‘Inkle and Yarico’ was a popular eighteenth century story of slavery and love in the Caribbean. A musical version is shortly to be produced in London by Jodie Kidd, the former supermodel, and her father John Kidd (a descendant of Lord Beaverbrook). This musical is based on a play staged by George Colman the Younger in 1787 at the Haymarket. But did you know that the idea for Colman’s play may have been ‘stolen’ from John Thelwall, who handed Colman’s father the manuscript of a play based on the same story just months before the Haymarket production? Thelwall’s version actually corresponds more closely to the original seventeenth century story, and chimes better with modern postcolonial attitudes: it mocks the white colonizers, has powerful female/native/black characters (Yarico and Yahoma), and has the natives turn the tables on the white colonizers in the final scene. (Colman altered the original ending in his version.) A version of Thelwall’s play was performed in Bath in 2007 by Bill Wallis and other actors from the company ‘Show of Strength’ (who had also previously performed Colman’s musical version). Read more about this fascinating story and John Thelwall’s antislavery activities in a new paper by Dr Michael Scrivener.
"A sort of Socratic spirit will necessarily grow up, wherever large bodies of men assemble. Each brings, as it were, into the common bank his mite of information, and putting it to a sort of circulating usance, each contributor has the advantage of a large interest, without any diminution of capital." (John Thelwall, The Rights of Nature, 1796)