaborations with leading actors and managers, including Irving, Wilson Barrett, Viola Allen, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Louis Napoleon Parker, Mrs Patrick Campbell, George Alexander, and Arthur Collins.

Very many thanks to all of the Society’s members who were able to attend!

Picture of HI's Cake at AGM


Members are reminded that the Society’s membership year runs from January through December.

Members who still owe dues for the 2018 membership year, prospective members who would like to join the Society, and members who have not yet received their 2018 membership cards are encouraged to contact the Honorary Secretary on


To any members who live in Kent, Sussex and Surrey, a notice that the latest copy (Summer Issue) of the free, upmarket lifestyle magazine Aspect County contains an article on the Tenterden Theatre written by member Alan Stockwell.

Pick up your copy at stations, supermarkets, newsagents, etc.  The article can also be read online here.


The Society would like to extend its hearty congratulations to member Christina Britton Conroy whose 4 book Victorian novel series His Majesty’s Theatre (edited by our former Editor, Michael Kilgarriff) is the recipient of the international Book Excellence Award!

book excellence award winner




Member Alan Stockwell writes: Members may like to know ― or be appalled by the fact ― that in the Quiz BARD BRAIN OF BRITAIN broadcast on Radio 4 on 30 December when 4 experts were answering questions on Shakespeare not one of them knew who John Henry Brodribb was!”

Unfortunately the episode in question has now been removed from iPlayer, but thanks to Alan for sharing this with us!  Members wishing to find out more about the quiz Bard Brain of Britain can visit its page on the BBC’s website.


Member Darren Smith requests: “Do any of our members have an audio recording of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Lord of the Lyceum’?  I would love to listen to it for a Lyceum related research project.  I wrote to Professor Jeffrey Richards whose stupendous Irving biography I very much admire – he participated in the making of the programme back in 1988 and also does not own a copy.”

Anyone who is able to assist is asked to contact the Honorary Secretary on


It is with regret that the Society’s Honorary Secretary, Megan Hunter, will be standing down from her position as soon as a replacement can be identified and so we are seeking an enthusiastic and interested member to take on the job!  The role of Honorary Secretary helps with membership renewals and general queries, updates the Society’s webpage, publishes the thrice annual newsletter (The Irvingite), takes minutes at Committee Meetings and the AGM and assists with promotion of Society activities and events.

The Society is also currently seeking an Editor for its twice annual journal, First Knight.

Members who are interested in either of these positions – or who know of an appropriate candidate (perhaps someone who is not yet associated with the Society but who would like to get more involved) – are encouraged to contact


  • 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.
  • 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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