Dickens's tactic of having a dramatic adaptation of his novel published and registered in 1861 (for the moment, whether he wrote that version himself, or merely commissioned it is not important) seems to have been effective in keeping adaptations of Great Expectations off the British stage until after his death. While the first adaptation of Great Expectations did not hit the London stage until 1871 --that by W. S. Gilbert at the Court Theatre, four dramatic adaptations appeared in America hard on the heels of the last instalment of the novel in August, 1861. In 1872, Shafto Scott's adaptation was performed by a cast of reputable American actors, including John Parselle as Magwitch, John Clarke as Joe Gargery, Ada Dyas as Biddy, and H. J. Montague as Pip grown-up. Five years later, Scott's adaptation was revived in Newark, New Jersey.

Conclusion of Act Three, Scene Two: at Jaggers' Offices in Little Britain, pp. 16 through 17

Pip. I believe he had nothing to do with it. His being the lawyer of my patron and Miss Havisham is a coincidence.

Her. Well, that is neither here nor there. By your letter you tell me Magwitch is intent upon various new expenses--horses, carriages, and---

Pip. He must be stopped somehow.

Her. You mean you can't accept these gifts?

Pip. How can l--and yet he's so terribly attached to me! Was there ever such a fate? But there's no raving off the question--what's to be done?

Her. The main thing to be done is to get him out of England. You'll have to go with and---

Pip. But get him where I will, could I prevent his coming back?

Her. My good Pip, we must have some pretext touching his former life to get him away.

Pip. I know nothing of his life. It has made me mad to see him before me, so bound up with my fortunes, and yet so unknown to me, except as a miserable wretch who terrified me one day in my childhood.

Her. You feel convinced you can take no further benefits from this man?

Pip. Fully.

Her. And that you must break with him?

Pip. Can you ask me?

Her. And that you have tenderness for the life he has risked on your account?

Pip. Yes.

Her. Then leave the work to me. I have just found an idea that I think will extricate you from every difficulty. I am going to set about it now, and before long you shall know the result.

[Exit, R.

Pip. Poor Herbert! he has spoken words of encouragement, and I will hope for the best. in the meantime, should Magwitch be recognised, I feel I am the wretched cause, however innocently.

ESTELLA enters, R.

Est. I am not mistaken--I think these are Mr. Jaggers' offices?

Pip. Estella!

Est. You seem surprised to see me! That is somewhat singular, since you have had advice that I was coming to London.

Pip. I was quite aware of the fact, Estella; but as the communication specified no particular date, I may well appear moved at your arrival.

Est. I am but a dependant, like yourself, and have no choice but to obey instructions.

Pip. This freezing demeanour is painful to me, Estella, since you know I love you!

Est. I know that you were induced to hope that Miss Havisham meant us for one another.

Pip. By these words you would convey that I have no hope!--but come what may, I still shall love you.

Est. When you say you love me, I know you mean, as a form of words-- nothing more; you address nothing in my breast--you touch nothing there.

Pip. You despise me!

Est. It has not come to that; but there is an insurmountable barrier to our union. If we cannot be lovers, we can at least be friends. Come, here is my hand. Shall we part on this?

Pip. Oh. Estella! must this be?

Est. Nonsense! this will pass in no time.

Pip. Never.

Est. You will get me out of your thoughts within a week.

Pip. Out of my thoughts? Estella, you are a part of my existence. You have been in every line l have read since I came to Miss Havisham's. You have been in every prospect--on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the Marshes, in the light, and in the darkness. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more impossible to be displaced by your hand than your influence and presence have been to me.

(Jaggers listens at back, R.)

Est. Whatever I may appear in your eyes, believe me, there is more good than evil in my character. Associate with this unavoidable separation only the good, and that I feel now what sharp distress is. I would say more, but cannot, and must hasten to the summons attending me. Goodbye--God bless you Pip!

(Exit, R.--Pip sinks into a chair.--Jaggers regards him.

Jag. (After a pause.) When you have perfectly recovered yourself, I may be induced to say a word or two.

