Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense

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Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense ("Evil to him who evil thinks") is a moral or saying, often used for theatrical purposes as motto and/or as name for a company.

"Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense" as motto

This motto, often in the 19th century by charitable organizations and theatrical and other cultural companies, is derived from an Anglo-Norman maxim which apparently originally meant something like "Shame on whomsoever would think badly of it" in Old French, though at times re-interpreted to mean "Evil to him who evil thinks".[1] It is most famous for its use as the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter[2].

Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense as the name of a theatre company

The motto on a number of occasions served - formally and informally as the name of certain companies. (In some instances even shortened to "Honi" in adverts, reviews and other publications.)


Villet's company

The motto was first utilized in Cape Town by the first French-Dutch players in the Cape, best known as Het Fransche Liefhebbery Geselschap (or the French Amateur Company in English), founded by Charles Mathurin Villet. They clearly have the orginal meaning in mind, for the motto is given in the full phrase Consacre a la Bienfaisance, Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense (= "Dedicated to charity, Evil to him who thinks ill of it"). However the company never used the motto as the name for their company.

When C.E. Boniface became involved with the French Theatre Company in the period 1807-9, he apparently also used the motto and perhaps even used it as an informal name for the company as well.

See also Het Fransche Liefhebbery Geselschap

The Multilingual company

With the collapse of the French Theatre Company and the founding of the Dutch Company Tot Nut en Vermaak , the shortened version of the motto, Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense, formally became the name of a bilingual (perhaps even trilingual) company. The company was initially referred to as " Het Afrikaansche Liefhebbery Gezelschap" ("the African Amateur Company") with its first production, that of C.E. Boniface's ballet pantomime Het Beleg van Troyen in 1813 (referred to as Geselskap van Liefhebbers "Inboorlingen"), but assumed its motto as name in 1814, when it was first used in the advertisment for the Boniface's next ballet, Sappho, to open on July 4, 1815. It was an extremely disciplined and influential multilingual company, managed by Boniface, which performed in Dutch, French, English, or a combination thereof. It appears to have been without competition in 1814-1816, but was then overshadowed by Tot Nut en Vermaak, especially during 1817-18, and in 1819, as English theatre became strong again, it became part of [[Men Doet Wat Men Kan.

Among its other productions in this period include:

In 1815: De Lauwerkrans, of Het Gezag der Wetten (Ziegler), De Belachelyke Zelfmoord (Martainville), Eerzucht en Behoefte, of De Huwelyksscheiding uit Liefde (Patrat), De Wanhoop van Jocrisse (Dorvigny), De Struikroovers van Kalabrien, of De Onveilige Wildernis (Tréogate), Jocrisse in Eenen Nieuwen Dienst (Dorvigny), Jean-Pierre-Diogenes, of L'Orateur dans un Tonneau and Men Doet Wat Men Kan, Niet Wat Men Wil (Dorvigny).

Boniface's company

In 1823 they performed as "Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense" again, now with C.E. Boniface as formal manager. From 1825 onwards also referred to as Het Zuid-Afrikaansche Tooneel Gezelschap (also written Het Zuid-Afrikaansche Tooneel Gezelschap, and meaning "The South African Amateur Theatrical Company") or The South African Amateurs in most adverts. By 1826 Boniface, and hence the company, had run into financial dififculties, and their are last mentioned under this name in 1828.

In 1833 Boniface had restarted, but now his company is initially called Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst (1833) and eventually Vlyt en Kunst (1834-1837).

All in all Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense had an enormous impact on the development of Boniface's art and on the Afrikaans theatre in particular.

The company members

According to W.G. Groom (quoted by F.C.L. Bosman, 1928, p 372) the key members of the company - besides C.E. Boniface himself - included Jannie Overbeek, Michael Wolff, Jan Smalberg, P. Auret, L.P. Biel, G. Martin, Miss Roselt, Miss de Necker, possibly L.H. Meurant. From handbills can be added the names of B. van de Sandt, D. Disant, H. Roselt, W. Brandt, F. Waldek, De la Sablonière, A. de Waal, W. Burnet, R.S. Allemann, De la Colline, J. Terhoven, A. de Kock, J. de Kock, K. de Kock, J. Herholdt, C. Brink, Mr Munnik, J.J. Piton, and Miss L.E. Meurant. In addition there were many dancers who performed for his company.

Plays produced

In 1823: Het Geweten (Iffland) , De Keukenhelden, Verzoening en Rust (Von Soden), De Belachelyke Zelfmoord (Martainville), Rinaldo Rinaldini (Vulpius), Celina, of Het Kind des Geheims (Pixérécourt), De Dolzinnige, of De Gewaande Dolleman (Boniface) , and Komplimenten en Wind (Bretzner)

In 1824: Kabaal en Liefde (Schiller), De Verwarde Schaking (Von Kotzebue), Les Deux Chasseurs et La Laitière (Anseaume), Hugo de Groot (Von Kotzebue), De Dronkaart (Von Kotzebue), Jérome Pointu (Beaunoir), De Barbier van Seville, of De Onnutte Voorzorg (Beaumarchais), De Oost-Indien Varer (Arresto), De Verstrooiden (Von Kotzebue), De Echtgenoot Kluizenaar (Von Kotzebue) and Tot Middernacht, of List tegen List (Dumaniant).

In 1825: De Burger Edelman (Molière/Boniface), Luim en Goedhartigheid (Bindseil), Het Misverstand, of Elk is Een Dief in Zyne Nering ("K"), De Vrouw met Twee Mannen (Pixérecourt), Limaçon de Dichter (Von Kotzebue/Boniface), De Papegaai (Von Kotzebue), Het Huwelyk van Jocrisse (Guillemain/Fallée) and The Liar (Foote).

In 1826: Het Toegemetselde Venster (Von Kotzebue) and De Twee Grenadiers, of Het Misverstand (Patrat)

In 1827: The Fashionable Lover (Cumberland) and Botheration, or A Ten Year's Blunder (Oulton)

In 1828: Lodoiska (Kemble).

The theatre company Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense in Grahamstown

Grahamstown had a Theatrical Amateur Society [sic], or Grahamstown Amateur Company which used the same motto in the years 1837-1839.

According to Laidler (Annals, p. 40, cited in F.C.L. Bosman, 1928: pp. 388-390) they apparently produced the following plays:

In 1837: The Rivals (Sheridan) and Bombastes Furioso (Rhodes);

In 1838: The Castle Spectre, or The Ghost of Evelina (Lewis); The Rivals (Sheridan); Bombastes Furioso; Chrononhotonthologos (Carey); The Spectre Bridegroom (Moncrieffe); The Midnight Hour (Inchbald); Love Laughs at Locksmiths (Colman Jr); Fortune's Frolic and (possibly - though Bosman disputes this) the song Kaatje Kekkelbek. (However, there is some difference of opinion Bosman and Laidler on whether the works listed by Laidler for 1938 were performances done in Cape Town - as claimed by Laidler- or that at least some of them were actually performed in Grahamstown - as argued by Bosman).

In 1839: The Innkeeper of Abbeville (Fitzball); Love, Law and Physic (Kenney)



F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [3]: pp. 79, 118, 122, 134-141, 161, 165, 174, 178, 209, 233, 256, 274-299, 341, 359, 360, 363, 366, 369, 372-379, 388-9.

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

P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

P.W. Laidler. 1926. The Annals of the Cape Stage. Edinburgh: William Bryce.

[TH, JH]

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