Edmund Falconer

Edmund Falconer

Edmund Falconer (1814 - 1879) - also known as Edmund O'Rourke - was an Irish-born 19th century poet, actor, theatre manager, songwriter and playwright, known for his keen wit and outstanding acting skills. [cite web|url=http://www.answers.com/topic/edmund-falconer|title=www.answers.com/topic/edmund-falconer ] [Irish Literature Companion. The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature. Copyright © 1996, 2000, 2003 by Oxford University Press]

Early life

Edmund O'Rourke was born in Dublin in 1814. He entered the theatrical world as a child, however he did not achieve fame until he was over 40. The first half of his working life was spent playing in repertory theatre in Ireland and the provinces of England. While working as a jobbing actor, he published his first volume of poems - "Man's Mission" - in 1852. [cite web|url=http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/f/Falconer,E/life.htm|title=www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/f/Falconer,E/life.htm ]

uccess beckons

O'Rourke finally achieved success at the age of 41, when he performed two very diverse roles in Hamlet and the comedy "Three Fingered Jack" on the same night at the Adelphi Theatre in Liverpool in 1854. He received such rave reviews that he never had to tour the provinces again and London beckoned. [cite web|url=http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/rourkeprofiles/edmund.html|title=www.angelfire.com/zine2/rourkeprofiles/edmund.html ]

Two years later he changed his stage name to Edmund Falconer and wrote his first successful play, "The Cagot" or "Heart for Heart". It was the start of his second career, that of a London dramatist. "Heart for Heart" was performed with great success for the first time at the Lyceum Theatre, London, under Charles Dillon's management, on December 6, 1856. The Athenaeum newspaper commented that 'the dialogue is remarkable for noble sentiment, although the verse is not always correct' (13 Dec 1856). His next piece was "A Husband for an Hour", produced at the Haymarket Theatre in June 1857. [Victorian Sensation By Michael Diamond, published by Anthem Press]

Writing and theatre management

The year 1858 saw Falconer translate Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas, which was performed at the Princess Theatre in late 1858. During that same year, he began a profitable collaboration with Michael William Balfe by writing the libretto for his much-loved opera, "The Rose of Castile". He was later to write librettos for several of Balfe's most successful productions, including "Satanella", which was produced at Covent Garden on 20 December 1858, and the popular song "Killarney", which remained a concert-hall favourite well into the 20th century. [cite web|url=http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/articles/230403.htm|title=www.britishtheatreguide.info/articles/230403.htm ]

Falconer, who was said to have had boundless energy, also turned his attention to theatre managing. It was on August 26, 1858, that he took over the Lyceum Theatre in London, sharing the manager's role with "Ben Webster". Falconer was not above using his position to stage his own plays. The first was "Extremes", a comedy of manners, which was performed on his opening night of August 26.

A reporter for "The Times" reviewed the show and said: "The characters are sharply defined and exactly of a kind to be perfectly intelligible to a large audience." Several more of Falconer's own pieces soon followed, including "Francesca" in March 1859.

Falconer gave up his management of the Lyceum after just a couple of years, although he resumed the role once more in 1861. Yet more of his own plays soon followed, including "Woman, Love Against The World" in August 1861 and "Peep 0' Day" in November 1861. It is for "Peep 0' Day", a stage-version of John Banim’s novels John Doe and The Nowlans, that Falconer is probably best remembered. It contained a scene in which the heroine is saved from live burial and ran until December 1862. Meanwhile, he contributed two comedies to the Haymarket Theatre too, "Family Wills", and "Does He Love Me?", both starring Amy Sedgwick.

Fame at last

It was not until 1860 that Falconer managed to dominate the London stage with his acting skills, rather than his writing. In the first production of Boucicault's "The Colleen Bawn" he played the part of Danny Mann, the villain of the piece. The melodrama, staged at the Adelphi Theatre in July 1860, proved hugely popular and ran for 231 nights. Indeed, the show has recently enjoyed revived critical attention amongst academics of that period.

Falconer made £13,000 in profit during his time as manager at the Lyceum, which he used in 1862 to buy a joint lease for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, with Frederick Balsir Chatterton. Between 1863 and 1865 he wrote and produced "Bonnie Dundee", "Nature's above Art", "Night and Morning", and "Love's Ordeal". He also wrote "The O'Flahertys" and "Galway-go-bragh", a dramatization of Lever's "Charles O'Malley", in which he took the part of Mickey Free.

Falconer's attempts, however, to popularise Shakespeare at the theatre proved a dreadful failure. Gambling on The Bard to turn a profit, he directed productions of "Macbeth", "As You Like It", "Henry IV" and "Romeo and Juliet". Despite hiring good actors, audiences were small and, by September 1866, he had lost his money. [cite web|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3BpOKfMbBowC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=%22edmund+falconer%22&source=web&ots=YY7Eqh6IES&sig=-12FVi5jwUNd9s68qrhK7I11ibc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result|title=books.google.co.uk/books?id=3BpOKfMbBowC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=%22edmund+falconer%22&source=web&ots=YY7Eqh6IES&sig=-12FVi5jwUNd9s68qrhK7I11ibc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result ]

Falconer attempted to revive his fortunes by penning a five-act drama, "Oonagh", which was staged at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, in November 1866. It was such a failure, however, that it closed ten days later. By now short of money, he decided to travel to America, where his play "Peep o' Day" had made him famous.