Pip. (Rising hastily.) Oh, sir! if you can raise the veil which enshrouds Estella, you will merit my everlasting gratitude.

Jag. Keep your seat--I will do the same. (They seat themselves.) Your head is cool, Mr. Pip?

Pip. Oh, yes, quite.

Jag. You feel there is nothing to worry you.

Pip. No; I am prepared for what you have to tell me.

Jag. Let me feel your pulse--slightly feverish, but tolerably regular. I may begin.-ill. It seems that your patron--for I must preface my tale with his name, before I tell you Estella's--formed a singular attachment, and it seems that the woman--the object of this attachment--was a young woman, and a revengeful woman to the last degree.

Pip. To what last degree?

Jag. Murder! Stay, when I say "murder"--she was tried for it--the deed may not have merited quite so terrible a name, but she was tried for it! She was defended by me, and the reputation of that defence first made me known to Abel Magwitch, your present patron. It was another and stronger woman that was the victim, and there had been a struggle in a barn. Who began it, or how fair it was, is doubtful; but how it ended is not doubtful, for the victim was found throttled!

Pip. Was the woman brought in guilty?

Jag. No! she was acquitted, and she and your patron, Magwitch, had a little child, of whom he was very fond. On the eve of the night when the object of her jealousy was strangled, the young woman presented herself to your patron, Magwitch, and she came to swear that she would destroy the child.

Pip. Did she keep her oath?

Jag. There comes the darkest part of the matter. She did!

Pip. I want to know, and particularly, Mr. Jaggers, if Magwitch told you when this happened?

Jag. Particularly, you say, Mr. Pip! I must here beg of you to understand that I am not treating the points in question in a professional light. I am merely actuated by a friendly feeling, for which I am not paid. If my memory serves me truly, the expression of your patron, Magwitch, was this, "A round score of years, say fourteen or

[17]

fifteen--a little more--or not so much." How old were you when you came upon him in the churchyard on the Marshes?

Pip. I think in my seventh year!

Jag. .A.h! And it had happened three years your patron, Magwitch, said; and you bl into his mind the little girl he had so tragically lost.

Pip. Mr. Jaggers, you have hitherto avoided my glance. May I ask a favour--that you look me, stare me, in the face, if you will?

Jag. Certainly, Mr. Pip. I do look at you!

Pip. Touch me?

Jag. Certainly, Mr. Pip. I do touch yon!

Pip. You are not afraid that I am in any fever?

Jag. I do not profess physic, but the law!--but I may affirm you have no fever.

Pip. Yon think my head is not disordered. I am of sound mind?

Jag. No, you are somewhat excited, but I am ready to admit in any court of justice that you are quite yourself.

Pip. I know I am quite myself; and I know, in spite of your innuendoes and blandishments, that the man who lavishes so much treasure on me, is the father of the dear girl I love!

Jag. Precisely! Just so!

Pip. Miserable Pip! Estella is, then, the daughter of a convict! The child of a crime! Oh! Fate you have done your worst, and you can pursue me no longer!

(Pip faIls into a chair, and, at the same moment, MAGWITCH runs in breathless. He closes the door, R., through which he has entered, and firmly bolts it.)

Mag. (Seeing Pip.) Don't take on so, on my account, dear Pip; but it can't be helped; but the beaks has got an inkling of my getting away, and is now on my track. I only wants stowage till the hue and cry is over, and I dare say Mr. Jaggers will give you a helping hand?

Jag. What you ask of me is impossible. My reputation professionally and morally would impaired, were it known that I had assisted in the escape from justice of a felon.

Mag. What! arter all that has passed atwixt and atween you and me, Mr. Jaggers, you don't mean to say as how you intends to give me up?

Jag. Don't misunderstand me -- I have no intention; but surely you can find means of helping yourself, without compromising me!

Mag. If a mere varmint ain't too inquisitive, might I ask what them here means might be?

Jag. I presume yon have observed that there are two doors in the room, the one by which you entered--(points to door, R.)--and the other---

Mag. By which I may get out, eh? Good! (Goes to door, L.) Where does this 'un lead to?

