Zobeide. A Tragedy. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden. Joseph CRADOCK.

Zobeide. A Tragedy. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden.

London: T. Cadell, 1771.

Octavo, [viii], 80 pp., [iv]; original stitch-holes visible in the gutter, disbound.

Teasing Banks from the stage

First edition of this orientalist fantasy (based on Voltaire's unfinished Les Scythes). Since it provides an odd insight into the fame of Banks and Solander on their still very recent return from the Endeavour voyage (they had docked in July, five months earlier) it must be a contender for having the first theatrical allusion to Cook's first voyage.

First edition of this orientalist fantasy (based on Voltaire's unfinished Les Scythes). Since it provides an odd insight into the fame of Banks and Solander on their still very recent return from the Endeavour voyage (they had docked in July, five months earlier) it must be a contender for having the first theatrical allusion to Cook's first voyage.
Referring to the play's premiere the night before, an anonymous reviewer (London General Evening Post, 10 December 1771) reported that the highlight of the evening was Oliver Goldsmith's prologue, which 'alludes to the discoveries lately made by Dr. Solander and Mr. Banks. The play is supposed a ship; the theatre a strange company, and the audience characterized under the appellation of different animals. Upon the whole there is merit in the Prologue, and the town was too just to withhold the tribute of approbation.'
Banks and Solander were the great heroes of the voyage when it first returned (Magra's unofficial account had already been published with its unauthorised dedication to them for example), but they were subject to endless teasing about the erotic delights of Otaheite. As so often with the eighteenth-century theatre, fuller references and details are scant, but a close reading of the prologue gives wonderful glimpses of the sort of broad farce that one might expect. Spoken by "Mr. Quick, in the Character of a Sailor", it begins: 'In these bold times, when Learning's sons explore / The distant climate, and the savage shore; / When wise astronomers to India steer, / And quit for Venus many a brighter here; / While botanists, all cold to smiles and dimpling, / Forsake the fair, and patiently-go simpling [i.e., gathering plants…]'.
The concluding lines suggestively depict the heroic botanist hoping to "drive a thriving trade", with goods that are "equally fit for gallantry and war." When the offer goes unheeded, he decides he'd "best step back - and order up a sample."
The play ran for a respectable thirteen nights with the famous Mrs Yates in the title role. Its author Cradock moved in exalted literary circles, and was a member of the "Catch-Club" founded by Lord Sandwich.

Price (AUD): $1,350.00  other currencies     Ref: #3903076