Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Louis Napoleon Parker papers, 1869-1943

Summary Information


This collection contains the papers of Louis Napoleon Parker, an English playwright, translator, and historical pageant producer active in the theater from the 1890s until the early 1940s. The collection includes holograph manuscripts, typescripts, and printed editions of Parker's plays, prose and poetry; theater programs and newspaper reviews; a small selection of sheet music; correspondence; personal documents, including datebook-style diaries; photographs; several books belonging to Parker; and his portrait in chalk by Cyril Roberts.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0973
Bib ID 4079198 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Parker, Louis Napoleon, 1852-1944
Title Louis Napoleon Parker papers, 1869-1943
Physical Description 12.5 linear feet (25 document boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



The Papers are arranged by genre and by medium, alphabetically. The collection is arranged into 7 series.



The Papers include an apparently complete collection of Parker's plays, many of which remain unpublished; most are typescripts bound especially for Parker, though some of the plays are in manuscript, and a very few are unbound. A number of these play scripts are annotated in Parker's hand, and some are bound with programs, newspaper clippings, and, in a few instances, with production photographs. Printed copies of several of Parker's plays are also included. The Papers also contain volumes of Parker's light verse and prose; his correspondence, datebook-style diaries and other personal documents; programs for productions of nearly all of Parker's plays; and newspaper clippings (generally contemporary reviews). The collection is completed by two small series: books owned by Parker, mostly presentation copies, and photographs. The Papers also include a portrait of Parker, in chalk, by Cyril Roberts.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1887-1943

    This series consists of letters, telegrams and postcards written to and from Parker throughout his long professional life. The series includes correspondence from a number of prominent figures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century literary and theatrical spheres, including William Archer, Hermann Bahr, J.M. Barrie, Harold Child, John Drew, John Drinkwater, Edouard Dujardin, Charles Frohman, Harry Furniss, Constance Fletcher (pseudonym George Fleming), Marguerite Allotte de le Fuÿe, Alfred Percival Graves, Alexander Hevesi, Laurence Irving, William Wymark Jacobs, Henry Arthur Jones, Rudyard Kipling (half a page of a letter survives), Edward Knoblock, the publishers John Lane and R.G. Longman, Marie Lohr, Lillie Langtry, Percy Macquoid, Richard Mansfield, A.E.W. Mason, Cyril Maude, W.S. Maugham, Justin H. McCarthy, William Millington, Frédéric Mistral, Ernest Newman, Barry Pain, Gilbert Parker, Edward Linley Sambourne, Clement Scott, Arthur Shirley, George R. Sims, May Sinclair, Douglas Sladen, Henry de Vere Stacpoole, Fred Terry, Julia Nielsen Terry, Phyllis Terry, Louis Tiercelin, Maud Tree, Viola Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Frederick Herbert Trench, Mary A. (Mrs. Humphry) Ward, Herbert Waring, Arthur Waugh, H.G. Wells, and E.S. Willard.

  • Series II: Personal Material, 1879-1942

    This series contains Parker's diaries and personal documents such as passports and financial records.

  • Series III: Writings, 1869-1941

    This series consists of an apparently complete collection of Parker's plays, many of which remain unpublished; most are typescripts bound especially for Parker in half-morocco, with the spine of each volume lettered in gilt, though some of the plays are in manuscript, and a very few are unbound. A number of these play scripts are annotated in Parker's hand, and some are bound with programs, newspaper clippings, and, in a few instances, with production photographs. Printed copies of several of Parker's plays are also included; those intended for private circulation are shelved with the Papers, while editions are shelved in Rare Books. The series also contains a large holograph volume of Parker's light verse, entitled Trifles Light as Air, and a hand-illustrated book of poetry and prose, called Rhymes by L.N.P. A bibliography of the published editions of Parker's writings, which have been integrated into the Rare Books Library, is included at the beginning of this series.

  • Series IV: Other Professional Work, 1907-1937

    This series contains printed material of various genres produced by or used by Parker, including the financial records of three productions and the property plot for one play, sheet music, typescripts of plays in French, and newspaper clippings.

  • Series V: Programs, Clippings and Posters, 1889-1939

    Theater programs for productions of nearly all of Parker's plays are included in this series, as well as newspaper clippings (generally contemporary reviews). The programs are arranged alphabetically by play title; the names of the theaters that staged the productions are included in the finding aid entry after the play title. The production titles of several plays differ from those Parker originally gave them; in such cases the programs are filed according to Parker's title, with alternate titles indicated in parentheses.

  • Series VI: Photographs, 1876-1933

    This small series consists of photographs of locations, of groups and individuals including de la Fuÿe, Henry Irving, Richard Mansfield, Frédéric Mistral, and Parker's daughter Dorothy, an actress. Photographs (and some photo-postcard drawings) related to several of Parker's plays and pageants are also included.

  • Series VII: Books, 1881-1937

    These are mostly presentation copies given to Parker by friends and admirers; most are inscribed. A notable exception is Parker's copy of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, heavily annotated by Parker, including suggested cuts for performance and illustrations indicating blocking and scene designs.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Louis Napoleon Parker papers, Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia UniversityLibrary.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 08/--/89.

Papers processed by Jennifer Buckley.

Finding aid written by Jennifer Buckley 2007.

15 boxes added containing mostly typescripts of his plays Entered in AMC 11/02/93.

Collection is processed to folder level.

Separated Materials

A bibliography of Parker's published books, which have been separated from this collection and integrated into Rare Books, is included in Series III

Revision Description

2008-12-02 File created.