Jag. To the lower leads of a neighbouring house.

Mag. Where then?

Jag. To a slanting roof and a wall.

Mag. With a drop, I suppose?

Jag. Of eighteen feet.

Mag. Well--does it lead into a street?

Jag. Yes, and an unfrequented one.

Mag. Then I'm off like a shot, for I've double such a bit in the bush. Those who has "nosed" me won't be long afore they're here; so I'll make myself scarce at once! Good-by, Pip, dear boy. I must leave, but we shall see each "ag'in" soon. I've been with your pals, Herbert and Joe Gargery, and here's what's to be done! (Gives paper.) I'm a going down the river, where there's a ship waiting to take me; you can follow arter, at your convenience. Eh! I hears 'em--the traps--can't stay Cast list; so, good luck! God-- God bless you!

[Rushes through door,L.--Jaggers unbolts door, R., and the POLICE, with a SERGEANT, enter almost immediately on the steps of Magwitch.

Ser. There is an escaped convict said to be harboured in your office, Mr. Jaggers?

Jag. But you have ocular demonstration that he is not here!

Ser. Perhaps not; but he's on the premises.

Jag. If you have suspicion, you had better search them.

Ser. (Goes to door, L.) Locked!--key inside:-- he's making for the housetops. Force the door! (Goes to window. Right! There is my nabs, clambering over the pantiles. (Opens window, and calls.) Hi! stop there! your game's up! We want you, and must have you. No answer! then I must wing before you fly with another feather!

(Fires through window. During the above the door has been forced, and the Characters go out in pursuit.)

SCENE III.--An old SIuice-House on the Banks of the Thames.

ORLICK discovered--his dress and appearance entirely changed since he was last seen.

Orlick. When I was a youngster, I've often heard my old mother say "that crime makes cowards of us all." I didn't believe it then, but now I find she uttered a truthful proverb. Though days and weeks have passed since I took Mother Gargery's life, it seems but a few hours have elapsed. I can't her eyes from me, or stifle her cries. I'm awful miserable, and would be glad to give myself up, only I can't abide to think of what will become o' me when I'm t'other side of the grave. I've been a dozen different things to escape detection--such navvy on the line, a hawker, a gipsy--but not one on 'em seemed to be safe. I've now got charge of this sluice-house; it's a better security than the other places, 'cos it's so far off, and nobody comes here. Yet I've a strange fancy that here I shall meet my death. (Distant holloa.) Eh! what's up? A boat entangled in the river rushes, and the rower making for the sluice-house. Perhaps he's got money about him? I want some! Perhaps he won't give it up? Then I must make him. But what says conscience? Hang it! the proverb's wrong--it's conscience, not crimes, that makes cowards of us all. (Retires.)

Pip. (Entering, R.) Could anything be more unfortunate! To think that at the moment when time is such an object to me that my boat should have stranded. If I do not meet Magwitch at the appointed hour, he will certainly fail to keep his appointment, and the vessel will sail without him.

Orlick. (At back.) Yes, I ain't mistaken--it's Pip, sure enough!

Pip. Without assistance, I can't get the boat off, though I've shouted loud enough to raise the dead, I have only got an echo for my answer. The place seems as deserted as the wilds of Africa.

[18A: MY UNKNOWN FRIEND]

Orlick. It's very lonely, ain't it? Ha, ha, ha!

Pip. Oh, something human at last! You are welcome, my good fellow, for I've been calling in vain for some one during the last half hour!

Orlick. Yes, I heard you! Ha, ha, ha!

Pip. You treat the matter as a jest. I can assure you it is no laughing matter for me. I am on business that requires the utmost despatch, and I have met with a mischance that most provokingly delays me.

Orlick. That's awkward, ain't it? Ha, ha, ha!

Pip. Why do you grin, man, in that odious manner? One would think you were pleased at the accident.

Orlick. Perhaps I am! Ha, ha, ha!

Pip.  Oh! I see, you are pleased at the prospect of a gratuity. Well, I shall pay you well for the assistance.

