||The papers of the English actor-manager, dramatist, and producer Wilson Barrett
include manuscript works by Barrett, business and personal correspondence, extensive
financial records and legal agreements, as well as photographs, playbills and
programs relating to Barrett’s productions, and some Barrett and Heath family
papers. Many of the actors, artists, authors, composers, designers, managers,
others with whom Barrett collaborated are represented, including Sir Hall Caine,
Samuel French, William Greet, Caroline Heath, Sir Henry Irving, Henry Arthur Jones,
Louis Napoleon Parker, and William Gorman Wills.
||The papers span 1852 to 1975, with the bulk dating from 1871-1904, the period in
which Barrett was most active. Most of Barrett’s theatrical career is documented
some extent, especially his most popular plays, The Silver
King and The Sign of the Cross. Other
plays represented include Ben-My-Chree, The Christian King, Claudian, The Daughters of Babylon,
The Golden Ladder, Hamlet, Hoodman Blind, Junius, The Lady of
Lyons, The Lights o’ London, The Lord Harry, Lucky
Durham, Man and His Makers, The Manxman, Nowadays,
Othello, The People’s
Idol, and The Romany Rye, among
||The papers are organized into four series, I. Works, 1894-1904; II. Letters,
1871-1904; III. Recipient, 1876-1903; and IV. Miscellaneous, 1852-1975. Materials
boxes 1-21 were previously described only in a card catalog. This finding aid
replicates and replaces that information. Please see the explanatory note at the
of this finding aid for information regarding the arrangement of the manuscripts
well as the abbreviations commonly used in descriptions.
||Additional acquisitions that were previously not cataloged are now located in boxes
22-31 plus four oversize folders. This group of papers is now organized into the
same four series and described using the same method used in the card catalog.
Because of the large amount of overlapping Barrett correspondence, financial
records, and legal agreements in the two segments of the papers, the new
descriptions have been “interfiled” in the following container list to facilitate
use by researchers.
||The Wilson Barrett Papers were formerly a part of the Ransom Center’s Theater Arts
Manuscripts Collection, but now form a separate, discrete collection.
||Series I. Works, 1894-1904, undated, includes handwritten or typed manuscripts for
four of Barrett’s original plays or adaptations: Lucky
Durham, The Manxman, Quo Vadis, and The Sign of the
Cross. These are accompanied by a small group of manuscripts or
transcriptions of speeches, testimony, or interview answers given by Barrett.
||Series II. Letters, 1871-1904, undated, contains business and family letters written
by Barrett, alphabetically arranged by recipient name. The letters in this series
are chiefly those written by Barrett to family members while he was on tour: to
youngest daughter “Dolly,” Dorothea Wilson Barrett; to brother-in-law and financial
advisor Frank Heath; and to his sister “Polly,” Mary Anne Barrett, who was married
to Frank Heath. A few Barrett autographs, often signed with a line of dialogue
one of his plays, are also present.
||Series III. Recipient, 1876-1903, undated, holds Barrett’s incoming correspondence,
arranged alphabetically by the author’s name. Among the many notables represented
through letters to Barrett are: Matthew Arnold, J. M. Barrie, Elwyn A. Barron,
Elizabeth Braddon, Robert Browning, Sir Hall Caine, Samuel Clemens, Dinah Craik,
Charles Dickens, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Helena Faucit, Sir Johnston
Forbes-Robertson, Samuel French, Thomas Henry French, William Greet, Thomas Hardy,
Bret Harte, Henry Herman, Frank Holl, Sir Henry Irving, Henry Arthur Jones, Richard
Le Gallienne, Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton 1st Earl of Lytton, Helena Modjeska,
Napoleon Parker, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, Charles Reade, Robert Reece, John Ruskin,
Olive Schreiner, Clement William Scott, Henryk Sienkiewicz, George Robert Sims,
William Gorman Wills, Sir Charles Wyndham, Israel Zangwill, and others. Also of
interest are letters from courtiers of Queen Victoria and numerous fan letters,
frequently from those corresponding with Barrett about The
Sign of the Cross.
||Series IV. Miscellaneous, 1852-1975, undated, is now divided into three Subseries:
Wilson Barrett; B. Barrett and Heath Family; and C. Others. The original A-Z
arrangement of materials in the Miscellaneous series has been revised to simplify
access to these materials.
||Subseries A. Wilson Barrett, 1867-1906, undated, is sub-arranged into nine categories
of materials: copyrights, financial ledgers, financial records, legal agreements,
licenses, photographs, productions, writings re Wilson Barrett, and miscellaneous.
