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This article discusses Thomas Holcroft’s 1798 play, Knave, or Not? in the context of Holcroft’s attempt to negotiate the repressive cultural climate in the latter part of the 1790s. In looking at the different versions of the work—the Larpent manuscript, the staged version and the final published text—I examine the contemporary awareness that informs this play. This awareness resonates textually, in the transition from manuscript to stage and then to page, generically, in the movement between sentimental comedy and melodrama, and thematically, in its expression of relevant cultural issues, including Holcroft’s social critique and his concern with truth and perfectibility as ideological markers.