Ambrose Gwinett, or A Sea Side Story

Revision as of 07:03, 26 July 2016 by Satj (talk | contribs) (→‎Performance history in South Africa)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ambrose Gwinett, or A Sea Side Story is a melodrama in three acts by Douglas Jerrold (1803 – 1857)[1].

The name of the lead character is most often rendered as above, but sometimes sources do have it as Ambrose Gwinnett, and in South Africa the name of the character is wrongly given as Ambrose Guinett and the play sometimes simply referred to as Ambrose Gwinett or Ambrose Guinett.

The original text

Based on The Life of Ambrose Guinet (1770), a tale by Isaac Bickerstaffe (1733 – 1812?)[2], it tells the story of a man wrongfully accused of murder. Jerrold's stage adaptation opened at the Coburg Theatre on 6 October, in 1828. It became widely popular in Great Britain and the United States, and was first published in London in 1828 and later in Boston in 1833.

An interesting aside:

According to a "Researcher's Note" in the online Encyclopædia Britannica[3], the American author Ambrose Bierce[4]’s full given names are Ambrose Gwinett (or Gwinnett) Bierce and derived from the title of Jerrold's popular play.

In addition, Bierce's one biographer, Roy Morris Jr (1995: p. 10), while scathingly refering to Jerrold, one of the leading melodramatists of his day, as the "little known English dramatist", and the successful 19th century text as a "penny-dreadful play", does point out the interesting fact that Bierce's most famous work, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890), "shares the play's basic plot contrivance of a young man surviving - or apparently surviving - a hanging", and suggests that Bierce may have read (or perhaps seen?) the play. Of course Bierce may even have known Bickerstaffe's original monologue. Wikipedia[5] has numerous other potential sources for Bierce's brilliant tale, but does not mention either Jerrold or Bickerstaffe.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1831: Played for the first time on 8 October by the All the World's a Stage in the African Theatre as Ambrose Guinett, or a Sea-Side Story, with as afterpiece Amateurs and Actors, or A Peep Behind the Curtain (Peake).

1832: Played as Ambrose Gwinett on 1 September by the All the World's a Stage in the African Theatre, as afterpiece to The Mountaineers (Colman).

1838: Performed by the English Amateur Company in the Cape Town Theatre on 13 October, 1838, with as afterpiece The Spectre Bridegroom, or A Ghost in spite of Himself (Moncrieff). The title again wrongly given as Ambrose Guinett, or a Sea-Side Story. According to Bosman (1928), this was to be the last production mounted in the African Theatre before it was sold and turned into a church, and it was also the last production by English amateurs in Cape Town till 1843, for the Methodist anti-theatre movement had temporarily won the battle.


Roy Morris. 1995. Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company. Oxford University Press: p. 10[6].

Frederick Burwick. 2015. British Drama of the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: p. 198[7].

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [8]: pp.208, 217, 224

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays

Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays

Return to PLAYS III: Collections

Return to PLAYS IV: Pageants and public performances

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page