A Victorian silver Snuffbox for an Irish Actor-Manager.
A Victorian presentation silver Snuffbox, Birmingham 1837, by Francis Clark, in its original outer case. The lid of the box is engraved: ‘To Eugene Macarthy Esqr., This small token of admiration for his manly defence of the Stage (delivered 29 Jany. 1839) was Presented by the Members of the Theatre Royal Abbey St. Dublin.‘ The lid of the leather case is also impressed ‘Eugene Macarthy Esq.‘
Eugene Macarthy, circa 1787-1866, was a comic actor and theatre manager whose career ended in relative poverty but he was, earlier in his life, a successful theatre manager and a popular comedian. He was active in the campaign to amend the Licensing Act of 1773, which restricted the licensing of theatres and which, in particular, limited ‘spoken drama’ to the original Patent theatres – the Theatres Royal in Drury Lane and Covent Garden.
All plays had to be licensed by the Lord Chamberlain, who could refuse a licence without giving a reason. Licences could cost as much as £300 together with other attendant charges for the examination of plays. A select Parliamentary Committee of 1832, chaired by Edward Bulwer Lytton, recommended the limiting of the Lord Chamberlain’s authority and a Theatres Act was eventually passed in 1843. In 1832 Macarthy published ‘A Letter to the King, on the Question now at issue between the ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ Theatres.’
On the date of the opening of the Theatre Royal in Dublin for the new season, the local newspapers have the following:
Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser [Friday, Sept 7th, 1838]
Mr. Calvert most respectfully announces to the Public that the above Theatre will open for the Winter Season on Monday, September 10, with a Company of Performers selected from some of the principal London and Provincial Theatres.
During the Recess the Theatre has been newly decorated and embellished, and a New Drop Curtain, painted by Signor Marinari, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and formerly of the Theatre Royal, Crow-street.
Stage Manager – Mr. Eugen Macarthy (from the Royal City of London Theatre).’
On the 24th September, the same newspaper informed its readers that, on last Saturday night, ‘Mr. Eugene Macarthy, as Teddy Mullowney, kept the house in continued laughter.’
Macarthy appears to have married twice. His daughter by his first marriage, Maria Macarthy [later Maria Honner], became a successful actress in her own right.
The exterior of the box is in very crisp condition. Some snuff staining in crevices of the gilt interrior and one area of wear to the gilding within the base at the front left side.
Dimensions [excluding the outer case]:
Length – 7.50 cm.; Width – 5 cm.; Height – 2.50 cm.