2009-01-13 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor

2009-06-03 xml document instance created by Catherine N. Carson

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Playbills Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Actors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Allotte de la Fuÿe, Marguerite, 1874- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Archer, William, 1856-1924 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Barrie, J. M (James Matthew), 1860-1937 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bonaparte, François-Charles-Joseph, Herzog von Reichstadt, 1811-1832 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carson, Murray Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Child, Harold, 1869-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Composers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Disraeli, Bejamin, 1804-1881 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drama Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dramatists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dramatists, English Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fleming, George, 1858-1938 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Graves, Alfred Perceval, 1846-1931 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Irving, Henry, Sir, 1838-1905 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jacobs, W. W (William Wymark), 1863-1943 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jones, Henry Arthur, 1851-1929 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Joseph (Son of Jacob) -- In literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Langtry, Lillie, 1853-1929 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Longman (Firm) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mansfield, Richard, 1857-1907 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- Bury St. Edmunds Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- Colchester Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- Dover Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- Sherborne Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- Warwick Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pageants -- England -- York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pain, Barry, 1864-1928 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Parker, Louis Napoleon, 1852-1944 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, English Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scott, Clement, 1841-1904 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sinclair, May Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theater -- England Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theater -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theatrical producers and directors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Translators Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Tree, Herbert Beerbohm, Sir, 1852-1917 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ward, Mary Augusta Arnold, 1851-1920 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918 -- Drama Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918 -- Poetry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Louis Napoleon Parker (1852-1944) was a popular and successful mainstream English playwright, producer of historical pageants, and musician, as well as a prolific translator of drama in French and Italian. A contemporary of George Bernard Shaw, Henry Arthur Jones, Arthur Wing Pinero and J.M. Barrie, Parker saw his plays performed by some of the finest actors of his day, including Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and E.S. Willard. His historical pageants were attended by English people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, from the villagers of Warwick to the nobility.

Parker, born at Luc-sur-Mer in Calvados, France to an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Moray, and an American, Charles Albert Parker, spent his childhood in several European countries; his first language was Italian, and he spoke, read and wrote in at least French and German as well. At seventeen, his parents sent Parker to the Royal Academy of Music, then under the direction of William Sterndale Bennett. The young man began to distinguish himself as a singer, pianist and organist, and in 1873 he was sent by Bennett to serve at the Sherborne School in Dorset, first as locum tenens to the piano master and then as director of music, a position Parker held until 1892. Parker greatly increased both the musical achievement and the profile of the school, while composing his own music, including three cantatas and a set of school songs for Sherborne. During his time in Sherborne, Parker became an early member of the original Wagner Society, and later served as president of the organization that succeeded it.

In 1878 Parker was married to Georgiana Bessie Calder (c.1853-1919), the daughter of a Sherborne merchant; they had two daughters, Elsa (whom Parker nicknamed "Toby") and Dorothy (whom he called "Tommy"). Dorothy became an actress, starring in the very successful American production of her father's comedy Pomander Walk.

Parker, who began to experience deafness in the early 1890s, left both Sherborne and his music and teaching careers in 1892, though he remained a member of the Royal Academy of Music until the end of his long life.

After leaving Sherborne, Parker turned to London and to the theater. He already had some experience as a playwright and also as a translator of European drama; indeed, Parker's 1889 edition of Henrik Ibsen's Rosmersholm, along with William Archer's series of translations, had helped to introduce Ibsen to the English-speaking world. Though Parker's own plays display nothing like Ibsen's versions of realism, the translation shows the extent to which Parker understood contemporary developments in the theater. Parker's own theatrical career began slowly, but collaborations with Murray Carson (who occasionally used the pseudonym Thornton Clark), including Gudgeons (1893) and Rosemary, That's for Remembrance (1896) brought him a measure of popularity in both England and the United States. Especially successful were Parker's plays The Cardinal (1903), Disraeli (1911), Drake (1912), Joseph and his Brethren (1913), and (with W. W. Jacobs)Beauty and the Barge (1904), and "Pomander Walk" (1910). Parker also produced a number of dramatic adaptations of novels and stories, including David Copperfield (The Highway of Life), Cyrano de Bergerac, and Jacobs's story The Monkey's Paw. His translations include plays by Louis Tiercelin, Ludwig Fulda and Edmond Rostand. Many of Parker's plays were successfully staged at His Majesty's Theatre by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, but they often traveled to America, as the programs and reviews in this collection from Boston and New York show. The Cardinal received several productions in Italy, as well, and Beauty and the Barge traveled to Germany (as Das Herz auf der Hand).

In 1905, Parker created his first historical pageant, at his former home town of Sherborne. At Sherborne, nine hundred participants produced seven performances so successfully that Parker was quickly besieged by requests from other towns. Over the next five years, he created large-scale pageants for Warwick, Bury St. Edmunds, Colchester, York, and Dover. Parker's pageants, usually conducted outdoors and involving a high degree of spectacle, celebrated official English history and values. Indeed, Parker was himself intensely pro-English, and he became a British subject in 1914, just before World War I began.

Parker spent many of his later years in Devon. He continued writing, producing the screenplay Nelson for the "talkies" and occasional verse. His play Disraeli, starring George Arliss, was produced as a film in 1936. Parker died at Bishopsteignton, in Devon, on 21 September 1944.

Many of Parker's plays were not published, and he did not retain manuscripts after typed copies were made; for this reason, the typescripts and manuscripts included in this collection are often the only known copies of the works. Parker's daughters, and then his grandson, Anthony Parker Tull, used these volumes when administering the literary estate.