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The Miller & His Men

Released 1st November 1835

 

Romantic Melodrama based on the play by Isaac Pocock (1762-1835). Originally performed at Covent Garden in 1813.

 

The Story

 

The story is of a gang of banditti led by Grindoff, the miller of the title. Grindoff was the former villainous servant of Count Friberg’s father. After being dismissed he set up his gang of thieves with the disguise of a miller and his workers. Soon he became wealthy at the expense of the locals. Grindoff set his sights on the daughter of an old cottager, Kelmar, who was once one of the wealthiest tenants of Count Friberg’s father. Claudine is the daughter’s name, but she has another admirer in the form of a young peasant by the name of Lothair. Lothair joins the banditti in disguise, in an attempt to discover the miller’s true intentions. He soon discovers that Grindoff leads a gang of thieves and murderers and that Grindoff is the worst of the gang.

In the meantime Count Friberg and his faithful servant Karl find themselves too late to return home and find lodgings at Kelmar’s cottage. Grindoff plots to rob the Count and takes with him Kelmar’s knife as a means to blame Kelmar should anything go wrong. It does go wrong and Grindoff accuses Kelmar of plotting to murder the Count, but the Count recognises Grindoff and doesn’t believe him. Grindoff escapes. Lothair finds an ally in the form of Ravina, Grindoff’s spurned lover, but Lothair is discovered and captured by Grindoff in the gang’s secret hideout. With the help of Ravina he escapes and plots the destruction of the mill and the banditti.

LOTHAIR: Ravina, fire the train!

Scene to change to the Explosion, Scene 11 No.9

That is how it ends, presumably with Claudine and Lothair living happily ever after and the Miller and his men blown to the four winds.

 

The Toy Theatre Play

 

Like most toy theatre plays, “The Miller & His Men” is based on an actual stage production of the time, as performed at Covent Garden. The characters and scenes of this toy theatre play were created by John Kilby Green in 1834. John Kilby Green was one of the toy theatre’s most prolific publishers and also claimed to be the “original inventor”. However, on the title sheet we see the words “taken from Lloyd’s” and “original drawings in possession of the publisher”, so this wasn’t Green’s own work but a copy of Lloyd’s earlier production. Plagiarism was rife amongst the toy theatre publishers and Green was a notorious exponent of the art.

 

Few original sheets from Green’s production survive and certainly not enough to create a complete coloured set. Luckily for us, on Green’s death in 1860, John Redington, Green’s former agent, acquired Green’s printing plates and in turn he left them to his son-in-law to be, Benjamin Pollock upon his own death in 1876. Pollock used the lithographic stone to print his sheets so he was able, with ease, to replace the imprint of JK Green with his own. To all intense and purposes the prints were still JK Green’s, just with “Green’s” replaced by “Pollock’s” on the top of each sheet and the printers address changed at the bottom of each sheet. Green’s original set used Wings No.1 for the wood scenes. However this sheet did not transfer well to the lithographic stone, so Benjamin Pollock used Wing No.30 as a replacement; this is the set of wings included with this set. The colouring of the sheets was carried out mostly by Benjamin’s Pollock’s daughter, Louisa Pollock. In the early days the painting was done freehand, but Pollock soon developed a stencilling technique to create consistent and speedy results. Many of the stencils still survive today at “Pollock’s Toy Museum” at 1 Scala Street, London.

 

To perform the play you needed 21 sheets in all, of characters, scenery and wings - and a book of the words, which also gave instructions on how to perform the play.

 

“The Miller & His Men” was the most popular of all the toy theatre plays, with every known publisher producing at least one version. JK Green is known to have published three versions. Perhaps it was because of the explosive finale that made it a toy theatre favourite. It would be interesting to know how many toy theatres were blown up as a result of trying to produce a realistic explosive effect, especially with the use of “red fire to burn”.

 

Notes:

 

Second up of Green’s halfpenny scale plays was “The Miller and His Men” with an imprint date of 1st November 1835, one year to the day since the publication date for “Douglas”. The first page of characters included the phrase “Taken from Lloyd” and continued with the statement that the “original drawings in the possession of the publisher”. Lloyd had recently retired so this may have been true. This was the only time that Green alluded to copying the work of others. Green had earlier produce a penny play for “The Miller & His Men” on 1st January 1834. (Unfortunately I have yet to see a single plate for this edition of what was undoubtedly the most famous play produced for the toy theatre. Therefore, as yet, I do not know whether Green’s halfpenny version was a scaled down version of his penny production or whether this was reproduced from Lloyds drawings for the first time.)

 

The side wings in “The Miller & His Men” included Side Wing No.1 again, but were joined by two completely new wings, No.3 (generic cottage interior wings) and No.4 (cave interior with weapons on the walls) the latter was used for this play alone.

 

Versions were created by all the major publishers and most of the minor ones. Green’s created three versions, a penny size, a half-penny size and a miniature version. Unfortunately I have found few examples with Green’s imprint.

Most survivors have Pollock’s imprint, although I have come across a complete set of characters with Redington’s imprint.

 

MILL-FP1-PY-DP-P_8.jpg

(Redington’s standard label with the frontispiece for “The Miller and his Men” added)

 

MILL-FP1-GC-HB-P.jpg

(Green’s Playbook Frontispiece for “The Miller and his Men”)

 

Character & Scenery Plates

 

7 – Character Plates

 

MILL-C01-PC-DP-P.jpg

MILL-C02-PC-DP-P.jpg

MILL-C03-PC-DP-P.jpg

Plate 1

Plate 2

Plate 3

MILL-C04-PC-DP-P_4.jpg

MILL-C05-GP-PM-PLTD1960.jpg

MILL-C06-PC-DP-P.jpg

Plate 4

Plate 5 (the only one with Green’s imprint)

Plate 6

MILL-C07-PC-DP-P_7.jpg

 

 

Plate 7

 

 

 

11 - Scene Plates

 

MILL-S01-GP-PM-PLTD1960s.jpg

MILL-S02-GC-PM-G1847-1849.jpg

MILL-S03-GC-PM-K1947.jpg

Scene 1 – Original to this play

Scene 2 – Original to this play

Scene 3 – Douglas No. 4 – 1/11/1834

MILL-S04-GP-PB-G1852.jpg

MILL-S05-GC-DP-PLTD1960s.jpg

MILL-S06-GP-PM-PLTD1960s.jpg

Scene 4 – Douglas No.5 – 1/11/1834

Scene 5 – Original to this play

Scene 6 – Original to this play

MILL-S07-GP-PM2-PLTD1960s.jpg

MILL-S08-GP-PM-PLTD1960s.jpg

MILL-S09-GP-PM-PLTD1960s.jpg

Scene 7 – Original to this play

Scene 8 – Original to this play

Scene 9 – Original to this play

MILL-S10-GC-PM2-K1946.jpg

MILL-S11-PC-DP-P_19.jpg

 

Scene 10 – Original to this play

Scene 11 – Original to this play

 

 

3 – Wing Plates

 

Image

Wing Plate No.

Origin

Original Play

Imprint Date

WING-HB-W01

Wing Plate 1

Produced before any play

28th Jul 1834

WING-DP-W03C

Wing Plate 3

Original

Miller & his Men

1st Nov 1835

image004

Wing Plate 4

Original

Miller & his Men

Only used on this play

1st Nov 1835

 

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