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The Diaries of Anna Margaretta Larpent from the Huntington Library

Anna Margaretta Porter (1758-1824) was the daughter of Sir James Porter the diplomat. Like many young girls she was encouraged to keep a diary which started in earnest in 1773. In 1782 she became the second wife to John Larpent (1741-1824) who had been appointed Examiner of Plays in England in November 1778 (all plays required licensing before performance and the Examiner had the sole power to recommend the issue of licences).

Both husband and wife collaborated in the work with the result according to L W Conolly’s study of John Larpent in 1976, that Anna Margaretta Larpent became “practically a Deputy Examiner”. Most valuably, she recorded her reading, her criticisms and her verdicts in her diary.

What survives is a remarkable record of what was a period of great success for British Theatre. Furthermore, it is the record of a woman who was deliberately reading critically and expressing her views on morality and propriety.

The diary includes:

• Criticism of many contemporary female dramatists such as Elizabeth Inchbald as well as their male counterparts
• more than 30 years of sustained dramatic criticism
• illustrates the moral values of the age, and shows how political satire was suppressed
• provides a window into the life and reading of an educated society lady from the time of the French Revolution to the Age of Reform

A Woman’s View of Drama, 1790-1830 is a unique source providing critical insights into the development of British Drama, the role of censorship and changing values in society.

Digital Guide
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