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"During the run of Ruddigore I developed a very bad attack of ambition, which took the form of a keen desire to be a manager of a theatre." So wrote Rutland Barrington in 1908. (Rutland Barrington by Himself, Chapter VI)

Barrington had taken the lease on the St. James's Theatre, and his first production was Grundy and Philips's The Dean's Daughter. Unfortunately, this play failed and Gilbert, who had promised to write a play for Barrington, found himself obliged to fulfill the promise sooner than he expected to. It seems he turned to an old, unperformed play, Brantinghame Hall,s which he could easily modify by building up a small role for Barrington and making the villain psychologically interesting and repentant.

But as The Times commented in its annual review of the theatrical year:

The play that followed The Dean’s Daughter at the St. James’s Theatre – namely, Brantinghame Hall – proved equally instructive. Mr. Gilbert was mindful of the necessity of a happy ending and of drawing his characters, both good and bad, upon a scale somewhat larger than life. The play, moreover, was well written. Unfortunately the plot hinged upon an act of self-sacrifice by the heroine which failed to carry conviction with it. Whether the incident was actually possible mattered not; it did not fall within the limits of the public conception of human nature, and the play after a short trial was withdrawn. (The Times, January 10th, 1889.)

In fact, the play was the worst failure of Gilbert's career, and two consecutive failures proved ruinous to Barrington who found himeslf in the bankruptcy court.

  • "Brantinghame Hall", an interview given by Gilbert to the Pall Mall Gazette, 26 November 1888
  • Review of the production from The Times, November 30th, 1888.

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