Inkle and Yarico

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Inkle and Yarico is a comic opera in three acts by George Colman, the Younger (1762-1836)[1], with music by Samuel Arnold (1740-1802)[2].

The original text

Though billed as a "comic opera", the story is tragic, based on a often retold tale, one of the betrayal of love by Inkle, an English trader, who is shipwrecked in the West Indies, and survives with the help of Yarico, an Indian maiden. They fall in love, but he ultimately sells her into slavery to cover his losses and enable him to marry well. Actions which he justifies to the West Indian chieftain in the end.

Richard Ligon's book A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657) contains the first telling of this supposedly true story, which was then retold by Richard Steele in his Spectator column (March 1711), in which Yarico is a Native American, sold into slavery while bearing Inkle's child. The story next appeared in Christian Fürchtegott Gellert's popular German trilogy Fabeln und Erzählungen in 1746, followed by an illustrated Dutch version in 1772. Indeed the story has also been the subject of a number of drawings and paintings (see for example the 2014 blog by Groninganus[3])

First staged at the Haymarket Theatre in London, England in August 1787, going to 98 performances there. Hugely successful, it saw a total of 164 performances on London stages by 1800.

Printed from the prompt book under the authority of the managers of the theatres royal Covent Garden and Haymarket by T. Davison, Whitefriars, London; for the publishers Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orm. Contains introductory remarks by Mrs. Inchbald.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Dutch as Inkle en Yariko and described as a "Tooneelspel in Drie Bedryven". ("a play in three acts") apparently first published in 1781, and published again in Rotterdam by N. Brakel, 1792.

The German translation bears the same title.

Performance history in South Africa

1824: Performed on 11 September by the English Theatricals company in the African Theatre Cape Town , with The Spoiled Child (Bickerstaff) as afterpiece. It was done as a benefit for Mrs Black.

1835: Performed in Dutch as Inkle en Yariko in De Liefhebbery Toneel ("the Amateur Theatre"), Cape Town, by the children's company Kunst en Smaak on 24 October, with De Dronkaard (Von Kotzebue). Both plays repeated on 30 October.


The Project Gutenberg E-Book of Inkle and Yarico[4]

Groninganus. 2014. Inkle en Yariko, of: liefde staat boven slavernij[5]

"Inkle und Yariko" in Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. 1746. Fabeln und Erzählungen. Kapitel 11: p.29[6]

A. van der Kroe en J. Yntema. 1793. Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen. Amsterdam[7]

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [8]: pp.199, 271,

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