Professor Jacky Bratton on Jane Scott, The Lost Amazon of the Strand

Jane Scott, The Lost Amazon of the Strand

Thursday 14th February, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

202 years ago in February 1817 Jane Scott’s gothic melodrama Camilla the Amazon was staged, at her own theatre in London’s Strand, the Sans Pareil – a house that four years later became the Adelphi, and is still in business. In the same year her contemporary, the other Jane –  Jane Austen –  published her comically gothic work, Northanger Abbey. Why does the world not know that Jane Scott came first? Austen was a quiet, middle-class spinster living in Hampshire, unknown in her own lifetime; Scott was a successful London entrepreneur, an actress and a theatre manager as well as a prolific writer. Her theatre is a foundation stone of the modern West End.

I launched this paradox in an article called “Genius comes in all disguises” twenty years ago. Little happened. Then the cause of the actress/manager was taken up by Gilli Bush-Bailey, and together we have written and talked and taught students about her ironic melodramas, her groundbreaking contemporary comedies, the manic edge of her burlesques, and the way in which her works anticipate and have been waiting for post-modern understanding of the pre-Victorian. In 2017 Scott’s comedy Whackham and Windham received its first professional outing for 200 years. Maybe her time has come.

This lecture will present a whistle-stop tour of Jane’s life and work, her extraordinary energy and creativity and the many new things she brought to writing for the popular stage.

Jacky Bratton is Professor Emerita of the University of London and an Honorary Fellow of Royal Holloway, University of London. Her most recent books are The Making of the West End Stage, New Readings in Theatre History and The Victorian Clown, all published by Cambridge University Press. She is still tying up the ends of a career-long preoccupation with the cultural worlds of the nineteenth century, especially those below the radar of ‘the legitimate’, and the high cultural waterline that has succeeded that old definition of what is respectable. Her subjects have mostly been women and children, and often not respectable at all.


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