a1 Judith Milhous is Distinguished Professor of Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York, and
a2 Robert D. Hume is Edwin Erie Sparks Professor of English Literature at the Pennsylvania State University.
In 1780 James Lewis published the first of two magnificent folios, entitled Original Designs in Architecture. The title page explains that it consists of ‘Plans, Elevations, and Sections, for Villas, Mansions, Town-Houses, &c. and a New Design for a Theatre. With Descriptions, and Explanations of the Plates, and an Introduction’. Plates XIX-XXII are for ‘a New Theatre, designed for the Opera’. In fact, the designs are for a new opera house intended to occupy the site on which John Vanbrugh's Queen's/King's Theatre in the Haymarket had stood since 1705. The building would consume all the existing site and much of the surrounding property. Lewis explains the origins of his plans: ‘Our Theatres being upon a very small scale, compared with those of other principal cities in Europe, about two years ago [that is, in 1778] a report prevailed that a New Theatre was intended to be built by subscription, which might serve as well for all Dramatick Performances, as Concerts, Assemblies, Masquerades, &c. And the proprietors of the Opera House intending to purchase several adjoining houses and ground, to render the theatre eligible for the various purposes mentioned, suggested the idea of making a design adapted to the situation of the present Opera House, with the principal front towards Pall Mall’ (p. 12). This grand edifice would be like no other theatre in London.