Poster for a production of Boucicault's farce Contempt of Court
, c. 1879. From the Library of Congress.
Dion Boucicault and Irene Vanbrugh depicted in a cartoon accompanying a review of a production of A. A. Milne's Mr. Pim Passes By
--- Punch, 14 January 1920
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot (born December 26, circa 1820 – died September 18, 1890) was an Irish actor and playwright.
Though his mother is known, the identity of his father is questionable. His father may have been French; hence the most common spelling of "Boucicault", but Dion appears to have been raised Protestant. He was born and educated in Dublin, Ireland until he moved to London. He was enrolled at University College School at the age of thirteen and also studied for a year at the University of London.
After a year in London, England, Boursiquot/Boucicault left to pursue acting in Cheltenham. He joined Macready while still young, and made his first appearance upon the stage with Benjamin Webster at Bristol, England. Soon afterwards he began to write plays, occasionally in conjunction.
His first play, A Legend of the Devil's Dyke opened in Brighton in 1838. Three years later he found immediate success as a dramatist with London Assurance, produced at Covent Garden on March 4, 1841, with a cast that included such well-known actors as Charles Mathews, William Farren, Mrs Nesbitt, and Madame Vestris. He rapidly followed this with a number of other plays, among the most successful of the early ones being Old Heads and Young Hearts, Louis XI, and The Corsican Brothers, the last two plays being adaptations of French plays.
From 1853 to 1860 he resided in the United States, where he was always a popular favorite. Boucicault and his wife toured the nation and he wrote many successful plays there.
On his return to England he produced at the Adelphi Theater a dramatic adaptation of Gerald Griffin's novel, The Collegians, entitled The Colleen Bawn. This play, one of the most successful of those times, was performed in almost every city of the United Kingdom and the United States, and made its author a handsome fortune, which he lost in the management of various London theatres. It was followed by the anti-slavery play The Octoroon (1859), the popularity of which was almost as great.
After his return to England, Boucicault was asked by the noted American comedian Joseph Jefferson, who also starred in the production of Octoroon, to adapt Washington Irving's Rip van Winkle. He obliged and produced a version of the beloved American classic in 1866 that would make Jefferson one of the most famous and well-respected comedians of his age.
Boucicault's next marked success was at the "Princess's Theater" in 1864 with Arrah-na-Pogue, in which he played the part of a County Wicklow, Ireland carman. This, and his admirable creation of "Con" in his play The Shaughraun (first produced at Drury Lane in 1875), won him the reputation of being the best stage Irishman of his time. In 1875 he returned to New York City and finally made his home there, but he paid occasional visits to London, where his last appearance was made in his play, The Jilt, in 1885. The Streets of London and After Dark were two of his late successes as a dramatist.
Boucicault was thrice married (per IMDB), his first wife being all but unknown; his second wife being Agnes Robertson (1833-1916), the adopted daughter of Charles Kean, and herself an actress of unusual ability who would bear Dion three children (Dion Jr., born in 1859; Aubrey, born in 1868; and Nina (1867-1960) who would all became distinguished in the profession). In 1885, Boucicault suddenly left Agnes to marry a young actress, named Louise Thorndyke, arousing scandal on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Boucicault was an excellent actor, especially in pathetic parts. His uncanny ability to play these low-status roles earned him the nickname "Little Man Dion" in theatrical circles. His plays are for the most part adaptations, but are often very ingenious in construction, and have had great popularity.
He died around the age of 69 in New York City, presumably with Louise Thorndyke, whom he married on September 9, 1885, at his side.
- London Assurance (1841)
- Old Heads and Young Hearts (1844)
- The Corsican Brothers (1852)
- The Vampire (1852)
- Louis XI (1855)
- The Octoroon or Life in Louisiana (1859)
- The Colleen Bawn or The Brides of Garryowen (1860)
- Arrah-na-Pogue (1864)
- Rip van Winkle or The Sleep of Twenty Years (1866)
- After Dark: A Tale of London Life (1868)
- The Shaugraun (1874)
- The Jilt (1885)
- The Poor of New York (1857)
- This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Asimov's Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, Patience, note 31
see also Dion Boucicault by Richard Fawkes, (Quartet books, 1979)
see also Dionysius Lardner (probably Boucicaut's natural father.)
- Works by Dion Boucicault at Project Gutenberg