Orlick. I shall render you no assistance, because I've an object in view that I've been hot in tracing out.

(Orlick extinguishes the light -- total darkness. Orlick closes the door at back, and as Pip is groping about he is caught by a strong noose thrown over his head. A faint moonbeam here lights the scene).

Now I've got you!

Pip. What is this? Help! help! help!

Orlick. (Fastening Pip to a ladder, L. U. R.) Now, just call out again, and I'll finish you. (He continues to bind Pip more securely.) Now I think you're safe enough. Ha, ha, ha! (Orlick gropes about for a tinder-box, strikes a light, and re-lights his lamp, after which he sits and regards Pip.) I see you don't know me--not surprised at that, in this here disguise of mine. I'm Orlick--old Orlick,! Ha, ha, ha!

Pip. Orlick!

Orlick. Yes, Orlick! Now, then, as I said afore, I've got you!

Pip. Unbind me! Let me go!

Orlick. Ah! I'll let you go ! Let you go to the moon -- to the stars -- all in good time.

Pip. Why have you done this?

Orlick. (With a deadly look.) Donıt you know?

Pip. Why have you set upon me in the dark?

Orlick. Because I mean to do it all by myself. One can keep a secret better than two! (Pip watches Orlick in silence as he takes out a gun.) Do you know this here gun? (Making as if he would aim at Pip.) Do you know where you saw it afore? Speak, wolf!

Pip. Yes!

Orlick. You cost me that place, you did--and that would be good enough, without more! How dare you come atwixt me and that young woman I liked?

Pip. When did I?

Orlick. When didn't you ? It was allus you as give Orlick a bad name to her. So I tell you what I'm going to do for it--I'm going to have your life! I'll have no more on you‹-you're dead! More than that, Orlick won't have a rag on you--he won't have a bone on you left on earth! I'll put your body in the lime-kiln, and let people suppose what they may of you. They shall never know nothing.

Pip. Monster! It is not the cruel death I fear, but the consequences. Estella will believe I have deserted her father, and people will be taught to despise me.

Orlick. Now, wolf, afore I kill you, like any other beast--which is wot I mean to do, and wot I've tied you up for--I'll have a look at you.

Pip. If your work be murder, complete it at once, and show that your savage nature has at least one spark of mercy!

Orlick. Shan't hurry, 'cos old Orlick is going to tell you a somethink. It was you as did for your shrew sister.

Pip. It was you, villain.

Orlick. Warn't I worried to it by you! You was favoured--old Orlick was bullied--now you pays for it! Now, I'll tell you something more, wolf, and this ends it. When I come to find that your uncle Provis--as Magwitch chooses to call hisself--had wore the leg-iron, I says there's them as is as good a match for you as your pretended nephew. Let him 'ware of me! Let him 'ware 01 Let him 'ware of his enemy! When no man can find a rag on your clothes, nor yet a bone on your body--there's them as can't and won't have Magwitch alive in the same land with them, and that's had sure information of him, when he was alive in another land. Perhaps it' s them as can give him up, and send him to the gallows?

Pip. Villain, my resolution shall not desert me. To your confusion, know that I hear voices not far distant, and that, if you kill mc, I shall die with the satisfaction of believing that you will not escape punishment.

Orlick. Ah! Lights on the I must make short work of it, then!

Pip. (Shouting with all his might.) Help! help! murder is being done!

(Orlick seizes a stone hammer with a long heavy handle, and is about to strike Pip with it, when the door at back bursts open, and MAGWITCH dashes through it. A desperate struggle takes place--Magwitch is down--OrLick is about to strike, when JOE suddenly appears and wrenches the upraised hammer from him. Orlick receives a terrible blow from the hammer, and manages to stagger through the door, at which HERBERT appears almost immediately. Magwitch follows in pursuit of Orlick.)

Joe. (Observing Magwitch.) Oh, don't hurry yourself, old chap; he won't get much further--leastways, what he are got already ain't not favourable to runnin'. When I comes up with the vagabond, I fancy if I knows anything of "hammering," he won't have a whole bone in his body.

