Coelina, ou L'Enfant du Mystère

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Coelina, ou L'Enfant du Mystère ("Coelina, or The Child of Mystery") is a drama in three acts ("drame en 3 actes, en prose et à grand spectacle") by René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt (1773-1844)[1]. (Also written Cœlina, ou l’Enfant du Mystère, Coelina, ou l'Enfant du Mystère)

The original text

This is a stage adaptation of Coelina, ou L'Enfant du Mystère , a novel in 5 volumes by François Guillaume Ducray-Duminil[2] (1761 - 1819).

It was first produced in the French original at the Théâtre de l’Ambigue-Comique , Paris on 2 September, 1800; and published in Paris by J. N. Barba in the same year. The play was to be the playwright’s first great popular success.

Translations and adaptations

The original novel was translated into English as A Tale of Mystery, or Celina by Mrs. Mary Meeke and translated into Dutch by "S.B." as Celina, of Het Kind des Geheims and published in Amsterdam by J.C. van Kesteren in 1824.

The stage play by Pixérécourt was translated into English (without acknowledgement) by Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809) as A Tale of Mystery (or originally: "A Tale of Mystery, a melo-drame") and was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden on 13 November 1802, published the same year in London by R. Phillips. It was first play to bill itself as a Melodrama on the English stage.

The Pixérécourt play was translated into Dutch as Celina, of Het Kind des Geheims by Martinus Gerardus Engelman (1772-1823)[3]. Published in Amsterdam by Hendrik van Kesteren, 1809.

Performance history in South Africa

1818: Performed in English (as The Tale of Mystery) by the Gentlemen Amateurs (Garrison Players) with the help of Mr Cooke and his company of ladies, in the African Theatre, Cape Town on 8 August, with the "Musical Farce " A House to be Sold (Cobb).

1823: Performed in Dutch as Celina, of Het Kind des Geheims by Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense in the African Theatre on 6 October, with De Dolzinnige, of De Gewaande Dolleman (Boniface) and a Ballet Pastoral composed and directed by ballet teacher J.L. Petersen.

1823: Performed in Dutch as Celina, of Het Kind des Geheims by Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense in the African Theatre on 13 December, with the same Ballet Pastoral by J.L. Petersen.


Facsimile version of original French text, Gallica Bibliotèque Numérique, BNF[4]

Julianne Smith. 2006. Victorian Drama and Undergraduate Periodical Research (Victorian Periodicals Review - Volume 39, Number 4, Winter 2006: pp. 357-364) [5]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [6]: pp. 154, 277-8,

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