The original text
The play was inspired by the famous American ballad Ben Bolt by Thomas Dunn English (1819–1902), written in 1842 and published in the New York Mirror in 1843, after which it became a very popular as poem in America and England, and thereafter even better known as a naval song, having been set to music by Nelson Kneass.
The poem provided both the broad theme and the names of the lead characters, and the play was first performed at the Royal Surrey Theatre on Tuesday, 28 March 1854, and published in the same year by Thomas Hailes Lacy.
Translations and adaptations
Performance history in South Africa
1867: Performed by the Young Men's Dramatic Company in Mr Ferguson's Saloon, in the Swiss Hotel, Plein Street, Cape Town on 24 July, with A Shilling Day at the (Great) Exhibition (Halliday and Brough).
1875: Performed by Disney Roebuck and company in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, on 26 June, with a recital of The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson) by Miss Berenger and The Daughter of the Regiment (Stirling).
Transcript version of the poem Ben Bolt, with commentary
Transcript version of the 1854 play text, Victorian Plays Project
"John Beer Johnstone" in: Léger-St-Jean, Marie. Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860. [19 March 2017]. Faculty of English, Cambridge [08 April 2018] (http://priceonepenny.info).
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page