The Robber's Wife

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The Robber's Wife is the title of a play in two acts (or two plays of this format) by Isaac Pocock (1782–1835)[1]

The conundrum of the various plays

There appear to be a number of titles, and at least three (different?) two-act versions of the play: The Robber's Wife published in 1827 , The Robber's Bride, performed Covent Garden, 22 October, 1829 and The Robber's Wife (a "romantic drama") published in 1835. The origins given for the versions also differ, as do their later subtitled versions (i.e. The Robber's Wife, or The Coiner's Cave and The Robber's Wife, or The Golden Ingot).

Three versions were performed and/or published in South Africa and are discussed separately below under their later, fuller titles.

Besides the original title of The Robber's Wife (or The Robber's Bride), and the two above, the title, The Robber's Wife, or Mark Redland, is also found in a reference to an American production, in Baltimore in 1843 by Bogar (2002)[2].

In addition, this may also be the original play which was performed in Cape Town as The Robber's Family (no author given) by Le Roy and Duret in 1867.

The Robber's Wife, or the Coiner's Cave (1827)

The original text

This was published and performed in 1827, and described as an English adaptation of the Irish traditional tale called Suil Dhur, or The Coiners, but set in Cumberland by Pocock. First performed in London in 1827 and the text was published by John Cumberland as The Robber's Wife in a collection called The Robber's Wife and Other Plays (1827).

The play was often produced apparently, inter alia at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in on 22 October 1829, still under the title The Robber's Bride.

However, later productions appear to have been done under the fuller title of The Robber's Wife, or The Coiner's Cave.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1861: Performed as The Robber's Wife, or The Coiner's Cave in the Theatre Royal by the Garrison Players (possibly officers and men of the 11th Regiment) on Monday 4 February, with Bombastes Furioso (Rhodes).

The Robber's Wife, or The Golden Ingot. (1830)

The original play

The provenance of this play is said by some (including Wikipedia[3]) to be an adaptation of the German original, probably the opera Der Schlafende Räuber, oder die Räuberbraut ("The sleeping robber" or "The robber's bride"), with a libretto by J. Jos. Reiff and music by Ferdinand Ries, which had its première in Frankfurt on 15th October 1828, and was published 1829.

According to these sources, the English prose version by Isaac Pocock was performed under the title The Robber's Wife, or The Golden Ingot at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, Thursday, January 7th, 1830, and published by John Cumberland in 1835.

However, it seems that there may be a strong case to be made for another version of the argument: that the German play was in fact a musical adaptation by Reiff and Ries of Pocock's original 1827 short play in prose.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1834: Performed as The Robber's Wife, or The Golden Ingot in the African Theatre, Cape Town by All the World's a Stage on 26 April 1834, along with Jerrold's The Bride of Ludgate (Jerrold).

The Robber's Family (no author given)

The original text

Besides the reference in Bosman (1980: p. 222) no further information has yet been found about a play by this name, though it is quite possibly a version of Pocock's The Robber's Bride (The Robber's Wife), which was on at least one occasion billed as being "taken from "The Coiners" from Tales of the O'Hara Family"[4].

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1867: Performed as The Robber's Family in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 29 April by the Le Roy's Original Company , along with Aladdin, or The Wonderful Scamp (Byron) and The Fantoccini Family (Ray). The evening was also offered as a benefit for Alfred Ray and was under the patronage of The Cape Voluntary Organisation.


Facsimile version of The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Volume 99,Part 2: Page 362, Google Ebook[5].

Thomas A. Bogar. 2002. John E. Owens: Nineteenth Century American Actor and Manager. McFarland: p. 173[6].

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. [7]: pp. 228

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 166, 222

Ferdinand Ries, Brief an Franz Gerhard Wegeler in Koblenz, Godesberg, 24. Oktober 1826[8]

Frederick Burwick. 2015. British Drama of the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Presspp. 228-9[9]

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