S.E. Hudson

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Samuel Eusebius Hudson (1764-1828) was a prominent civil servant, playwright, novelist, painter and diarist, living in Cape Town. (His second name is wrongly written "Esuibuis" by both Bosman and Fletcher, when referring to his diaries.)

His writings and diaries are a good source on Cape Town social life and theatre in the beginning of the 19th century.


Born the eldest son of Samuel and Lidia Hudson, at Coleshill, Warwickshire, England on the 10th January 1764.

Accompanied Sir Andrew and Lady Anne Barnard to Cape Town in 1797, as agent and personal attendant to Barnard. He remained in Barnard’s employ until 1798, when he became first clerk in the Department of Customs, Cape Town (1798-1800).

An inveterate diarist (he has been called the Samuel Pepys of Cape Town) and, according to F.C.L. Bosman (1928: p. 108) a gloomy person who saw only the negative in the world, he provided a detailed eye-witness account of Sir George Yonge’s governorship (whom he supported) and the sensational events of Lord Charles Somerset’s later years, as seen by a man in his position.

He continued to reside at the Cape after it had been handed over to the Batavian Republic in 1803. As they were without official employment he and his brother, Thomas Hudson, opened a boarding establishment.

During the Napoleonic wars Hudson had visited England and on his return in August 1814 began to devote himself to writing and art. Thus his remaining years were spent in Cape Town, except for a brief residence at Uitenhage, and drawing, painting and making popular copies in oils of the masterpieces of the Dutch artists Jan Steen, Hobbema and Van der Velde. He also conducted day and evening schools, and was employed by William Beddy to teach art at his Feinaiglian School in the Heerengracht (later Adderley Street).

The threat of insolvency clouded his last years. He died at Cape Town on the 2nd September 1828.

His contribution to South African theatre

He was clearly interested in writing, writing not only The Virtuoso, which is considered to be the first English novel written in South Africa, but also dramatic pieces, including a scenario for a comic opera entitled He Who'd Be A Governor (also known as The New Comic Opera), lampooning the officials at the Cape who were at odds with Sir George Yonge (notably General Francis Dundas). (The text is contained in his diaries, held in the South African Library, Cape Town.)

He was also a signee to the original proposal for a "Private Theatre" in Cape Town and later a member of the managing Commission for the African Theatre in Cape Town, a position to which he was appointed by Sir George Yonge when the Governor granted the land for the proposed theatre.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 63, 108

Kirsten McKenzie. 1994. The Making of an English Slave-owner: Samuel Eusebius Hudson at the Cape of Good Hope, 1796-1807. Rondebosh, UCT Press. (Review by Robert Shell in Kronos No. 21 - November 1994: pp. 126-128.)[2]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy.[3]: p. 108.

Jill Fletcher, 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: p. 23

Sydney Paul Gosher 1988. A historical and critical survey of the South African one-act play written in English. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Pretoria: University of South Africa.

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