This article considers three case studies – the first aqua-drama at Sadler's Wells in 1804, the naumachia in Hyde Park of 1814, and the launching of HMS Nelson at Woolwich, also in 1814 – in order to discuss maritime spectacle in Regency London. I identify an essentially political distinction between the representation of ships and the role of sailors, linked to wider questions of authenticity as understood by contemporary London audiences. I argue that the Thames riverscape itself contributed to Londoners' self-identification as nautically literate connoisseurs, unlikely to acclaim spectacles they perceived to be inauthentic. By this reading, the maritime spectacles of early nineteenth-century London constitute a misstep in a longer and more successful history of nautical theatre and melodrama, that remained fundamentally entangled with questions of democratic representation, the real versus the represented, and London's maritime identity.
|Number of pages||25|
|Journal||Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Nov 2019|