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ALFRED BUNN

The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.

Alfred Bunn was a theatrical manager, born 1796 (or 97), died December 20, 1860. He was, in 1823, appointed (by Elliston) stage-manager of Drury Lane Theatre. Ten years later he undertook the direction both of Drury Land and of Covent Garden, retiring from the latter in 1835. Of his direction of Drury Lane, we read that "there was not a style of entertainment that Bunn did not essay; he began with the legitimate drama, and descended, in 1839, to tight-rope dancers, and Van Amburg the lion-tamer.... Opera, however, was the staple fare; he gave English versions of Weber's and Rossini's operas, mutilated, it is true, but competently rendered; he treated his patrons to German opera, and Jullien's Promenade Concerts, varied by tableaux vivants, and Macready, Phelps, and Mrs. Warner in tragedy" (H.B. Baker). In 1840 he became bankrupt, but his connection with Drury Lane, renewed in 1844, did not close till 1848. In this second enterprise, "operas, ballets, extravaganzas, and pantomimes were his principal productions; indeed, Drury Lane was for years an opera-house rather than a theatre. Here was produced Balfe's Bohemian Girl, Maid of Honour, and many other of his works; Benedict's Brides of Venice, Wallace's Maritana, etc." The result was again failure, and Bunn retired penniless to Boulogne.

In 1840 he had published an account of his career as manager, entitled The Stage Before and Behind the Curtain . He was also the reputed author of A Word with Punch, in which he replied to the attacks made upon him by the Fleet Street jester. Bunn wrote, further, Kenilworth, an historical drama (printed 1825); The Minister and the Mercer, a comedy (printed 1834); My Neighbour's Wife, a farce; and the libretti of the following operas: The Bohemian Girl, The Bronze Horse, The Daughter of St. Mark, and The Maid of Artois. He published volumes of Poems in 1816 and 1819. "He was a strange compound: by no means bad-hearted, wonderfully good-tempered in difficulties and disasters, and endured with the greatest fortitude the most violent attacks of a cruel complaint to which he was subject; but in health and prosperity he was imperious and occasionally unjust, and sadly addicted to that common fault of theatrical managers, the using up of his performers. What natural talent he possessed was uncultivated; his language and manners were coarse, and his taste deplorable. His management was sheer gambling of the most wretched description, in no one instance that I can remember terminating prosperously, whatever might have been the success of certain productions in the course of it" (Planché, Recollections and Reflections , 1872). Edmund Yates says of Bunn: "I always thought that Thackeray must have sketched the portrait of Mr. Dolphin, the manager, which appears in Pendennis, from him.

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