Charles Harrington was an traveling actor, operating principally in England, who eventually set up his own traveling company. The company became well known for it’s performances of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which by 1898 had become a full-scale musical and drew crowded houses.
His career seems to have covered the latter part of the 19th Century into the early 20th, around 1865 to 1912. Information on Charles Harrington is limited; but he was born Charles James Harrington on March 24th 1851 in Newcastle, England and married Zerlina Zerbini in 1873. No date of death for Charles Harrington has been traced, but it is probably after 1918.
The University Research Collections hold 54 play texts , the majority of which are the acting editions published by T.H.Lacy. Many are annotated by Harrington, some simply indicating the date and location of the performance while others show extensive modifications to the script.
For example, in ‘Pretty Piece of Business,’ he only makes slight annotations highlighting stage instructions and, what are presumably, his own characters lines. In ‘Follies of a Night’ on page 9, as he annotates stage instructions with numbers.
In ‘Kenilworth’ it is hard to miss his obvious alterations. In this play a large majority of the script is cut out on almost every other page, in particular the parts of ‘Tony’ and ‘Amy’. It is possible that the play was under a specific time limit and the script was too long to fit within this time period.
Another example of this is the play ‘Peep-Show Man.’ In this play, Harrington cuts out much of the script from the very beginning. For example he cuts the character “Sandy”, delaying his appearance. Sandy’s first entry is originally on page four, but due to the alterations he doesn’t appear in the script until page fourteen, with a paletot over his arm. As well as the larger cuts there are smaller adaptations: on page thirty-two of the ‘Peep-Show Man’, instead of the wording of a sentence being “to get rid of that acoursed peep show man” it is altered “to get rid of him.” It does appear that alterations are being made with the main purpose of shortening the length of the plays.
The Charles James Harrington collection is interesting and valuable as it is an example of an repertoire of Victorian plays, performed by an individual who is largely unknown. It is an asset to anyone interested in theatre or plays themselves, and also offers an interesting insight into how alterations were made during the mid 1800s and early 1900s.