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Dion Boucicault

(1820-1890), Actor and playwright; father of Darley George Boucicault (Dion Boucicault Jr)

Dion Boucicault (Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot)

Sitter in 8 portraits
Dion Boucicault was an Irish-American playwright and actor, and was a major influence on the form and content of American drama. Educated in England, he began acting in 1837. His first play was rejected but his second, London Assurance (1841), was a huge success. In 1853 Boucicault moved to New York, where his plays and adaptations were extremely popular. He led a movement of playwrights that in 1856 produced the first copyright law for drama in the United States. His play The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana (1859) caused a sensation with its implied attack on slavery. Boucicault's concern with social themes prefigured the future development of drama in both Europe and America.

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Dion Boucicault, by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company - NPG x1176

Dion Boucicault

by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company
albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s
NPG x1176

Dion Boucicault, by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company - NPG Ax28532

Dion Boucicault

by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company
albumen carte-de-visite, 1874 or before
NPG Ax28532

Dion Boucicault, by Frederick Sem - NPG D957

Dion Boucicault

by Frederick Sem
watercolour and pencil, 1869 or after
NPG D957

Dion Boucicault, by Frederick Sem - NPG D958

Dion Boucicault

by Frederick Sem
watercolour and pencil, 1869 or after
NPG D958

Dion Boucicault (Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot) ('London Assurance'), published by Frederick Arnold, after  Unknown artist - NPG D48305

Dion Boucicault (Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot) ('London Assurance')

published by Frederick Arnold, after Unknown artist
lithograph, published in the Hornet 11 September 1872
NPG D48305

Dion Boucicault (in 'The Shaughraun'), by Alfred Bryan, for  Maclure & Macdonald - NPG D17097

Dion Boucicault (in 'The Shaughraun')

by Alfred Bryan, for Maclure & Macdonald
chromolithograph, circa 1875
NPG D17097

Dion Boucicault ('Men of the Day. No. 268.'), by Sir Leslie Ward - NPG D44099

Dion Boucicault ('Men of the Day. No. 268.')

by Sir Leslie Ward
chromolithograph, published in Vanity Fair 16 December 1882
NPG D44099

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Robert Whelan

09 June 2019, 12:25

This cartoon was published shortly after the premiere of Dion Boucicault's spectacular musical extravaganza Babil and Bijou at Covent Garden on 29 August 1872. It was bankrolled by the Earl of Londesborough and was said to be the most expensive show ever seen in London. The sub-title of the cartoon is therefore sarcastic: far from restoring the national drama, Boucicault was accused of debasing it by feeding the public appetite for spectacle over literary texts. The scene references the famous water-cave scene from Boucicault's melodrama The Colleen Bawn (1860) in which Boucicault, as the loveable rogue Myles-na-Coppaleen, takes a header into the lake to save the drowning Eily O' Connor (the Colleen Bawn). This 'sensation scene' gave rise to the term 'sensation drama' to describe a play that owed its success to a spectacular stunt. London Assurance was the title of the comedy which Boucicault wrote for Madame Vestris and Charles Mathews to perform at Covent Garden in 1841 when he was only twenty.

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