Harold Brighouse was an English playwright and author born in Eccles, Salford in 1882. His most successful and well-known play was Hobson’s Choice, a comedy about gender and social class conventions which premiered in New York in 1915. This is a curated collection, digitised from the Harold Brighouse Collection held at Salford Local History Library. It includes a handwritten draft of Hobson’s Choice, along with other manuscript works, correspondence and theatre programmes.

Brighouse was part of the so called ‘Manchester School’ of dramatists, a group of writers creating work at the beginning of the 20th century supported by the theatre proprietor, Annie Horniman. Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre opened in Manchester in 1908 and was the first modern repertory theatre in the country. It championed work by local writers, produced and performed by resident companies and actors.  

Brighouse was an extensive writer, and his work includes drama, fiction and journalism. Whilst many of his plays were set in Lancashire and associated with northern realism, the works digitised for this collection show a broader range for comedy such as The Dye Hard and The Desperationist, which was set in London and written under the pseudonym of Olive Conway. There is also a volume of Travel Essays.

The digital collection contains manuscript and typescript works by Brighouse. It also features theatre programmes for a variety of his plays, including The Hilarys, performed at The Criterion. This play was co-written with Stanley Houghton, a fellow dramatist of the Manchester School, whose archive is also available. Other theatre programmes include ‘Garside’s Career’ from the Rusholme Theatre, and the first English production of Hobson’s Choice, in 1916, at the Apollo Theatre in London. 

Finally, the collection includes some examples of correspondence, such as a letter from Brighouse to his agent, Cyril Hogg, where he mentions seeing the film version of Stanley Houghton’s Hindle Wakes.

The first page of The Stoker

How can it be used? 

The manuscripts demonstrate how a writer may have developed plays and ideas. Brighouse’s work should be understood within the context of its time and his own identity and some of the works reproduced here were never published. The theatre programmes give an insight into theatre at the time. Other items of correspondence digitise here shed further light on Brighouse as a person and the process of writing and publishing work.   

Who might be interested? 

Students and researchers in English Literature & Language, Performance, Art & Design, Fashion, History & Politics. Anyone interested in Edwardian theatre and costume and set design. 

Types of material 

Handwritten and typescript manuscripts; photographic images; volumes; theatre programmes. 

Related material 

Stanley Houghton Collection