Provincial and American dramatisations of East Lynne were quick to follow the book's publication in 1861. One of the earliest London production took place at the New Surrey Theatre on 5th February 1866 with the American actress, Avonia Jones in the role of Lady Isabel. Wood wrote to Charles Dickens for his suggestions to prevent the production. He responded with some practical advice, but the inadequate contemporary Copyright Laws meant there was little Wood could do to halt the play version.
The immediately succeeding years saw many different adaptations, which all failed to pay any royalties to Wood. The most successful was probably that of T.A. Palmer of 1874. This was first performed in Nottingham on 19th November 1874 with Madge Robertson playing Lady Isabel. This version toured the country with great success.
Productions of East Lynne became less frequent in the twentieth-century but at least three film versions have been made. The first recorded silent version is that with Theda Bara in 1916, and the second with Alma Rubens in 1925. A lavishly-produced early talkie appeared in 1931 with Ann Harding as Lady Isabel, and the respected English stage actor, Clive Brook. This American film was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but failed to clinch the award. Interestingly, 1931 also saw the release of a popular British film farce entitled East Lynne on the Western Front in which soldiers attempt to put on a production of the play.
A more recent adaptation of East Lynne occurred in 1987 - a year which marked the centenary of Wood's death. This took the form of seven hour-long episodes broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and represents the most comprehensive dramatisation ever made of one of Wood's novels. The series was extremely well-acted by an exceptional cast who played it straight, proving that even in the cynical 1980's that Wood's most famous novel could still work effectively as a captivating and engrossing drama.
Each episode was dramatised by Michael Bakewell and directed by David Johnston. Piano played by Martin Goldstein.
Episode 1: 'The Broken Cross' Broadcast 14/6/1987
Mrs. Henry Wood - Rosemary Leach ; Lady Isabel - Moir Leslie ;
Mr. Carlyle - David Collings ; Francis Levison - Anthony Edridge ;
Miss Cornelia - Maxine Audley ; Barbara Hare - Julie Berry ;
Lord Mount Severn - Alan Dudley ; Richard Hare - Kim Wall ;
Justice Hare - Brian Hewlett ; Mrs. Hare - Joan Matheson ;
Emma Vane - Margaret Ward ; Mrs Levison - Sheila Grant ;
Charles - Stephen Hattersley ; Andrew - Andrew Branch ;
Dill - Tim Reynolds ; Wainwright - Paul Gregory.
Episode 2: 'The Keepers of the Dead' Broadcast 21/6/1987 Additional cast:
Lord Mount Severn - Stephen Thorne ; Joyce - Jo Kendall ;
Warburton - Paul Gregory ; Marvel - Susie Brann ;
Vane's Butler - Michael Tudor Barnes ; William Vane - Alexander Goodman.
Episode 3: 'A Chance Encounter in Boulogne' Broadcast 28/6/1987
Wilson - Betty Huntley-Wright ; The Rev. Little - David Garth ;
Little Isabel - Bernadette Windsor ; Little William - Ben Robb.
Episode 4: 'Never to be Redeemed' Broadcast 5/7/1987
Thorn - Paul Gregory ; Young Lord Vane/Pierre - Sean Arnold.
Episode 5: 'The Yearning of a Broken Heart' Broadcast 12/7/1987
Afy - Angela Crow ; Baby Archibald - Alexander Goodman ;
Mrs. Latimer - Pauline Letts.
Episode 6: 'An MP for West Lynne' Broadcast 19/7/1987
Pinner/Dobede - Colin Starkey ; Ball - Peter Acre ;
Bethel - Stephen Harrold ; James - Michael Tudor Barnes ;
Dr. Martin - Tim Munro.
Episode 7: Until Eternity Broadcast 26/7/1987
Mr. Jiffin - Sebastian Stride ; Usher - Pul Gregory ;
Rubiny - Nicholas Goldwyn ; Clerk - David Goodland ;
Judge - Michael Bilton.
Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell's Film Guide. Seventh Edition, London: Grafton, 1989.
Norman Page & Kamal Al-Solaylee, (eds.), East Lynne, London: Everyman, 1994.
Graham Storey, (ed.), The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume Eleven:1865-1867 , OUP, 1999.