Begging after the Covent Garden fire print

Begging after the Covent Garden fire print

Sarah Siddons, the toast of London theatre for more than three decades from 1782, is shown begging for assistance in the street after her brother's theatre, Covent Garden, was burnt to the ground on 30 September 1808. The cartoon doesn't record the actual truth, but rather reflects the attitude of the press to the financial contributions received towards the repairs. The monies for rebuilding were raised by public subscription, insurance and a hefty donation from the Duke of Northumberland. It is this that the papers satirised. The cartoon is captioned 'Theatrical mendicants relieved. Have pity on all our wants and needs', implying that there were more worthy causes of charity. Both Siddons and her brother, John Philip Kemble, though were most concerned with the loss to posterity of the library, music and costumes collected at the theatre. Sarah's own theatrical wardrobe was completely destroyed. She wrote to a friend: 'Of all the precious and curious dresses, and lace, and jewels, which I have been collecting for these thirty years, not one article has escaped'.