Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 3. Dion Boucicault; John Brougham

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVIII. The Drama, 1860–1918

§ 3. Dion Boucicault; John Brougham

When 1860 dawned, Dion Boucicault (1822–1890) and John Brougham (1810–1880) reigned supreme in American popularity, and they were both Irish. The former had yet to do his most popular and characteristic pieces, in which he won deserved success both as an actor and playwright: to read Jessie Brown; or, The Relief of Lucknow (Wallack’s Theatre, 22 February, 1858) and The Colleen Bawn (Laura Keene’s Theatre, 29 March, 1860), and to compare them with the later Arrah-na-Pogue; or, The Wicklow Wedding (London, 22 March, 1865) and The Shaughraun (Wallack’s Theatre, 14 November, 1874), is to sound the genial depths of a flexible workman, who could find it as easy to shape a drama for Laura Keene as to re-fashion Charles Burke’s version of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle for presentation by Jefferson (London, Adelphi, 4 September, 1865). One would say of Boucicault, as one would claim of John Brougham, that his local influence was due to local popularity rather than to any impetus he gave to native drama. While Brougham’s Po-ca-hon-tas; or, The Gentle Savage (Burton’s Lyceum, 24 December, 1855) and his Columbus et Filibustero (Burton’s Lyceum, December, 1857) exhibited the good-nature of his irony; while his dramatizations of Dickens’s David Copperfield and Dombey and Son were in accord with the popular taste that hailed W. E. Burton’s Cap’n Cuttle—these dramatic products were exotic to the American drama, while reflecting the fashion of the American stage.