The Iron Chest

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The Iron Chest is a play in three acts by George Colman, the Younger (1762-1836)[1].

Apparently also billed as The Iron Chest, or The Blood-Stained Knife in South Africa.

The original text

Loosely based on the 1794 novel Caleb Williams by William Godwin, the play was first performed at the Theatre-Royal, Drury-Lane, on Saturday, 12th March, 1796. Published in 1796 by P. Wogan, J. Rice, and G. Folingsby and printed by Thomas Burnside, Dublin.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1832: Performed, as The Iron Chest, or The Blood-Stained Knife, by the All the World's a Stage on 30 January with The Sleeping Draught (Penley) and The Lawyer in the Sack, or Jack's Return!!! (a "ballet with dancing").

1833: Performed, as The Iron Chest, by the All the World's a Stage on 11 November, with St Patrick’s Day (Sheridan) and The Actress Of All Work, or Six in One (by Oxberry, though the author is said to be unknown in the source).

1860. Performed as The Iron Chest on the Eastern Cape border by the Band of Amateurs on August 20th and 22nd, the cast consisting of W. Dansie (Sir Edward Mortimer), J. M. M'Kechnie (Fitzharding), J. F. Gay (Adam Winterton), T. Patterson (Gilbert Rawbold), T. Brooker (Samson Rawbold, his son), W. Allen (Peter), W. Allen (Armstrong), J. Mann (Orson), B. Sheeran (First Robber), T. Mannion (Third Robber) G. Daw (Robbers Boy), J. Grennan (Helen), J. Darney (Blanche), A. Vogado (Barbara Rawbold), M. Rafferty (Judith). This was followed by The Irish Tutor (Butler). (See the entry on the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot for contemporaneous commentary on the performance.)

1862: Performed as The Iron Chest by Clara Tellett and her company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 11 December, with Living Too Fast, or A Twelvemonth's Honeymoon (Troughton). The evening a benefit for Thomas Brazier, under the patronage of the Luitenant-Governor of the Cape.

1876: Performed as The Iron Chest by Disney Roebuck's company in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, on 16 May, with Boothroyd Fairclough as "Sir Edward Mortimer".


Colman, George, the Younger. The Iron Chest. Dublin 1796. Early English Books Online: Text Creation Partnership. U of Michigan Library. Web. accessed:27 January, 2016[2]

Stephen Knight. 2014. Secrets of Crime Fiction Classics: Detecting the Delights of 21 Enduring Stories (McFarland)[3]

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, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [4]: pp. 210, 222, 227

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.132, 339, 350

North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 1. January 1, 1860.

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