Committee of Taste, or, The punishment of a modern Midas

description below

“A satire on the rebuilding of Drury Lane Theatre. Whitbread, Chairman of the Committee, bestrides a barrel, the head inscribed ‘The Butt M, T’ [empty]. He has long ass’s ears and points to a table beside him on the extreme right where there is a model of a theatre with a pillared portico and pediment. This rests on a paper inscribed ‘Whitbread Copeland Holland Rolls &ca clear gains 450000!!!!!’ Next Whitbread a man sits behind a similar table littered with plans all inscribed ‘Plan of Drury Lane’. He also has ass’s ears, to which a second pair has been added in water-colour. He looks through an eye-glass, resting his right elbow on an anchor, while he holds at arm’s length the model of a theatre whose portico is flanked by two large sphinxes. A carved sun, like the emblem of the Sun Fire-Office, decorates his chair; on the right is a broad post or terminal pillar supporting a man’s head, also with ass’s ears. This rests on a volume inscribed ‘Commons’, and on its face in large letters are the words ‘Ex Nihilo Nihil Fil’; from its upper edge a signpost arm projects to the right inscribed ‘To Coventry’, showing that he is Peter Moore. Behind Whitbread (left) and partly screened by a heavy curtain is a table supporting a third model of a theatre, also with a portico. Whitbread, frowning slightly, says: “These Resolutions once carried good bye Friend Sherry Old Claimants and new Subscribers (aside) Hem! I think I have bullied the Committe [sic] properly.” His neighbour (? Lord Holland) who smiles, has a round good-humoured face; he says: “La! Mr Chairman I think my Sphynxes look Monstrous Pretty.””–British Museum online catalogue.


  • Printmaker: Williams, Charles, active 1797-1830, printmaker.
  • Title: Committee of Taste, or, The punishment of a modern Midas [graphic] : dedicated (without permission) to the subscribers to the New Theatre Drury Lane.
  • Publication: [London] : [publisher not identified], [1812?]

Catalog Record


Acquired January 2020

Collection of letters from Thomas Dibdin…

Sixteen letters, all dating from 1819, that provide detailed view of the negotations over a very limited time period. The subjects of the letters include: Enquiring as to the terms for renting the theatre, suggesting that his figure of £10,000 per annum to include all the costumes and fixtures and fittings was quite sufficient; asking for a list of the present engagements and expenses; offering a further £3,000 to refurbish the theatre; vouching for the integrity of his backers (‘their sole motive is the placing me unconditionally and without controul as entire Manager & Conductor & principal Partner in the concern’); informing the committee sub rosa that Mr [Abraham] Walker of [Doyley’s Warehouse] the Strand would give security, expecting to take £200 for 200 nights [i.e. £40,000]; suggesting in July that he may be able to make a more advantageous offer; inviting Ward to lunch and dinner and to discuss business with Walker, and the following day putting forward the new proposal: (‘… I agree to pay the Taxes for the whole term in addition to a Rent of £9000 per An: for the first Two years and £10,000 per An: for the Remainder of the Term to be agreed on, which Term (considering the very discouraging and totally reduced state of the Theatre at present and that it will take a very long time to re-establish it) ought to be at the option of the Lessee, for seven, fourteen or twenty one years. …’). Dibdin continues the correspondence on 23 July by questioning why he has received no response to the proposition, and on the 31st putting forward to the committee a further offer of a loan from Walker (also included is Walker’s own proposition, dated 22 July); with two incompletely dated letters of 1919 to R. Peatre complaining that he (Peatre) should not have been given confidential information relating to the offer for the lease. Together with other Dibdin-relating material, including: Three Autograph Letters Signed from the dramatist Cecil Pitt to Winstone (?James Winston) and the Board of Management of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, (watermarked 1801 and postmarked 1804) concerning his own productions, and particularly Zingara, or the Heroine of China, for which he includes the printed playbill; also three letters of George Dibdin Pitt (1795-1855 – ‘I am the elder brother of Mr Pitt the Painter – and nephew of the Dibdins’), offering his services and those of Miss Pitt-Phillips (‘of the Worthing and Leicester Theatres’) to Elliston and Drury Lane, and elaborating on his theatrical achievements, 1826 and 1830 where dated.

  • TitleCollection of letters from Thomas Dibdin, Cecil Pitt and George Dibdin Pitt, relating to Drury Lane Theatre, 1804, 1819, 1826, and undated.

Catalog Record 

LWL Mss Group 6

Acquired July 2017

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, rent charge …

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A letterpress indenture printed on vellum with blanks for names, dates, and signatures.

  • Author: Theatre Royal (Drury Lane, London, England)
  • Title: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, rent charge of two shillings and sixpence for every night of performance …
  • Created: [London : s.n., 1793]

Catalog record

Drawer 769 793 D84

Acquired July 2012