SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). Tragedy of King Lear, Arranged for Presentation at The Princess's Theatre. Edited by Charles Kean. London: John K. Chapman and Co., .
8° (208 x 132mm). (Occasional light marking, title guarded in, [A]1-4 and F4-5 with some neatly-repaired marginal tears or cuts.) Early 20th-century calf, covers with gilt borders, spine gilt, gilt turn-ins (spine lightly faded, extremities lightly rubbed). Provenance: Charles John Kean (1811-1868, the editor, director and lead actor of the production, with his extensive manuscript corrections) -- 'To be returned, if you please, to Wm Creswick' (19th-century inscription on p.), further inscribed 'Wm Creswick' on p.25) -- 'This cast and the corrections in this book are in Mr Kean's handwriting' (19th-century inscription on p.[iii]) -- 'For Loïs on her wedding from Alan' (early 20th-century pencilled inscription on front free endpaper, and loosely-inserted 2-page autograph card signed with printed address '8 Woburn Square Bloomsbury', stating that 'All the marks in the book are in the handwriting of Charles Kean; it is in fact his prompt-book, and the copy he corrected for the printer') -- L[oïs] S (monogram bookplate).
THE PROOF COPY OF KEAN'S EDITION OF LEAR, WITH HIS MANUSCRIPT CORRECTIONS. The son of the celebrated actor Edmund Kean, Charles Kean's fame rests on his Shakespearian revivals at the Oxford Street Princess's Theatre, under his management between 1850 and 1859, which used restored texts and historically accurate settings. Until the early 19th-century, the standard performance text of Lear was Nahum Tate's The History of King Lear of 1681, which omitted the Fool, made Cordelia and Edgar lovers, poisoned Goneril and Regan, and restored Lear to his throne. This edition usurped Shakespeare's text in the theatre, and dominated the stage until Elliston's 1823 production, with Edmund Kean as Lear, restored the original ending; this was followed by Macready's 1838 production, which reintroduced the character of the Fool. Kean's Lear retained these restorations, made some changes to the text for dramatic effect, and, for reasons stated in the preface, placed the play in 'the Anglo-Saxon era of the eighth century', a convention which was upheld for most 19th-century productions, and remained popular into the 20th century.
Apart from the amendments to the preface and the text, Kean has also added the details of the cast, which included him as Lear and Ellen Terry's sister Kate Terry as Cordelia. The production was judged one of his most successful, and was attended by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on four occasions. Kean's contemporary and biographer J.W. Cole wrote of the production that, 'Mr. Kean has so skilfully employed the resources which unwearied research enabled him to collect, that in the arrangements of this great drama [...] he presented us with an original picture of early Saxon England, - fresh, glowing, and characteristic, which surprises and delights the eye, while it leaves on the mind the strong impression of historical truth [...] Mr. Kean trusts no model, and refers to no previous example. He forms his own conception of Shakespeare's plays, casting aside all reminiscences of traditional precedent' (The Life and Theatrical Times of Charles Kean (London: 1860), p.251).
The William Creswick who owned the book was probably the contemporary actor who had performed with McCready and Phelps, appeared with Mr and Mrs Charles Kean as Proteus to their Valentine and Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Haymarket in December 1848, and directed The Grand and Poetical Play of the Tempest, from the Text of Shakespeare at the Surrey Theatre in October 1853 (cf. G.C.D. Odell Shakespeare - from Betterton to Irving (London: 1963), II, pp.252, 272, 277 and 327). Jaggard p.359.