Der Kaufmann Von Londen Oder Begebenheiten Georg Barnwells [ePub]

by George Lillo

George Lillo (3 February 1691 – 4 September 1739)[1] was an English playwright and tragedian. He was a jeweller in London as well as a dramatist. He produced his first stage work, Silvia, or The Country Burial, in 1730. A year later, he produced his most famous play, The London Merchant. He wrote at least six more plays before his death in 1739, including The Christian Hero (1735), Fatal Curiosity (1737) and Marina (1738).[2]

George Lillo was born in Moorfields, or Moorgate, in the City of London.[3] He became a partner in his father’s goldsmith-jewellery business.[2]
Early stage works

Lillo wrote at least eight plays between 1730 and his death in 1739. His first work in the theatre was the ballad opera Silvia, or The Country Burial in 1730. He wrote it in order to reproduce the success of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, but Lillo's play received mixed reviews and only showed for three nights at Lincoln's Inn Fields, in November 1730, and for a one-night revival at Covent Garden in March 1738, reduced to two acts.[3]
Contents page of Lillo's The Works of Mr. George Lillo with Some Account of His Life, 1775

The following year, Lillo wrote his most famous play, The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell (1731), which is considered one of the most popular and frequently produced plays of the 18th century.[3] In October 1831 it was presented by royal command in the presence of George II and Queen Caroline.[3] It was in the genre that came to be called melodrama.[4] In The London Merchant, the subject is an apprentice who struggles with his conscience. He makes an imprudent choice and repents of his vice to attain only the hand of a worthy girl.[5] Lillo redefined the subject of dramatic tragedy and demonstrated that middle and lower class citizens were worthy of tragic downfalls.[6][7] The 17th century ballad about a murder in Shropshire was the historical foundation for the play. Lillo dedicates the play to Sir John Eyles, a prominent member of the merchant class in London, in a letter before the text and plot begins. Lillo's domestic tragedy reflects a turning of the theatre away from the court and toward the town.[8] Dickens introduced "the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell" into his novel Great Expectations.[9]

Lillo revived the genre of play referred to as domestic tragedy (or bourgeois tragedy).[10] Even though the Jacobean stage had flirted with merchant and artisan plays in the past (with, for example, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Heywood), The London Merchant was a significant change in theatre, and in tragedy in particular.[6] Instead of dealing with heroes from classical literature or the Bible, presented with spectacle and grand stage effects, his subjects concerned everyday people, such as his audience, the theater-going middle classes, and his tragedies were conducted on the intimate scale of households, rather than kingdoms.[11][6][7]

Lillo was concerned that plays be morally correct and in keeping with Christian values.[12][13] His next play was The Christian Hero (1735), a retelling of the story of Skanderbeg.[3]
Later years

Later in the decade, Lillo wrote Fatal Curiosity (1737) and Marina (1738).[14] He based Marina on the play Pericles by William Shakespeare.[3] His next play was Elmerick, or Justice Triumphant in 1740, followed the same year by Britannia and Batavia.[14] Lillo adapted the anonymous Elizabethan play Arden of Feversham, which was posthumously performed, first in 1759. It was based on the life of Alice Arden.[14]

In his own day, his later plays, other than Merchant, were only moderate successes, and after his death old style tragedies and comedies continued to dominate the stage.[citation needed] All of Lillo's plays were produced in London, and only three of them produced any profit.

Lillo died at age 48, in 1739, in Rotherhithe, London.



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