Financial, legal, and production records make up the majority of this subseries.
||The financial records, 1870-1904, are arranged chronologically and are comprised of
accounting ledgers and other financial documents detailing Barrett’s productions,
his management of various theaters, and his company tours of the English provinces
as well as those to America, Australia, and South Africa. In addition to the
accounting ledgers, there are also balance sheets, treasury reports, salary lists,
box office receipts, expense notes, cost reports, and more revealing the myriad
details of his extensive theatrical operations.
||Barrett’s legal records date from 1867 to 1904 and are also arranged chronologically.
There are a large number of agreements, contracts, indentures, leases and other
legal instruments concerning acting engagements, assignment of rights, copyrights,
performing and production rights, the writing and adapting of plays, royalties,
theater management, and tours, as well as more mundane debt assignments, powers
attorney, trusts, and legal disputes with personnel or collaborators.
||Materials for the bulk of Barrett’s productions, 1881-1904, are arranged
alphabetically by production title and include playbills, photographs of Barrett
other performers, programs and souvenir programs, publicity clippings, and tour
booklets. Also present are set design drawings for The Golden
Ladder, Hoodman Blind, and The Lord Harry; costume and property designs for The Lord Harry; a photocopy of Barrett’s promptbook for
his production of Hamlet; and a plot book for the
Princess’s Theatre for his productions of The Lights o’
London and The Romany Rye.
||Subseries B. Barrett and Heath Family, 1852-1975, undated, is sub-arranged
alphabetically into nine groups of papers for several of Barrett’s family members:
daughter Edith Dorothea Wilson Barrett (1870-1959); brother George Edward Barrett
(1848-1894); daughters Katherine Margaret Barrett (1868-1893) and Ellen Anna Barrett
(1867-1892); grandson Wilson Barrett “the younger” (1900-1981); wife Caroline
(1835-1887); brother-in-law Frank Heath (died 1914); and sister Mary Anne Barrett
Heath (died 1942). The materials held for each person varies, but generally include
either works, correspondence, or miscellaneous materials.
||Daughter “Dolly” Barrett’s papers document some of her own efforts at playwriting
her correspondence includes letters she received both during her father’s lifetime
and after his death. Among her correspondents are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Sir
Caine, Margaret Clement Scott, Eugene Field, Ben Greet, Henry Arthur Jones, John
Ruskin, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and others. Some of the letters concern
posthumous productions of Wilson Barrett’s plays or their film rights, especially
The Sign of the Cross.
||The papers of grandson Wilson Barrett “the younger” include a wealth of information
about his grandfather. The manuscript of his unpublished biography of Barrett
entitled "And Give Me Yesterday" was based upon
the primary materials that now form the Wilson Barrett Papers. Also present are
letters from John Beaumont, Lillah McCarthy, and Austin Melford, who either supplied
information or agreed to interviews for the biography. (The remnants of an earlier
unfinished biography of Barrett by Richard Le Gallienne are located in Subseries
in the writings about Wilson Barrett.)
||Some of the earliest materials in the Wilson Barrett Papers are found in Caroline
Heath’s papers. Incoming letters include an 1852 letter from the English
actor-manager Charles Kean, 1860s letters from persons associated with Queen
Victoria (equerry Charles B. Phipps, secretary Charles Grey, and dresser Marianne
Skerrett), and from dramatist Charles Reade. There are also several letters by
to her family, including her mother and father, but mainly to her brother Frank
Heath and his wife “Polly,” who was Wilson Barrett’s sister. There is one playbill
advertising Heath productions of Dangerous and East Lynne from 1874.
||Because Frank Heath helped his brother-in-law Wilson Barrett with his financial
recordkeeping and was later executor of his estate, his correspondence, financial
ledgers and records, and legal agreements in this subseries provide an important
source of information about productions of Barrett’s plays, particularly after
death in 1904.
||Subseries C. Others, 1876-1967, undated, contains mainly third-party correspondence
written by or to individuals other than Wilson Barrett or his family members.
of the items may originally have been enclosures with correspondence or records
elsewhere in the papers that became separated over time. There is a letter from
of Barrett’s two sons, Alfred Wilson Barrett (1870-1945), addressed to a solicitor
in 1898. Other correspondents include Samuel French, Charles Frohman, and Henry
Arthur Jones, among others. The subseries also contains a paper on Barrett’s
Shakespearian acting style written for a drama class in 1967 that made use of
Wilson Barrett Papers. Several autographs and a small amount of unidentified
material are also present, including three pages with mounted images of period
costumes that are probably from a scrapbook.