Dion Boucicault was born in Dublin in 1820, the son of a wine merchant of Huguenot extraction. Running away to become an actor in England, he got hooked on playwriting and achieved his first success before he was twenty-one with London Assurance, produced in 1841. Unable to repeat that success, he became an adaptor working for Charles Kean and returned to the stage himself to star in his own version of The Vampire. He quickly became Queen Victoria’s favourite actor.
His first wife having died in mysterious circumstances (it was claimed he had murdered her), Boucicault eloped to the United States with Kean’s ward, the actress Agnes Robertson. For seven years they toured the States, becoming huge box-office favourites, returning to England in 1860 to put on The Colleen Bawn. This became one of the most successful plays of the Victorian era, being performed in almost every city in the United Kingdom and the United States. It made Boucicault a fortune which he promptly lost, something he managed to do throughout his career. His creation of Conn in his play The Shaugraun confirmed his reputation as the best stage Irishman of his time. In 1885, on tour in Australia, he bigamously married a young actress in his company forty years his junior. They eventually settled in New York City where he died in 1890. Boucicault wrote more than 250 plays. He was, quite simply, the greatest dramatist of his age.
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