Paul Pry

Jump to navigation Jump to search

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)[1].

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. This is most probably the text performed in South Africa in the 19th century.

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.

1862: Performed by Clara Tellett and her company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 29 December, as part of a benefit for Mr Raymond, along with Faust and Marguerite (Goethe/Carré).

1889: Performed as part of a season of plays done by a touring company brought together by Luscombe Searelle and featuring the comedian Lionel Brough. In Cape Town they appeared in the Exhibition Theatre in the second half of the year.


David Vincent, 'I Hope I Don't Intrude': Privacy and Its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain, OUP, 2015.:pp.3-15[2]

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [3]: pp. 229

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