The Colonial Conan Doyle: British Imperialism, Irish Nationalism, and the Gothic

By Catherine Wynne | Go to book overview

Afterword

In March 1892, a play arrived on the desk of the great Victorian actor Henry Irving. Entitled A Straggler of '15, it was a patriotic and sentimental piece recording the reminiscences of an old surviving soldier of the Battle of Waterloo. 1 Irving duly gave it to his theater manager at the Lyceum to read, and Stoker later records in his biography of the actor the enthusiasm with which they both greeted the play:

“I think this, I said, “that play is never going to leave the Lyceum. You must own it—at any price. It is made for you.”

“So I think, too!” he said heartily. “You had better write to the author to-day and ask him what cheque we are to send. We had better buy the whole rights.”

“Who is the author?”

“Conan Doyle!”

The author answered at once and the cheque was sent in due course. The play was then named A Straggler of '15. This Irving changed to A Story of Waterloo; when the play was down for production. Later this was simplified to Waterloo. 2

A play was a new departure for the author, who was becoming famous for his detective stories. Similar to his Holmesian success, Waterloo equally struck a chord for a Victorian audience, then at the height of imperial glory. In fact, the one-act play was a remarkable success from its opening night on September 21, 1894, at the Princess Theater in Bristol. It is not surprising, then, that, when called on to perform for the celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Irving should choose Waterloo. 3 Stoker records the event:

In 1897, when representatives of the Indian and Colonial troops were gathered in London for the “Diamond” Jubilee of Queen Victoria, Irving gave a special performance for them. It was a matinée on June 25. The event was a formal one, for it was given by Royal

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