The Old Man's Darling, or A Peep Behind the Scenes

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The Old Man's Darling, or A Peep Behind the Scenes is a melodrama by an unknown author.

The original text

Though mentioned as a performed work by F.C.L. Bosman (1980, p.323), no play by this particular name can be traced.

It is tempting to assume that it was a stage version of A Peep Behind the Scenes, the popular British novel by O.F. Walton (1849-1939)[1], first published in 1877 by the Religious Tract Society. The book portrays the life of a travelling fair and in particular Rosalie, a girl who works as part of a theatre troupe under her domineering father.

Rather oddly for the Victorian period, no references are given to any stage version of the immensely popular melodramatic tale. However, a play bearing the novel's title as a subtitle was clearly already in existence in 1875, two years before the appearance of the novel, since Roebuck performed it in South Africa in that year. Could it be that the play actually inspired the novel or that the novel was published in limited form or serialized at an earlier date?

Walton's novel has twice been filmed, first by Master Films in 1918[2] and then by the British & Dominions Film Corporation in 1929[3].

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1875: A play called The Old Man's Darling, or A Peep Behind the Scenes was performed by Disney Roebuck and his company in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, on 8 April, with East Lynne (Wood).


F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.323

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