An Irish Engagement;
A Farce in One Act
This classic Victorian farce, which debuted at the Marylebone Theatre on September 21, 1848, was written by Walter Watts, the manager of that establishment. The part of Tim Rafferty seems to have been created by Watts especially for Irish comedian James Hudson. In 1848, Hudson was on a whirlwind tour of London. Watts was only able to secure a one-week contract with him for the Marylebone between engagements at the Adelphi, Haymarket, and Drury Lane theaters. “An Irish Engagement” was a new and novel vehicle for the comedian that drew his fans to the out-of-the-way Marylebone. In surprisingly workman-like manner for a novice playwright, Watts sat down and hammered out a short farce that gave Hudson forty-five unfettered minutes to play his schickt to the delight of the crowd.
A reviewer from The Atlas summarized the play’s plot as follows in 1848;
Mr. Bullfinch has betrothed his daughter to a gentleman from Tipperary, whom he has never seen, while the young lady has, of course, chosen a lover for herself in the person of a Captain Foxlove. This gentleman hits upon the expedient of making his Irish servant, Tim Rafferty, personate the absent lover, and so to disgust the old gentleman and make him break the contract.1
Original London Cast
MB. M'CARTHY.— Green coat— yellow waistcoat— black trousers — white hat.
CAPTAIN FOXLOVE.— 1st. Military undress. 2nd. light blue livery coat — top boots.
TIM RAFFERTY.— 1st. light blue livery coat— top boots. 2nd. Dress coat, gilt buttons — top boots— Opera hat.
JULIA. — A white muslin dress.
NORAH. — Stuff gown, looped up— mob cap.
“An Irish Engagement” was part of a full evening of performances featuring James Hudson. According to the following review, it sent the audience home very happy;
Last evening the entertainments afforded him excellent scope for showing his varied comic powers; and they appeared to be thoroughly and completely relished by his hearers. In the laughable drama of The Nervous Man, his performance of the part of M’Shane was particularly rich… An Irish Engagement also affords capitol opportunity for some very ludicrous and entertaining acting… The house was well-attended and the evening’s proceedings passed off with some spirit.2
A dramatic reading of the play is available at Librivox
Further Reading on this Play
Anna Cora Mowatt and the Luck of the Irish - Discussion of the origins of the play as a vehicle for comedian James Hudson
Anna Cora Mowatt and Walter Watts’ Irish Engagement literary analysis of the play
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