Souvenir of Henry Irving’s King Lear at the Lyceum Theatre, 1892


On 10 November 1892, actor-manager Henry Irving (1838–1905) opened his production of King Lear at the Lyceum Theatre in London, where it ran for 76 performances. This souvenir brochure collects together 13 plates of paintings depicting character portraits and scenes from the production. As we see from these images, Irving was heavily influenced by Ford Madox Brown’s painting Cordelia’s Portion (1875) in the characterisation, set design, costume, and the faded grandeur of the post-Roman setting of his production.

The portraits are of Irving as Lear in two postures, and Ellen Terry (1847–1928) as Cordelia, and the eight scenic illustrations show the impressive scope of the production with its expansive sets and large crowds. These wide scenic views are juxtaposed with two close-up illustrations showing the reconciliation of Lear and Cordelia and Lear in his grief with the dead Cordelia. These more intimate scenes show the pathos that Irving brought to his interpretation of Lear. One critic for the Daily Telegraph described Irving’s Lear as ‘infinitely pathetic and storm-tossed’. He wrote:

It was that very pathos which hall-marked the play with interest. There have been wild Lears, Bedlamite Lears, Lears frenzied from the outset; here was a Lear who from first to last emphasized the chord of human affection. His brain only gave way when all the love he had to bestow was turned to gall.

NB the blank versos of this item have not been digitised.

Full title:
Souvenir of Shakespeare’s Tragedy ‘King Lear’, Presented at the Lyceum Theatre, 10th November, 1892
1892, London
Pamphlet / Illustration / Image
Lyceum Theatre, J Bernard Partridge, Hawes Craven
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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