The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish

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The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish is a romantic drama in two acts by William Bayle Bernard (1807-1875)[1]

The original text

Bernard's play is based on James Fenimore Cooper's tale The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (first published in three volumes as The Borderers in England in 1829, but later the year also published in the United States and Florence, Italy as The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish). The novel tells the story of Ruth Heathcoat, who had been abducted by Narragansett Indians as an infant, raised by the tribe and fully adopted its culture. When found by her relatives she had married, taken a tribal name, "Narra-mattah", and given birth to a son.

According to Hugh MacDougall's "Introduction" to the play on the James Fenimore Cooper Society Website[2], Bernard's version was not the first dramatization of the book, since two earlier versions (Miantonimoh and Narramattah, or The Lost Found) were both performed in New York, 1830. However, Bernard's was the first version done in London, where premiered at the Adelphi Theatre on November 21st, 1831, with Mme. Celeste in the lead. She would go on to tour with it in America (1834-1843, 1851-52) and revive it at the Adelphi (of which she eventually became the manager) once more in 1850 and 1857.

The original 1830 version of Bernard's play was somewhat longer and more complicated than later productions, which in some cases were described as a "burletta" and tended to be performed in combination with one or two other short, comic plays. The music for the shorter version was composed by the Adelphi's resident composer, George H. Rodwell (1800-1852), while the original, longer, version had an overture by the prolific Italian composer Ferdinando Paer (1771-1839).

The play text was published as The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish inter alia by John Dicks, London, (No. 546 of Dicks' Standard Plays) and Samuel French, New York

F.C.L. Bosman (1980: p. 221) - probably following his source(s)- lists the play's name (wrongly) as The Weft of the Wish-ton-Wish.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1867: Performed, as The Weft of the Wish-ton-Wish (sic), by "Le Roy's Original Company" in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 28 February, with The Legend of St Croix (Anon.). (This was probably the burletta version).


Hugh MacDougall. 2004. "Introduction" to a facsimile version of the abbreviated text, Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers, No. 19, August 2004, James Fenimore Cooper Society Website[3] (Placed on line July 2009 - consulted 21 June 2020)

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. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.221

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