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"Arthur" theatrical production records

Call Number: MS 102


A collection of records related to a proposed (but never staged) 1919 production of "Arthur: a tragedy," a play written by poet, playwright, and art historian Laurence Binyon "for and with" Martin Harvey (actor and theater manager later known as Sir John Martin-Harvey) . The collection includes correspondence and notes by or addressed to Martin Harvey, as well as sketches, some signed by artist and designer Robert Anning Bell, relating primarily to the design of the proposed production, including armor design, stage-setting, props, etc., and the practical difficulties of manufacture.


  • 1919, 1933 (bulk 1919)


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Sir John Martin-Harvey (1863-1944)

Sir John Martin-Harvey was born in Essex, England, the 4th of 7 children born to John and Margaret Diana Mary Harvey. John Harvey the elder was a naval architect and yacht builder, and his son was expected to follow in his footsteps, so John Harvey the younger was apprenticed as a shipwright in his father's yard. However, he was not interested in the work but found a love for theatre from a chance visit to a London theatre, so his father arranged for acting lessons with the tragedian John Ryder.

Harvey's first role was as a walk-on at the Court Theatre in 1881, and his father's client W.S. Gilbert helped him with a brief engagement with Charles Wyndham. Thereafter, through family connections to Henry Irving, Harvey got employment at the Lyceum Theatre for several years. He never had any substantial roles, other than in Irving's provincial and American tours and through the Lyceum Vacation Company that he and some other younger members of the troupe formed during the annual summer vacation. Nonetheless he learned both about acting and business management through this association.

While apprenticing at the Lyceum, Harvey met and, in 1889, married Angelita Helena Margarita (died 1949), with whom he had two children: Jack Seaforth Elton and Margaret Muriel del Melfort, who followed her father into acting. Harvey's wife Angelita continued to work with him as managerial partner and leading lady.

From 1896-1899 Harvey was a freelance actor. He returned to the Lyceum in 1899 as manager for the play The Only Way, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. The play was a phenomenal success and brought the Harveys prosperity, continuing to be produced through their farewell tour of 1938-1939. The production also served as a template for other melodramas in their repertoire. In the early 1900s Harvey also created productions of various Shakespearean tragedies and comedies, and in 1912 he put on an expensive and revolutionary production of the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex.

Harvey was a promoter of a national theatre, and during World War I he devoted considerable energies to fundraising for various war charities and the Red Cross, as well as delivering recruiting speeches and giving dramatic recitals to the troops at the front line for a month. Due to these efforts and his theatrical endeavors, he was knighted in 1921. That same year he added "Martin" to his surname by deed poll.

[Information retrieved from Donald Roy, "Harvey, Sir John Martin-", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008.]

Biography of Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933)

Robert Anning Bell was born in London, England to Robert George and Mary Charlotte (Knight) Bell. At a young age he was sent to work in his uncle's architectural office and there learned considerable draughtsman skills. He later studied under Fred Brown at the Westminster School of Art and at the Royal Academy Schools, as well as spending a year in Paris studying under Aimé Morot.

In 1889 and 1890 Bell exhibited at the newly-formed Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, a relationship which continued through several years. Bell was named a master of the affiliated Art-Workers' Guild in 1921, to which he had belonged since 1891. Also in the 1890s, Bell was appointed instructor at Liverpool University in the school of architecture. He was also involved with Della Robbia pottery and became increasingly successful at book design and illustration. Subjects of his illustrations were often fairy tales or from Shakespearean plays, and his style fit well with the emerging Art Nouveau school.

In 1900, Bell married Amy Caroline Ditcham. After she passed away, he married Laure Caroline Richard in 1914, an artist in her own right who exhibited at the Royal Aademy and the Paris Salon.

Due to an increasing number of public commissions, Bell expanded his skills to include mosaics and stained glass. He also painted in both oil and watercolor. He exhibited regularly with the Royal Academy (becoming a member in 1914) and the New English Art Club and became a full member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours (the Old Watercolour Society) in 1904.

Bell took on teaching duties again at the Glasgow School of Art in 1911, serving as chief of the design section. From 1918-1924 he was professor of design at the Royal College of Art.

[Information retrieved from Rose, Peter, "Bell, Robet Anning," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2010.]


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case + 1 oversize folder)

Physical Location

MS 102

Physical Location


Guide to the "Arthur" Theatrical Production Collection
"Arthur" theatrical production records
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1971. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
"Arthur" theatrical production records, MS 102, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States