F. C. Burnand

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From The History of "Punch"

Sir Francis Cowley Burnand (29 November 1836 – 21 April 1917), often credited as F. C. Burnand, was an English comic writer and dramatist.

Burnand was a contributor to Punch for 45 years and its editor from 1880 until 1906. He was also a prolific humorist and writer, creating almost 200 Victorian burlesques, farces, pantomimes and other works. He was knighted in 1902 for his work on Punch.

Life and career[edit]

Burnand was born in London, the son of Francis Burnand, a London stockbroker and his first wife Emma Cowley (a descendant of poet and dramatist Hannah Cowley), who died when Burnand was only eight years old. He studied at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1858.[1] There he founded the Amateur Dramatic Club in 1855, its first dramatic club. He studied to become a priest, converting to Roman Catholicism, which angered his father, who withdrew support. Burnand eventually decided that he had no vocation for the priesthood, and his father then supported his study of law.[2] He practised as an attorney for a short time and later managed a theatre, but his greater interest lay in writing for the stage. He became a prolific dramatist, writing nearly 200 comedies and burlesques.[3]

Burnand as Mr. Punch, Punch's mascot

While still in school, Burnand submitted some illustrations to Punch, one or two of which were published.[4] In the early 1860s, he edited the journal The Glow-Worm. He then joined the staff of Fun, but when that magazine rejected his proposed 1863 literary burlesque of a Reynolds serial, entitled Mokeanna, or the White Witness, he moved to Punch. In 1866, Burnand wrote the burlesque The Latest Edition of Black-Eyed Susan; or, the Little Bill that Was Taken Up, which was based on a three-act melodrama by John Gay called Black-Eyed Susan.[5] A later literary burlesque by Burnand published in Punch was Strapmore, parodying Ouida's Strathmore.[2] He contributed to Punch for 45 years, serving as its editor for 26 years. He took over the editor job from Tom Taylor in 1880 and retired in 1906 when he was succeeded by Sir Owen Seaman.[4]

Burnand banned Punch's early attacks on Catholicism, but he was unable to remove antisemitic jokes. Burnand's later contributions became increasingly wordy and anecdotal, relying on far-fetched puns, but he was a good judge of talent, and under him the paper prospered.[2] In 1888, he acted as publisher of The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith, which is still in print.[4]

In 1860, Burnand married Cecilia Victoria Ranoe (1841–1870), an actress. The couple produced five sons and two daughters. In 1874, he then married her sister, Rosina Payson Jones (d. 1924), a widow who had also been an actress under the name Rosina Ranoe. She had appeared in An Old Score by W. S. Gilbert. They had two sons and four daughters.[4] Burnand lived for much of his life in Ramsgate and was a member of the Garrick Club in London.[3]

After a winter of bronchitis, Burnand died in 1917 at his home in Ramsgate, Kent, at the age of 80. He was buried in the cemetery at St Augustine's Abbey church in Ramsgate.[4]

Early stage works[edit]

Poster for the original production of The Chieftain, 1894

Burnand began to write farces while a teenager at Eton, acting in his plays under the name Tom Pierce.[4] His first professional production was called Dido, a burlesque played at the St. James's Theatre in 1860. This was followed by The Iles of St. Tropez (1860); Fair Rosamond (1862); and The Deal Boatman (1863) among many others.[3] His most memorable early success was Ixion, or the Man at the Wheel (1863), a musical spoof that found audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Other notable early works included an opéra bouffe, Windsor Castle (1865), with music by Frank Musgrave, and punny burlesques, including the very successful The Latest Edition of Black Eyed Susan (which played for 800 performances in London in seasons from 1866 into the 1870s and was revived and toured extensively)[6] and Helen, or, Taken from the Greek, in 1866.[4] Burnand also translated several of Jacques Offenbach's early hits for the London stage.[2]

