ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Craswell on Lumley v. Wagner

Here is today's installment of the first-year course set to music by Richard Craswell.  This time it's Lumley v. Wagner, Lumley v. Gye, a case we have not spoken about previously on the blog.  So here is Professor Craswell's summary of the case:

In 1852, soprano Johanna Wagner (the niece of the famous composer) agreed to perform for three months in London at Her Majesty's Theatre, operated by Benjamin Lumley. The contract, which described her as "cantatrice of the court of His Majesty the King of Prussia," specified that Wagner could not perform at any other London theatre during that time. However, after Lumley failed to pay Wagner the advance that her contract required, Wagner accepted a better-paying engagement at Frederick Gye's Royal Italian Opera Theatre in Covent Garden, London. ¶ Courts then (as now) were reluctant to issue injunctions compelling artistic performances, in part because a coerced performance might not be very good. Lord St Leonard, England's Lord Chancellor, found a solution by ordering Wagner NOT to sing at any OTHER theater during those months. ¶ For more on the history and context of this case, see Lea S. VanderVelde, "The Gendered Origins of the Lumley Doctrine: Binding Men's Consciences and Women's Fidelity," 101 Yale L.J. 775 (1992).



We note that the case is the subject of a recent law article, A New Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations: Gender and Erotic Triangles in Lumley v. Gye, by  Sarah Lynnda Swan.


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