A: Tom Taylor Pf: 1863, London Pb: 1863 G: Melodrama in 4 acts S: Tea Gardens, May's room, an office, an inn, a street, and a churchyard, London, late 1850s to early 1860s C: 9m, 3f, extrasRobert Brierly, a young Lancashire lad, is tasting the pleasures of London for the first time. He falls easy prey to a pair of criminals, Melter Moss and James Dalton. Dalton lends him money in the form of a forged note. When Brierly changes this for gold sovereigns, he is arrested and imprisoned for four years. A young girl May, to whom he had shown kindness, waits patiently for his release from jail as a ‘ticket-of-leave man’, a form of parole. When Brierly discovers that his forged note caused the ruin of May's loquacious landlady Mrs Willoughby, he secretly repays the money. Brierly and May arrange to marry, and he gets a job as messenger in a brokerage firm. When his employer learns that he is a ‘jailbird’, he is dismissed. Brierly tries to find any kind of employment, but even navvies will not let him work with them. Moss and Dalton imagine that he will now be forced to assist them to rob the firm he was sacked from. Brierly pretends to agree, but betrays them to the police. In a dramatic ending the criminals are apprehended, and the wounded Brierly has his honour restored.
A: Tom Taylor Pf: 1863, London Pb: 1863 G: Melodrama in 4 acts S: Tea Gardens, May's room, an office, an inn, a street, and a churchyard, London, late 1850s to early 1860s C: 9m, 3f, extras
While the action has some spectacularly melodramatic moments, like Brierly's dismissal on the day of his wedding, the police detective's sudden removal of his disguise, and the exciting fight in the churchyard, the play also has a serious underlying theme. This play, based on a French original, shows how a former prisoner (and conveniently Brierly is totally innocent) has virtually no hope of rejoining society and may be forced back into crime.