A Life of Pleasure

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A Life of Pleasure is a play by by Henry Pettitt (1848-1893)[1] and Augustus Henry Glossop Harris (1852-1896)[2]

Sometimes referred to simply as Life of Pleasure

The original text

A Victorian melodrama about a woman who falls victim to a heartless upper-class seducer and is finally rescued by her father. According to Roger Ball's article, based on contemporary records[3], the play was much admired at the time for its "sensational" penultimate act, which is set in Burma and features what all kinds of military activity, such as the bustle and humour of a camp, British forces marching through the jungle, horseman jumping across a chasm, and a pontoon train crosses a bridge built on stage for the troops and their baggage to cross, and finally the pursuit in which machine guns blaze and the stage ends up full of dead Burmese. (In the Bristol production these scenes were undertaken to the amazement of audiences by members of the 2nd Tower Hamlets Volunteers.)

First produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, on 21 September 1893 - and running for four hours - and then transferred to the Princess Theatre on 11 December, to play there until February 1894. The play was also performed at the Princes Theatre, Bristol, in December of 1893.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1904: Produced by Leonard Rayne and his company as part of a season of plays he put on in the Opera House, Cape Town, between April and June.


Roger Ball. Lest we forget – A Life of Pleasure? The machine gun, colonial massacres and the Victorian theatre, on the website of the Bristol Radical History Group[4] Accessed on 2 July, 2020.

J.P. Wearing. 2013. The London Stage 1890-1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. (Second, revised edition, p. 184). Scarecrow Press, Google E-book.[5]



D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p. 420.

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