Lady Anne Barnard

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Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825) was a prominent socialite and cultural commentator in Cape Town. Wife of Andrew Barnard, the secretary to two British Governors (Sir George Yonge and Earl Macartney) during the first British occupation of the Cape (1797-1802) and again during the first two years of the second occupation (1806-7).


Born Lady Anne Lindsay, daughter of the Earl of Balcarres, in Scotland, she met and married Andrew Barnard in London. She obtained an appointment as colonial secretary at the Cape of Good Hope for her husband from Viscount Melville and they arrived there in March 1797, Lady Anne remaining at the Cape until January 1802, when the Cape was taken by the French.

Her letters, journals and drawings, published in 1901 under the title South Africa a Century Ago, are an important source of information about the people, events and social life in Cape Town at the turn of the 19th century. She is also remembered as an accomplished socialite, known for entertaining at the Castle of Good Hope as the official hostess of Earl Macartney.

In 1806, when the British had retaken the Cape, Barnard returned as colonial secretary, though Lady Anne remained in London. Barnard died in Cape Town in 1807, Anne in London on 6 May 1825.

A number of plays, poems and books have been written about her and her times, including Lady Anne Barnard and her Friends by Cecil Lewis (a one-act play, 1920s), The Lady Anne gets her Bath by Denis Rhodes Granger (a one-act play, 1951), Lady Anne by Antjie Krog (a collection of Afrikaans poetry, 1989).

Her journals, never intended for publication, have been edited by by A.M. Lewin Robinson, with Margaret Lenta and Dorothy Driver, and published by the Van Riebeeck Society as The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard 1797-1798.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Her value for theatre studies is her interest in theatre and her comments on the building of the African Theatre, the nature of audiences of the time and the performances by the Garrison Players and others of the time. Of particular interest also are the sketch of and the poem about the theatre she left us.

In her letters she refers obliquely to some verses she had written and submitted anonymously for use in the last performances of the temporary Barracks Theatre in the Military Hospital (the "Sea-line" as Mrs Somers rather grandly insisted on referring to it). Apparently they were performed to some acclaim as part of the evening's play and there was wide speculation about who the author might be.

Her comments on the first performance of Samuel Foote's Taste (referred to as Teasle by Barnard) in the same venue in 1800, are considered to be the first "review" of a play in Cape Town by Jill Fletcher (1994: p. 22). Rather oddly F.C.L. Bosman accords that place of honour to her comments on the opening performance at The African Theatre on 28 September 1801, where she comments on the on the performances, Mrs Somers's prologue and the dull play (Henry the 4th, Part One), even though he himself cites from the 1800 "review" of Taste in his own study (p. 61). Though invited to do so, even by the Governor, Sir George Yonge, himself in 1800, she never consented to appear in any of the productions, and through her example dissuaded most ladies from participating in the theatricals in that period.

Later she came to love The African Theatre, though opposed to the idea initially.



F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 40-109

Mona de Beer. 1995. Who Did What in South Africa. Johannesburg: Ad Donker.

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: pp.21-28

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