The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell

Jump to navigation Jump to search

The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell is a tragedy by George Lillo (1691–1739)[1].

Often referred to simply as The London Merchant.

The original text

The play was based on a seventeenth-century ballad about a murder in Shropshire and is an early example of a bourgeois tragedy.

Originally billed as The Merchant, or The True History of George Barnwell, it was first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre, London on June 21st, 1731. It later acquired the better known title of The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell.

It was Lillo's most famous play and would become one of the most popular plays of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and is still produced.

Apprenticeship is a central issue in the play, and a number of 19th century books on George Barnwell (by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson, Robert Cruikshank and Edward Lytton Blanchard for example) appeared in print, all referring to him as an "apprentice" rather than a "merchant", hence perhaps the title under which it was first performed in South Africa.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1830: Performed in Cape Town, South Africa by All the World's a Stage on 4 September under the title George Barnwell, or The London Apprentice, with Doctor Bolus (Daniel) as afterpiece.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 215

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays

Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays

Return to PLAYS III: Collections

Return to PLAYS IV: Pageants and public performances

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page