Final years

Falconer spent three successful years in America, where he acted on Broadway and continued with his writing, creating three new dramas. One of his greatest fans was Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer, as can be witnessed in letters written by Twain [http://www.twainquotes.com/18680906.html] . Such was his US success, that publications of his plays went through several editions. He also married an American woman, who was his third wife.

Falconer eventually returned to London in 1871, following the success of another of his plays, "A Wife Well Won", which was staged at the Haymarket Theatre, London, in his absence. A successful production of "Eileen Oge" at the Princess Theatre, London, followed later in 1871, which featured his song "Killarney". Falconer retired from the stage and writing soon after. He died at his home at 28 Keppel Street, Russell Square, London, on 29 September 1879 and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.

Falconer's works

* 1852: "Man’s Mission: A Pilgrimage to Glory’s Goal" (poem) [http://books.google.com/books?id=3EH26Hi8aOEC&pg=RA2-PA1679&lpg=RA2-PA1679&dq=man's+mission+a+pilgrimage+to+glory+s+goal]
* 1855-1860: The Power of Love (ballad) Words-Falconer/music by M.W. Balfe. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.mus-an6573166]
* 1856: "The Cagot" or "Heart for Heart" (play) [http://www.answers.com/topic/edmund-falconer]
* 1857: "The Rose of Castile" (libretto) [http://books.google.com/books?id=uabcxCxcQf8C&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=the+rose+of+castile+falconer&source]
* 1857: "Killarney" (song) Later recorded by John McCormack in early 20th century. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.mus-an5990224] [http://www.mccormacksociety.co.uk/Mccormack/Discography/John%20McCormack%20Alphabetical%20Guide.htm]
* 1862: "Peep o'Day" - otherwise known as "Savoureen Deelish" (play) [http://books.google.com/books?id=5AQ71r_JC6YC&pg=PA162&lpg=PA162&dq=%22peep+o+day%22+falconer&source]
* 1863: "The Bequest of My Boyhood" (poem) [http://books.google.com/books?id=DTAgAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=%22edmund+falconer]
* 1865: "O’Ruark’s Bride: The Blood Speck in the Emerald" (poem)
* 1866: Dramatised Lever’s "Charles O’Malley" as "Galway Go Bragh" (play) [http://library.kent.ac.uk/library/special/html/specoll/stevenson.htm]
* 1871: "Eileen Oge" - or "Dark the Hour Before Dawn" (melodrama) [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0D12F83E5515738DDDAE0894D8415B8485F0D3]

The International Broadway Database ( [http://www.ibdb.com] ) gives the following information for Falconer's performances in America:
* "Heartsease": Original play written by Edmund Falconer - Sep 12, 1870
* "Innisfallen": Original play written by Edmund Falconer- Feb 21, 1870 [http://www.james-joyce-music.com/concert_live.html]
* "The Firefly": Original play written by Edmund Falconer - Nov 22, 1869 (Mark Twain was a huge fan- see [http://www.twainquotes.com/18680906.html] )
* "Charles O'Malley": Original play written and performed by Falconer - Oct 18, 1869 [http://assets.cambridge.org/052182/222X/index/052182222X_index.htm]
* "Fire Fly": Original musical written by Edmund Falconer - Aug 10, 1868 - Sep 5, 1868
* "The Rose of Castile": Revival of libretto by Falconer - Jan 28, 1867 - Jan 31, 1867
* "Satanella": Original musical libretto by Edmund Falconer - Feb 23, 1863 - Mar 14, 1863 [http://www.operone.de/komponist/balfe.html]

James Joyce links

The opera "The Rose of Castille", for which Falconer wrote the libretto, was very popular for several decades after his death. Indeed, it was a favourite of Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce's "Ulysses" (1922) In the novel, Bloom thinks quite a lot about the opera, and it features as one of the motifs of the Sirens episode (chapter 11). Joyce even thinks up a dreadful pun on the title; one of the characters asks which opera has the same name as a train's tracks, and the answer is 'rows of cast steel'. The pun crops up at various points throughout the novel.


* Irish Literature Companion. The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature. Copyright © 1996, 2000, 2003 by Oxford University Press.


External links

* "The Bequest of My Boyhood": [http://books.google.com/books?id=DTAgAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=%22edmund+falconer]
* Details of Falconer's Adelphi days: [http://www.emich.edu/public/english/adelphi_calendar/m73s.htm]
* New York Times article on Falconer from 19th century: [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60D14FC395E137B93C7AB178CD85F428784F9]
* Life and works of Falconer: [http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/f/Falconer,E/life.htm]
* Drury Lane page: [http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~a0fs000/1800/0401.html]
* Adelphi shows: [http://www.emich.edu/public/english/adelphi_calendar/hst1873.htm]

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