Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coyne, Joseph Stirling

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COYNE, JOSEPH STIRLING (1803–1868), dramatic author, was the son of Denis Coyne, port surveyor of Waterford, and his wife Bridget Cosgrave, who died at 13 Craven Street, Strand, London, about 1850. He was born at Birr, King's County, in 1803, educated at Dungannon school, and intended for the legal profession; but the favourable reception of a series of light articles written for the periodicals then published in Dublin induced him to change the pursuit of law for that of literature. His first farce, called ‘The Phrenologist,’ was brought out at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, in June 1835, and was so well received that in the following year he produced two farces, ‘Honest Cheats’ and ‘The Four Lovers.’ In 1836 he came to London with a letter of introduction from William Carleton to Crofton Croker, which at once procured him employment in connection with ‘Bentley's Miscellany’ and other magazines, and his name soon became familiar to the reading public. His amusing farce called ‘The Queer Subject’ was brought out at the Adelphi in November 1836, and in the same year he became one of the literary staff of the ‘Morning Gazette,’ a short-lived journal, which was the first cheap daily paper. For the Adelphi he wrote from time to time a number of pieces which became very popular, and there and at the Haymarket most of his more important productions were brought out. Among his best dramas may be mentioned ‘The Hope of the Family,’ ‘The Secret Agent,’ ‘Man of Many Friends,’ and ‘Black Sheep.’ Of his numerous farces the following still keep the stage: ‘Binks the Bagman,’ ‘Did you ever send your wife to Camberwell?’ ‘Box and Cox married and settled,’ ‘Wanted 1,000 Young Milliners,’ ‘The Little Rebel,’ ‘Pas de Fascination,’ and some others. His well-known farce, ‘How to settle Accounts with your Laundress,’ was translated into French and played in Paris at the Vaudeville under the title of ‘Une femme dans ma fontaine,’ and afterwards made its appearance on the German stage. His drama called ‘Everybody's Friend’ was first brought out at the Haymarket on 2 April 1859, when Charles Mathews and J. B. Buckstone appeared in it as Felix Featherley and Major Wellington de Boots. On its reproduction at the St. James's, 16 Oct. 1867, it was renamed ‘The Widow Hunt,’ and the chief parts were taken by Henry Irving and John Sleeper Clarke, since which time it has been repeatedly played at many of the London houses. Coyne's distinguishing attributes were a comic force and nerve and a true sense of humour. Actively contributing during the whole of this time to the newspaper press and magazines, he will also be remembered as one of the literary men who met at the Edinburgh Castle, Strand, London, in June 1841 to agree about the publication of ‘Punch.’ He was among the contributors to No. 1 of that paper on 17 July, but his connection with it was but of short duration (Mr. Punch, his Origin and Career, London, printed by James Wade, pp. 18, 20, 25, 31). In 1856 he was appointed secretary to the Dramatic Authors' Society, and continued to discharge the duties of that office with ability and zeal till within a few days of his decease. During some considerable period he was dramatic critic on the ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper. He lived for many years at 3 Wilmington Square, Clerkenwell, but then removed to 61 Talbot Road, Westbourne Park, London, where he died, 18 July 1868, aged 65, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 21 July. He married, in June 1840, Anne Comyns, relict of Matthew Comyns, and daughter of Wilkins and Margaret Simcockes of Galway. She died at The Green, Richmond, Surrey, on 25 Jan. 1880, aged 68. He was the author of ‘Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland,’ 2 vols. 4to, 1842, which was elaborately illustrated by W. H. Bartlett; ‘Pippins and Pies, or Sketches out of School,’ 1855; and ‘Sam Spangle, or the History of a Harlequin,’ 1866. He contributed to Albert Smith's ‘Gavarni in London,’ 1848, as well as to his ‘Sketches of London,’ 1859, and to a work called ‘Mixed Sweets from Routledge's Annual,’ 1867. He was a most industrious writer, and no year passed in which he did not bring out one or more pieces. At the time of his death he was the author of upwards of fifty-five dramas, burlesques, and farces, besides having written several plays in collaboration with H. C. Coape, Francis Talfourd, and H. Hamilton.

[Era, 26 July 1868, p. 10; Gent. Mag. (August 1868), p. 413; Illustrated Sporting News, v. 252 (1866), with portrait; Sunday Times, 26 July 1868, p. 8; information from his son, E. Stirling Coyne.]

G. C. B.