In 1866, Burnand wrote the comic opera Cox and Box, collaborating with Arthur Sullivan. The opera was based on the farce Box and Cox, written by John Maddison Morton. Cox and Box became a hit and was frequently revived, later becoming a staple companion piece for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and retaining popularity today.[7] Its initial success encouraged its authors to write the two-act opera, The Contrabandista (1867), revised and expanded as The Chieftain (1894), but it did not achieve great popularity in either version. More burlesques followed in 1868, including Fowl Play, or, A Story of Chicken Hazard and The Rise and Fall of Richard III, or, A New Front to an Old Dicky.[4] In 1869, Burnand wrote The Turn of the Tide, which was a success at Queen's Theatre. Dozens of works followed in the 1870s, including Poll and Partner Joe (1871),Penelope Anne (1871)[8] The Miller and His Man (1873; "a Christmas drawing room extravaganza" with songs by Arthur Sullivan),[9][10] Artful Cards (1877), Proof (1878), Dora and Diplunacy (1878, a burlesque of Clement Scott's Diplomacy, an adaptation of Sardou's Dora), The Forty Thieves (1878), Our Club (1878) and another frequently revived hit, Betsy (1879).[2][3] He provided a burlesque of Robbing Roy to the Gaiety Theatre in 1979.[11]

Later stage works[edit]

Drawing of F. C. Burnand from Vanity Fair, 1881

One of Burnand's biggest successes was the satire of the aesthetic movement, which Punch was then attacking, called The Colonel (1881), based on The Serious Family, a play by Morris Barnett. The production ran for an extraordinary 550 performances and toured extensively. It made so much money for actor-manager Edgar Bruce that he was able to build the Prince of Wales Theatre). The Colonel beat Gilbert and Sullivan's similarly themed comic opera, Patience, to the stage by several months, but Patience ran even longer than The Colonel. Oscar Wilde, no fan of Burnand's farces, wrote, in anticipation of seeing Patience, "With Gilbert and Sullivan I am sure we will have something better than the dull farce of The Colonel...."[12]

For the Gaiety Theatre, London, Burnand wrote a burlesque on The Tempest entitled Ariel in 1883, with music by Meyer Lutz, starring Nellie Farren and Arthur Williams.[13] In 1884, he wrote Paw Claudian, a burlesque of the 1883 costume (Byzantine) drama 'Claudian' by Henry Herman and W. G. Wills, starring J. L. Toole, presented at Toole's Theatre.[2] He wrote several works around 1889 and 1890 with Edward Solomon, including Pickwick, which also had a run in 1894.[14]

In 1890, Burnand wrote Captain Therèse, followed later that year by a very successful English-language version of Edmond Audran's operetta, La cigale et la fourmi (the grasshopper and the ant) retitled La Cigale, with additional music by Ivan Caryll.[15] In 1891, he produced an English-language version of Audran's Miss Helyett, retitled as Miss Decima. Burnand's The Saucy Sally, premiered in 1892, and Mrs. Ponderbury’s Past, debuted in 1895. Burnand's 1897 comic opera, His Majesty, with music by Alexander Mackenzie, did not catch on despite the contributions of lyricist Adrian Ross and a Savoy Theatre cast including Ilka Pálmay, George Grossmith and Walter Passmore.[16] He collaborated with J. Hickory Wood, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1905, on a pantomime of Cinderella, and he was partly responsible for a pantomime of Aladdin for the same theatre in 1909.[3]

Books[edit]

Burnand's best-known book, Happy Thoughts, was originally published in Punch in 1863–64 and frequently reprinted. This was followed by My Time and What I’ve Done with It (1874); Personal Reminiscences of the A.D.C., Cambridge, (1880); The Incomplete Angler (1887); Very Much Abroad (1890); Rather at Sea (1890); Quite at Home (1890); The Real Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1893); and Records and Reminiscences, in 1904.

