Barrington Prologue

Scope and Content

Manuscript of the poem 'The Barrington Prologue', allegedly declaimed by notorious pickpocket George Barrington on the opening of Australia's first theatre in 1796. The poem is written on a folded sheet of paper watermarked 'Edmeads & Pine, 1800'. The file includes an explanatory [21st century] note added by book-seller Ian Marr Rare Books.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Barrington, born George Waldron, was romanticized in his own lifetime as a gentleman thief. Following an instance of juvenile delinquency which saw him abscond from school, George Waldron fell in with a group of travelling players in Drogheda, led by John Price, a theatrical swindler and pickpocket, who schooled the boy in both acting and felony. Waldron changed his name to suit his new profession as an actor, and as George Barrington became notorious in Dublin and London for his combination of rakish charm and reckless criminality. His career thrived in London, where he managed to dazzle his way out of a series of convictions, until finally he was sentenced to seven years' transportation in 1790 for the theft of a gold watch. In the colony, his likeable disposition soon earned him increasing levels of liberty, until, with an absolute pardon, he was appointed superintendent of convicts in Parramatta, New South Wales. There he died of infirmity in 1804. Through various appeals for clemency throughout his career, Barrington had earned a reputation as an eloquent speaker and fluent writer, and after his conviction, London and provincial publishers seized the opportunity to circulate material under his name. These included 'An Impartial and Circumstantial Narrative of the Present State of Botany Bay' (1793-4) and 'The History of New South Wales, including Botany Bay' (1802). These publishers also attributed a series of picaresque adventures to their 'author', including Barrington's alleged quelling of a shipboard mutiny, and his performance of the prologue of Edward Young's tragedy 'The Revenge'.

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