The original text
Considered by many as Dickens's masterpiece, it was originally called The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery, it was first published as a serial in 1849–50, and as a book by Bradbury & Evans in 1850.
Translations and adaptations
Even as the serial version was being published, six dramatizations were done, the first being Born with a Caul by George Almar (1850). These were followed by twenty other versions in the 1850s, including a few by Dickens himself - inter alia versions prepared for his famous dramatic recitals from his work.
Full-scale stage versions seen in South Africa include:
David Copperfield by John Brougham (1851)
Adapted as a drama in three acts John Brougham (1810-1880) and performed at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on 6 January 1851. Published in London by Dicks.
Little Em'ly by Andrew Halliday (1869)
Adapted for the stage as a drama in four acts and named after the key character Little Em'ly from the novel. Warmly approved of by Dickens himself, the play opened at the Olympic Theatre, London, on 9 October 1869 and went on to enjoy a long run at Drury Lane and throughout the colonies.
Also found as Little Em'ly, or The Ark on the Sands. F.C.L. Bosman (1980), citing Disney Roebuck's productions in 1875, has the latter title listed as Little Em'ly, or The Ark on the Lands [sic] - one can only assume mistakenly so.
Performance history in South Africa
1875: Halliday's version was first performed as Little Emily, or The Ark on the Lands in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 28 and 30 August. The cast for this season consisted of Roebuck's stage manager, Sutton Vane, who had one of his greatest successes in the role of "Mr Micawber", the local actress Miss de Stantville as "Mrs Micawber", W. Elton as "Uriah Heep" (performing to acclaim), Tom Paulton as "Peggotty" and his wife, Emmeline Montague, as "Little Em'ly". The spectacular décor (e.g. of "Canterbury Cathedral") was painted by W. Thorne.
1875: Performed as Little Emily, or The Ark on the Lands in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 1 September, with The Morning Call (Dance). The evening a benefit for Sutton Vane.
1875: After the completion of the Cape Town season, Roebuck and his company travelled to Natal (Durban and Pietermaritzburg) for a season there, that no doubt included the popular Little Em'ly, though with a reduced company, inter alia without the Paultons and several other regular performers. However, Hilda Temple joined him there as leading lady.
1876: Performed as Little Emily, or The Ark on the Lands in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 1 June, with Raising the Wind (Williams). Billed as "The last appearance of Mr Vane".
1882: Halliday's version (referred to as Little Emily by D.C. Boonzaier, 1923) was performed as part of a season of plays in the Theatre Royal, Burg Street, Cape Town, by Mabel Hayes (billed as Mrs R.J. Hall) and her company.
1886: Performed as Little Em'ly by H.C. Sydney and Alice Norton, supported by with members of The Wheelers company, Mr Sydney in the role of "Old Peggotty" and Miss Norton as "Martha". The play formed part of their farewell performances before leaving South Africa for Australia.
"Charles Dickens Theatre Collection", Library Catalogue of the University of Kent
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