Personality[edit]

Burnand had a very large circle of friends and colleagues who included William Makepeace Thackeray, Mark Lemon and most writers, dramatists and actors of the day.[2] Comedian George Grossmith wrote: "I think Frank Burnand is the most amusing man to meet. He is brimful of good humour. He will fire off joke after joke, and chaff you out of your life if he gets a chance. His chaff is always good-tempered. No one minds being chaffed by Burnand. I will not sing a song when he is in the room if I can possibly help it. He will sit in front of me at the piano, and either stare with a pained and puzzled look during my comic song, or he will laugh in the wrong places, or, what is worse still, take out his pocket-handkerchief and weep.[17]

Burnand was jealous of rival playwright, W. S. Gilbert, as he felt that he, rather than Gilbert, should have been Arthur Sullivan's collaborator.[4] Burnand used his position as the editor of Punch to publish antagonistic reviews of the plays of Gilbert and refused to give the Savoy Operas reviews in the magazine.[18]

Notes[edit]

Burnand, c. 1870s
  1. ^ "Burnand, Francis (BNNT854FC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Death of Sir Francis Burnand", The Times, 23 April 1917, p. 11, col. F
  3. ^ a b c d e Parker (1914), p. 84
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Stedman, Jane W. "Burnand, Sir Francis Cowley (1836–1917)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004, accessed 6 Oct 2008, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32183
  5. ^ Anthony, p. 78
  6. ^ Black, A & C. "Burnand, Sir Francis Cowley", Who Was Who, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007, accessed 6 Oct 2008
  7. ^ Harris, Roger, ed. (1999). Cox and Box. Chorleywood, Herts., UK: R. Clyde. 
  8. ^ http://archive.org/details/howwemanagedourp00burn
  9. ^ Howarth, Paul. The Miller and His Man at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed January 2, 2013
  10. ^ http://archive.org/details/TheMillerAndHisMan
  11. ^ "Theatrical Humour in the Seventies", The Times, 20 February 1914, p. 9, col. D
  12. ^ Wilde, Oscar. Letter to George Grossmith, April 1881, Complete Letters, ed. Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, New York: Henry Holt, 2000, p. 109
  13. ^ NY Times article that includes a brief review of Ariel
  14. ^ Moss, Simon. Programme and description of 1894 production, Gilbert & Sullivan, a selling exhibition of memorabilia, Archive: Other items
  15. ^ "Lyric Theatre", The Times, 10 October 1890, p. 7
  16. ^ Information about His Majesty
  17. ^ Grossmith, George (1888). A Society Clown: Reminiscences. Bristol/London: Arrowsmith.  Chapter 8
  18. ^ Furniss Harry. The Two Pins Club (1925) London, excerpted in The Gilbert Society Journal, pp. 315-16, vol.1, no.10, Spring 1999.

References[edit]

  • Anthony, Barry (2010). The King's Jester. London: I. B. Taurus & Co. ISBN 978-1-84885-430-7. 
  • Archer, W. Pall Mall Budget 20 December 1894 theatre review
  • Burnand, F. C. Records and reminiscences, personal and general, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (1904)
  • "F. C. Burnand". Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912–1976. Detroit: Gale. 1978. p. 335. 
  • Gänzl, Kurt. The British musical theatre, 1 (1986), pp. 1–6
  • Jacobs, Arthur. Arthur Sullivan: a Victorian Musician (1984)
  • Nicoll, A. Late nineteenth century drama, 1850–1900, 2nd ed. (1959) (vol. 5 of A history of English drama, 1660–1900 (1952–59), pp. 287–92
  • Parker, John, comp. & ed. (1914). Who's Who in the Theatre, 2nd ed. London: Pitman. 
  • Price, R. G. G. A history of 'Punch' (1957), pp. 122–77
  • Purnell, Thomas Dramatists of the present day (1871), chap. 4
  • Punch, 78–119 (1880–1900)
  • Spielmann, M. H. The history of ‘Punch’" (1895)
  • Wearing, J. P. American and British theatrical biography (1979)

External links[edit]