[KILKENNY THEATRE] The Private Theatre of Kilkenny, with Introductory Observations on Other Private
Theatres in Ireland, before it was opened. [Kilkenny]: Privately printed, 1825. First edition. Quarto. pp. , 11, ,
iv, 5-134 (double column). Contemporary full burgundy morocco, possibly by George Mullen of Dublin. Covers
with double gilt frame, blind stamped Greek-key and acanthus rolls, ‘Gervase Bushe / Glencairne Abbey’ in gilt on
upper cover. Spine divided into six panels by five raised bands; title in gilt direct in the second, the remainder tooled with a gilt floral device. Armorial bookplate of Benjamin John Plunket on front pastedown. Lacks plates. A fine
copy in slipcase.
COPAC locates 4 copies only. WorldCat 3.
Kilkenny has always had an important place in the literary, artistic and cultural life of Ireland. In particular,
it had a thriving period of theatre in the 1800s that attracted worldwide attention. According to P.M. Egan in
his ‘Illustrated Guide to the City and County of Kilkenny’ (1884):
“Some of the brightest scenes, the gayest assemblages, the most fashionable of audiences, the foremost
galaxy of wit and taste … were experienced at Kilkenny during the halcyon period of its theatre.”
During the late 1700s, it became very fashionable for wealthy people to have private theatricals or plays
performed at their houses. The popularity of this led to the formation of amateur acting companies, such as
the one formed by Sir Richard Power in Kilfane. This company became so successful that it opened a public
theatre in Kilkenny in 1802 called The Athenaeum. Most of its profits were donated to charitable
organisations in the area. The last performance took place on the 28th October, 1819, when the theatre was
In the introduction we are informed: “ … about the end of the year 1774, a taste for Dramatic amusements
was very prevalant in the County of Kilkenny. Plays were got up at Knocktopher, Farmley, and Kilfane, the
Seats of the late Sir Hercules Langrishe, Mr. Henry Flood, of Parliamentary celebrity, and Mr. Gervais
Parker Bushe … Mr. Henry Grattan, connected by marriage with the family of Mr. Bushe, was a Member of
the Theatrical Society, which passed from one elegant and hospitable Mansion to another, for the purpose
of enjoying their classic recreations; a little strolling community, of no mean talents, or ordinary
Gervase Parker Bushe (1744-1793) landowner and M.P., was the son of Amyas Bushe of Dublin and his
wife Elizabeth Parker. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford (where he matriculated in 1763) and at
Trinity College Dublin (where he graduated BA, LLB and LLD). He became a lawyer and lived at Kilfane
in County Kilkenny. He served as an MP in the Irish Parliament for Granard, Kilkenny City, Fore and for
Lanesborough. He was appointed High Sheriff of County Kilkenny 1768-69. He was a member of the
Royal Irish Academy. In a paper presented to the Academy in 1789 he calculated the population of Ireland
as approximately 4 million.
He died in August 1793 at Kilfane. He had married Mary Grattan, the daughter of James Grattan, the
Recorder and MP for Dublin City and the sister of Henry Grattan, the anti-union MP. They had ten children.
Provenance: The Gervase Bushe copy for whom the book was bound. He is perhaps Mr. Gervais Parker
Bushe mentioned in the list of “The Company” for the first, second and third seasons (1802-1803). There
are also several Bushe family members mentioned later.
From the library of Benjamin John Plunket, with his bookplate on front pastedown. He was the son of
William Plunket, 4th Baron Plunket, and Ann Lee Guinness (sister of the Lord Ardilaun). Born in Bray on 1
August 1870, he was educated at the Harrow School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Ordained in
1896, he began his career with a curacy at St Peter’s Phibsboro. He was then Rector of Aghade with
Ardoyne and subsequently Vicar of St Ann’s, Dublin. In 1913 he became Bishop of Tuam, Killala and
Achonry, and in 1919 was translated to Bishop of Meath. He retired in 1925, and died on 26 January 1947.
The Irish Times, when reporting his death, characterised Plunket as “a Churchman of broad views … [who]
was not afraid to utter his opinions”.