Paul Pry - the character
The character "Paul Pry" became a hugely popular figure in nineteenth century Britain, as a result of a spate of theatrical works which surfaced in the late 1820s.
Paul Pry - the plays
There are two well-known published farces by this name, the original one written by John Poole in 1825, and the second, based on and written in reaction to Poole's enormous success, a robust adaptation by Douglas Jerrold in 1826. In the same year an equestrian version called Paul Pry on Horseback, or A Peep at the Election was also done at Astley's Royal Amphitheatre. This was followed by a spate of "sequels".
Paul Pry by John Poole
A farce in three acts by John Poole (1786–1872).
Based on characters apparently drawn from a range of well-known plays, this farce is the best known play by Poole. It premiered in London on 13 September 1825 at the Haymarket Theatre and ran 114 performances. The play went on to maintain its popularity till the 1870s.
Paul Pry by Douglas Jerrold
A farcical comedy in two acts written by Douglas Jerrold (1803 – 1857), and originally called Mr Paul Pry, or I Hope I Don’t Intrude.
This was possibly Jerrold’s first play as resident dramatist at the Royal Coburg Theatre, and was commissioned and written in a week in response to the success of Poole’s play. Based on the Poole play, it both shortened the play, and made it more physical in performance. First performed at the Royal Coburg Theatre, 10 April 1826 under its full title of Mr Paul Pry, or I Hope I Don’t Intrude, it did not do as well as Poole's version initially, but apparently also sustained a long life. In later editions, after Jerrold had become famous, it was simply called Paul Pry, as in the text used in the performance on November 27 1836, published by John Dicks.
Performances in South Africa
1820s: F.C.L. Bosman (1928), citing Broom, mentions a play called Paul Pry!!! referred to in a handbill for a production on 5 September (some time in the 1820s, precise year unknown) in the Cape Town barracks. It was done by a group of 72 Highlanders calling themselves The Highland Amateur Party. The play was followed by a performance of Morton's A Roland for an Oliver. However Bosman is unsure whether it is the Poole or the Jerrold version. The cast for Paul Pry included S. Stewart (as "Paul Pry"), W. Williamson, A. Schofield, J.Foster, W. Cameron, T. Caldwell, G. Milne, T. Norrie, A. Ramsay.
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