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Henry Pettitt Papers

Date range: 1870s–1890s

Medium: Archive

Papers of the popular Victorian dramatist Henry Pettitt (1848–1893).

Apart from the occasional comedy, Pettitt’s work consisted mainly of melodramas. In the early years of his career his principal collaborator was the actor-manager George Conquest, but from 1880 onwards he worked in partnership with Paul Meritt, Augustus Harris and George Sims.

Though the former Dictionary of National Biography described his characters as conventional and his style as being ‘without literary quality’, Pettitt was a popular and prolific writer, and many of his plays were performed in the West End during the 1880s and ’90s, most frequently at the Adelphi and Drury Lane theatres. His plays also enjoyed runs in America and Australia.

The collection comprises fifty-one volumes of playscripts, for the most part in manuscript and annotated. Enclosed within them are theatre programmes, colourful fliers and posters redolent of the period, sketches and memorabilia.

There is also a selection of Pettitt’s personal letters and papers, his main correspondent being the novelist Charles Reade.

The collection constitutes a useful source for studies of art history, popular culture, drama and the theatre in the late 19th century.

Further information:

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


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