The Bottle

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The Bottle is a drama in two acts by T.P. Taylor (Tom Taylor, 1817-1880)[1]

Also found as The Bottle, or The Drunkard's Doom and possibly The Bottle and the Boy.

The original text

A play consisting of "eight tableaux" about the evils of drink, based on the graphic illustrations - also entitled The Bottle - by George Cruikshank. In a series of eight plates, in its turn inspired by the 18th century painter William Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, Cruikshank charts a drinker’s decline from first glass to unemployment, poverty, violence and insanity. The series was published in 1847.

Taylor's play was also published in 1847 by John Dicks.

Translations and adaptations

The play may have been adapted for young players by a local writer/director and performed in Cape Town under the title The Bottle and the Boy in 1872.

Performance history in South Africa

1850(?): Performed in Cape Town by James Lycett and company in the Drury Lane Theatre

1872: Members of Land of Hope (i.e. the Cape Town Juvenile Temperance Society) perform a play they call The Bottle and the Boy at the annual general meeting in November. No author is given, though it may have been an adaptation for young players of Taylor's play. Bosman (1980:p.282) mentions that according to the Cape Argus, "(t)he piece created considerable amusement" - which may suggest a farce (as Bosman does), but it is more likely that the performances of drunk men by young people were found to be amusing, given the reviewer's comment on the seasoned professional actor J.B. Howe's performance in it for Roebuck in 1876 (below).

1876: Performed on 23 August as The Bottle, or The Drunkard's Doom in the Theatre Royal, Burg Street, Cape Town, by the Disney Roebuck company, under the temporary management of C. Wiltstone. The afterpiece is Checkmate (Halliday). (According to the Cape Argus once more: J.B. Howe's performance as the drunkard in the case of The Bottle is in this case was also "...a very near approach to burlesque".)

1876: Performed again by Disney Roebuck's company in the Theatre Royal, Burg Street, Cape Town, on 24 August, with The Middy Ashore (Bernard)


The Bottle, a series of temperance themed illustrations by George Cruikshank, with poetry by Charles Mackay[2]

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

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.282, 342, 346, 349

P.W. Laidler. 1926. The Annals of the Cape Stage. Edinburgh: William Bryce.

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