The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Early Drama, 1756–1860

§ 20. Gothic Melodrama

The Gothic melodrama, illustrated by Dunlap’s Fontainville Abbey, played in 1795, or his Abaellino, performed in 1801, was popular and in it he had a number of followers, some of whom, like S. B. Judah, in his Rose of Aragon, played in 1822, preserved the original meaning of the word Gothic. More interesting, if not more artistic, was the melodrama that dealt with contemporary events, such as Woodworth’s Lafayette or The Castle of Olmutz, played in 1824, the year of Lafayette’s visit to this country. Dunlap’s importation of the domestic drama of Kotzebue had also its effect. Some of the dramas of this class, notably Noah’s Wandering Boys, played first in Charleston in 1812 under the title of Paul and Alexis, were vastly popular. Most important in this class was the genesis of Rip Van Winkle. As early as 26 May, 1828, Thomas Flynn seems to have played a version of Rip Van Winkle in Albany. It was written by an native of Albany In October, 1829, there was produced in Philadelphia a version written in whole or part by John Kerr, in which W. Chapman and later J. H. Hackett played Rip Van Winkle and “J. Jefferson” played Knickerbocker. This version was very popular and was afterward played in New York. A Later play by Charles Burke is an adaptation of this one, with certain changes, notably the preservation of Dame Van Winkle, and the final version of Boucicault and Joseph Jefferson the younger is a development in its turn from Burke’s play.