His Last Legs

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His Last Legs is a farce in two acts by William Bayle Bernard (1807-1875)

The original text

Originally written for the 19th century actor Tyrone Power, the play was first performed at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on 15 October 1839, with Power as the dishevelled Irishman and charlatan "O'Callaghan" and in the USA it first played at Mitchell's Olympic on 6 April, 1840.

Published by Samuel French in French's Minor Drama circa 1870.

Because the main character in Bernard's play was a stage Irishman named "Felix O'Callaghan", described in the text and on playbills as "A Man of Genius, on his Last Legs", the play is on occasion referred to as O'Callaghan on His Legs or O'Callaghan on His Last Legs, the latter phrase also occurring as a statement in James Joyce's Ullyses, quite possibly as a metaphoric reference to the play.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1891-2: Performed by the Geneviève Ward Company during a nine months' tour of South Africa, under the auspices of Luscombe Searelle, featuring Geneviève Ward and W.H. Vernon in the leading roles. According to D.C. Boonzaier, (1923), it was billed as O'Callaghan on His Legs, but, since he wrote from memory and old programmes, it could have been as O'Callaghan on His Last Legs.


Facsimile version of the Samuel French published text (circa 1870), Hathi Trust Digital Library[1]

Victory Pomeranz. 1971. "O'Callaghan on His Last Legs" in James Joyce Quarterly (Vol. 9, No. 1: Fall) pp. 136-139.

Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman. 2008. Ulysses Annotated: Revised and Expanded Edition University of California Press: p.109[2]

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.203-205

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