British Nautical Melodramas, 1820–1850  book cover
1st Edition

British Nautical Melodramas, 1820–1850

ISBN 9781848935648
Published July 3, 2019 by Routledge
1224 Pages

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Book Description

During the 1820s and 30s nautical melodramas "reigned supreme" on London stages, entertaining the mariners and maritime workers who comprised a large part of the audience for small theatres. These plays mixed sentimental moments and comic interludes of domestic melodrama with patriotic images that communicated and reinforced imperial themes.

However, generally the study of British theatre history moves from medieval and renaissance plays directly to the realism and naturalism of late Victorian and modern drama. Readers typically encounter a gap between Restoration and eighteenth-century plays like those of Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and late-nineteenth plays by Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde. Nineteenth-century drama, with the possible exception of plays by Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth, remains all but invisible. Until recently, melodramatic plays written and performed during this "gap" received little scholarly attention, but their value as reflections of Britain’s promulgation of imperial ideology — and its role in constructing and maintaining class, gender, and racial identities — have given discussions of melodrama force and momentum.

The plays included in these three volumes have never appeared in a critical anthology and most have not been republished since their original nineteenth-century editions. Each play is transcribed from original documents and includes an author biography, a headnote about the play itself, full annotations with brief definitions of unfamiliar vocabulary, and explanatory notes. Comprehensive editorial apparatus details the nineteenth-century imperial, naval, political, and social history relevant to the plays’ nautical themes, as well as discussing nineteenth-century theatre history, melodrama generally, and the nautical melodrama in particular. Contemporary theatre practices — acting, audiences, staging, lighting, special effects — are also examined. An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary texts; a complete index; and contemporary images of the actors, theatres, stage sets, playbills, costumes, and locales have been compiled to aid study further.

Table of Contents

Volume I



List of Themes

List of Illustrations

Editorial Procedure

General Introduction



Introduction to Andrew L.V. Campbell

Campbell. Bound 'Prentice to a Waterman
Campbell. Britannia, or, the Female Sacrifice


Introduction to Thomas Dibdin

Dibdin. The Pirate


Introduction to Edward Fitzball

Fitzball. The Floating Beacon
Fitzball. The Flying Dutchman, or, The Phantom Ship
Fitzball. Nelson, or, Britannia Rules the Waves
Fitzball. The Pilot
Fitzball. Tom Cringle, or, Mat of the Iron Hand


Volume II

Introduction to John Thomas Haines

Haines. Breakers Ahead
Haines. My Poll and My Partner Joe
Haines. The Ocean of Life, or Every Inch a Sailor
Haines. Rattlin the Reefer, or, the Tiger of the Sea
Haines. The Wizard of the Wave, or, the Ship of the Avenger


Introduction to Douglas William Jerrold

Jerrold. Descart, the French Buccaneer
Jerrold. The Mutiny at the Nore
Jerrold. Black Eye'd Susan


Volume III

Introduction to William Thomas Moncrieff

Moncrieff. Shipwreck of the Medusa; or, the Fatal Raft


Introduction to W.H. Oxbury & J. Gann

Oxbury & Gann. Midshipman Easy

Introduction to Isaac Pocock

Pocock. Robinson Crusoe and the Bold Buccaneers

Introduction to Charles Somerset

Somerset. The Fall of Algiers, By Sea and Land
Somerset. The Sea

Introduction to Edward Stirling

Stirling. The Cabin Boy

Introduction to Thomas James Thackeray

Thackeray. Penmark Abbey

Introduction to T.E. Wilks

Wilks. Ben the Boatswain

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Arnold Schmidt is Professor of English at California State University, Stanislaus, USA