Lacy's Acting Edition of Plays was published by Thomas Hailes Lacy at his Covent Garden printing house from the 1840s onwards. His series was produced in the aftermath of the lifting of the censorship ban on plays and the extension of the licensing franchise to beyond the Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres. In the 1870s, Lacy was bought out by Samuel French, an American publisher with whom he had exchanged plays for publication for the previous two decades. Lacy's Acting Edition was intended to preserve and supply texts of popular productions for future London productions, provincial and minor theatre companies and private theatricals. Its real interest is in its publication of contemporary plays, releasing them shortly after their initial performances on the London stages. Lacy also, however, engaged in some more controversial practices, widespread in the theatre of the day, such as commissioning his own versions of popular successes (for example, the re-translation of Dumas' The Corsican Brothers, that is not Boucicault's text as performed by Charles Kean in the 1852 Princess's Theatre production, despite what the cast list here might imply [Vol. 6]; Thomas Egerton Wilks' Eily O'Connor, an imitation of Boucicault's highly successful, The Colleen Bawn [Vol. 47]; and Lacy's own adaptation of Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian, with its provocative subtitle: 'A Drama (with unregistered effects) in 3 Acts. Adapted from Sir Walter Scott's Admirable Novel. With Introduction from T. Dibdin's Play, W. Murray's Alteration of Same, Eugene Scribe's Opera and Dion Boucicault's Amalgamation of the Above, Colin Hazlewood's Adjustment and Re-Adjustment, J.B. Johnstone's Appropriation, and Other Equally Original Versions, Together with a Very Small Amount of New Matter' [Vol. 57]).
Classic texts were also included - such as Shakespeare or well-known late eighteenth-century or early nineteenth-century plays and melodramas - and these texts often signal a contemporary production or revival. Each volume of Lacy's Plays allows us to glimpse the London theatrical world on a year-by-year basis, and together they form a detailed collection of the contemporary drama enjoyed by the Victorians. Many of the plays are short one-act farces and comedies, but there are plenty of historical melodramas and 5-act dramas as well. Copies of Lacy’s modern plays were bound into volumes, and a complete run exists in the collections of the Birmingham Central Reference Library. Victorian drama is a much under-studied and little known area of Victorian Literature and this project aims to extend awareness to scholars of such a valuable and rich resource located in the Midlands, and thus further stimulate research into Victorian plays. This catalogue provides a volume-by-volume listing of contents, enabling a chronological overview of the Victorian theatre.
An AHRC-funded phase of the Project, February 2005-July 2007, aimed to provide a number of e-texts of important plays and examples of genres from the collection. The digital texts were created from the collection in the Birmingham Central Library, with their kind permission, trust, encouragement and valuable support. Any permissions for reproduction should be sought via the Victorian Plays Project (see Copyright statement). The Catalogue and Database is copyright The Victorian Plays Project, 2003-15, and has been compiled by Prof Richard Pearson, Dr Kate Mattacks and Dr Heike Bauer.
Richard Pearson, 2015