Thomas 'Jupiter' Harris

Spinning dark intrigue at Covent Garden theatre, 1767-1820

By Warren Oakley

Thomas 'Jupiter' Harris


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2912-3
  • Pages: 248
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: August 2018
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 18th Century, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Early Modern Literature, Theatre Studies, Theatre studies, Literary studies: c 1600 to c 1800, Espionage & secret services, PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism, LITERARY CRITICISM / Drama


This is the first biography of Thomas Harris. Until now, little has been known about his life. He was most visible as the man who controlled Covent Garden theatre for nearly five decades, one of only two venues in London allowed by law to perform spoken drama. But this career was only one of many: he became the confidant of George III, a philanthropist, sexual suspect, and a brothel owner in the underworld of Covent Garden. While deeply involved in Pitt the Younger's government, Harris worked as a 'spin doctor' to control the release of government news. As novelists created elaborate storylines with fictional intriguers lurking in the shadows, Harris was the real thing. In this lively recreation of life in Georgian London - social, political, sexual, theatrical - his career intersects many of the hidden worlds of the eighteenth century. This narrative of detection brings together a hoard of newly discovered manuscripts to construct his many lives.


'Unlike Garrick, Harris has remained largely in the shadows - seemingly by choice. Warren Oakley drags him out into the light in his notable biography [...] Yet, "Jupiter" Harris was perhaps more than just a theatre manager: Oakley has taken considerable pains to unearth the details of his deep involvement, while running Covent Garden with considerable success, in the British Secret Service [.] Oakley convincingly shows up a deficiency in the conventional eighteenth-century theatre narrative: the overlooked Harris, when mentioned at all, has usually been cast as a bit part or the villain of the piece.'
Times Literary Supplement, January 2019

'Oakley's study is based on extraordinarily dedicated research [.] Throughout, Oakley's detailed work produces valuable insights into the complex operation that Harris struggled and ultimately failed to keep afloat. The analysis of the incomplete financial records by which we see Harris's juggling of countless debts and liabilities - and his willingness to commit fraud - is particularly impressive [.] the underlying research is exceptional, and overall this study offers an intriguing depiction of one of the more obscure yet most powerful figures within the eighteenth-century theatre business.'
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies

'Thomas "Jupiter" Harris provides a meticulous investigation of Thomas Harris and everyone involved in the life of Covent Garden in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The carefully researched theatre history reads like a novel abounding in political intrigue, social unrest, violence, and crime, but it also documents the life of a manager whose passion was his theatre. It is not only a book for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theatre scholars, it is also a captivating book for British history enthusiasts.'
Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research


1. Introducing Thomas Harris
2. The king of clubs
3. 'Plausible' Jack and the Royalty adventurers
4. When sorrows come, they come not single spies
5. Selling a life


Warren Oakley is a former research fellow of the Folger Institute, Washington DC, and visiting fellow of the Houghton, Harvard University

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