It Is Never Too Late To Mend

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The title It Is Never Too Late To Mend (or Never Too Late To Mend) can refer to a number of theatrical works, all of them based on a novel of that name by novelist and playwright Charles Reade (1814-1884)[1] - including one by Reade himself.

Not to be confused with the 1962 Broadway musical Never Too Late by Sumner Arthur Long

The novel (1856)

The novel is based on Gold!, an early play in five acts written by Reade in 1851-2, first performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, on 10 January, 1853 and published by Thomas Hailes Lacy in the same year. The novel, written during 1853 and 1854 and published 1855, though dated 1856. It tells the story of a ruthless squire who becomes obsessed with a younger woman and conspires to have her lover framed and sent to jail. Reade's novel is claimed to have exposed conditions in British jails and contributed to reforms in the 19th century.

There were a number of adaptations of the novel shortly after its appearance, including ones by G. Conquest (1858), C.H. Hazlewood (1859) and Reade himself (1865). The novel was also filmed a number of times over the years.

Stage adaptations of the novel

Never Too Late To Mend a drama by G. Conquest Jr (1858)

One of the earliest adaptations of the novel was done under the slightly adjusted title of Never Too Late To Mend by George Augustus Conquest (1837-1901)[2] for performance at the Grecian Theatre, London

Never Too Late To Mend a drama by Colin Hazlewood (1859)

Another adaptation of the novel was done by C. H. (Colin) Hazlewood (1823-1875)[3] in 1859, also entitled Never Too Late To Mend and referred to it as "a drama of real life in four acts". It was first staged at the Royal Marylebone Theatre and published in Lacy’s Acting Edition of Plays, Vol. 2 in the same year.

It Is Never Too Late To Mend a drama by Charles Reade (1865)

In 1865 Reade himself did an adaptation of the novel as a play in three acts, under the title It Is Never Too Late To Mend. (Also found as It's Never Too Late To Mend or It's Never too Late to Mend, or Gold, Gold, Gold)

The play opened in February 1865 at The Theatre, Leeds, where it played to great acclaim.

Performance history of the various versions in South Africa

1862: Performed as It's Never too Late to Mend, or Gold, Gold, Gold by Clara Tellett and her company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 15 December, with Marriage at any Price (Wooler). The performance given as a benefit for James Leffler, held under the patronage of the Governor's wife, Lady Wodehouse, and R. Southey, the Colonial Secretary.

1882/3: Performed as It's Never too Late to Mend by Mabel Hayes and her company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, as part of season that ran from August 1882 to June 1883. She probably did it in Port Elizabeth as well in the subsequent season.


Joanna Hofer-Robinson and Beth Palmer. 2020. Sensation Drama, 1860-1880: An Anthology, University Press Scholarship Online [4]

Allardyce Nicoll. 1975. A History of English Drama 1660-1900: Late 19th Century Drama 1850-1900 Cambridge University Press: p.842 [5]

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: pp.132, 137, 376

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