[Follows out after Magwitch.--During the above Herbert has released Pip.

Her. There, Pip--it's all right!

Pip. Yes, Herbert--Thank Heaven!

Her. You have received no injury?

Pip. So injury at all! But tell how has Providence directed you to my rescue?

Her. Finding that you did not keep your appointment, Magwitch refused to go on board the chartered vessel, and insisted on returning to go in search of you, for he said he felt convinced that some accident must have detained you. Arrived at the point facing this shore, we discovered that one of the sculls belonging to your boat had floated to mid-stream; we immediately stopped our course to make inquiries. At that moment your voice attracted our attention, and, guided by the sound, we hurried here.

Re-enter MAGWITCH and JOE.

Mag. He's done for! That scoundrel Orlick won't tell any more tales!

Joe. Yes, Pip; and I've settled the score between us to my perfect satisfaction!

Pip. You have killed him?

Mag. Dead as a door-nail! His skull's shattered into twenty pieces.

Joe. (Flourishing Orlick's hammer, which he still holds in his hand.) And this here pretty little tool's the thing wot did it!

Pip. (To Mag.) The condition to which you have brought me compels me to speak in plainer terms--let the prospect of our separation be my justification for troubling you about yourself. Have you thought of your future?

Mag. No, dear boy, for I've been afraid to think of any future now? [sic]

Pip. But your's cannot be dismissed. You are in great danger, and must not lose a moment of---

Mag. Oh, don't take on on my account, dear boy! I shan't be deserted when it comes to the last, and I feels that you've been more comfortable alonger me since I was under a dark cloud than when the sun shone.

(During the above dialogue, several of the THAMES POLICE have been observed to land and surround the place. --Their OFFICER now advances.)

Her. Our boats lying on the shore have betrayed us

(Magwitch and Pip start on beholding the police.)

Officer. You have a returned convict there!

Joe. I'm no convict, as I knows on!

Officer. Not you with the hammer--the other one; his name is Magwitch--otherwise Provis. I apprehend that man, and call upon him to surrender!

Mag. Don't attempt to lay hands on me!

Officer. Are you rash enough to resist?

Mag. The river rather than the rope.

Officer. You can't pass.

Mag. Two words to that!

(He suddenly snatches the hammer from Joe, and brandishing it, rushes towards the officer, who, drawing his revolver, fires, and mortally wounds his assailant.)

Officer. I call on all present to witness that I fired only in self-defence. My life was threatened by this man while I was in the execution of my duty.

Pip. It was his own act--not yours! Might I speak to him, if he can hear me?

Officer. I have no objection to that.

(Pip leans over Magwitch, who appears to lay [sic] senseless on the stage.--A pause.)

Pip. Are you in much pain?

Mag. I don't complain of none, dear boy!

Pip. You never do complain.

Mag. I needn't now, 'cos it will soon be all over with me; and, somehow, I feel I shan't be sorry when my time comes.

Pip. Dear Magwitch! before you die, I wish to tell you something. Do you understand what I say?

Mag. (Gently pressing Pip's hand.) Yes, yes! Speak out, dear boy!

Pip. You had a child, whom you loved and lost?

Mag. (Speaking with difficulty.) Estella!

Pip. She lived and found powerful friends. She is living now--she is a lady, and very beautiful!

Mag. You love her--ha! ha! She's yours! (Music.) The thought seems to cheer my last moments, and paints scenes of bliss and hope to a repentant sinner!

[The characters group as he appears dying, and the Curtain falls.]

Related Materials

References

Bolton, Philip H. "Great Expectations." Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. Pp. 416-429.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations, ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Scott, Charles Augustus Shafto. My Unknown Friend. A Drama, in Three Acts. Being a Dramatized Version of the Novel "Great Expectations," by the Late Charles Dickens. London: John Dicks, n. d. [1872?] First performed at Wallack's Theatre, New York, 1872. Dicks' Standard Plays, Number 412. London: John Dicks, 313, Strand. N. D.


Victorian Web Theater & Popular Entertainment Charles Dickens Dramatic Adaptations

Last modified 12 May 2004