Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Falconer, Edmund

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FALCONER, EDMUND (1814–1879), an actor and dramatist whose real name was Edmund O'Rourke, was born in Dublin in 1814, and entered the theatrical profession at a very early age, playing utility parts for many years in the country. In 1850 he undertook the leading business in the Worcester circuit, and his last provincial engagement was in the autumn of 1854 at the Adelphi Theatre, Liverpool, where he acted Hamlet and Three-fingered Jack on the same night. He was introduced to the London public as a writer by his drama called ‘The Cagot, or Heart for Heart,’ brought out at the Lyceum Theatre under Charles Dillon's management, 6 Dec. 1856, with much success. His next piece was ‘A Husband for an Hour,’ produced at the Haymarket 1 June 1857. On 26 Aug. 1858, in conjunction with Mr. Webster, he opened the Lyceum, and put on the stage his own comedy, ‘Extremes,’ which he followed up with another piece, ‘Francesca,’ on 31 March 1859, and in April gave up the theatre. For the Princess's Theatre, London, he wrote ‘The Master Passion,’ first played on 2 Nov. 1859. In Boucicault's drama, ‘The Colleen Bawn,’ produced at the Adelphi 18 July 1860, Falconer undertook the character of Danny Man, which he continued to perform throughout the original run of the piece, a period of 231 nights. In 1861 he again became manager of the Lyceum, and brought out on 19 Aug. his comedy ‘Woman, or Love against the World.’ His greatest hit was, however, made by his Irish drama, ‘Peep o' Day,’ first acted in London 9 Nov. 1861, which enjoyed an uninterrupted career until December 1862. This piece, founded on Banim's novels, ‘John Doe’ and ‘The Nolans,’ was originally played at the Adelphi, Liverpool, under the title of ‘The Green Hills.’ To the Haymarket he contributed two comedies, ‘Family Wills’ and ‘Does he love me?’ in both of which Miss Amy Sedgwick played the heroines. At the Princess's he supplied Charles A. Fechter with the English version of ‘Ruy Blas;’ and the songs of Balfe's operas, ‘The Rose of Castile’ and ‘Satanella,’ and the entire libretto of Alfred Mellon's opera, ‘Victorine,’ were from his pen. He made 13,000l. at the Lyceum, and in 1862, with Frederick Balsir Chatterton, became joint lessee of Drury Lane Theatre, for which he wrote and produced ‘Bonnie Dundee,’ 23 Feb. 1863; ‘Nature's above Art,’ 12 Sept.; ‘Night and Morning,’ 9 Jan. 1864; and ‘Love's Ordeal, or the Old and New Régime,’ 3 May 1865. In addition he wrote ‘The O'Flahertys’ and ‘Galway-go-bragh,’ a dramatisation of Lever's ‘Charles O'Malley,’ in which he himself acted Mickey Free. He attempted to popularise the national drama by the production of ‘Macbeth,’ ‘Cymbeline,’ ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘As you like it,’ ‘King John,’ ‘Henry the Fourth,’ ‘Comus,’ and ‘Manfred;’ but although he employed all the best talent of the day the public did not sufficiently patronise the house, and in 1866, having lost all his money, he retired on 26 Sept., leaving Chatterton sole lessee of Drury Lane. On 19 Nov. 1866 he, however, opened Her Majesty's Theatre with his own five-act drama, ‘Oonagh, or the Lovers of Lisnamona,’ but this piece was a complete failure, and the season suddenly terminated on 30 Nov. He then went to America, and made his appearance at the Olympic Theatre, New York, on 29 April 1867, in his own drama of ‘Night and Morning.’ He remained in America about three years, where he produced three new dramas and an adaptation of one of Ouida's novels, which he called ‘Firefly.’ During his absence his piece, ‘A Wife well won,’ was brought out at the Haymarket Theatre, London. After his return he successfully introduced at the Princess's ‘Eileen Oge,’ an alteration of his drama ‘Innisfallen,’ more popularly called ‘Killarney,’ and another drama called ‘Gra-ma-chree.’ He died at his residence, 28 Keppel Street, Russell Square, London, on 29 Sept. 1879, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. As a delineator of Irish character he will be long remembered, and some of his dramas will continue to be acted while the sentimental view of the Irish peasant remains a cherished idea with so many persons. His first marriage was dissolved; he married secondly a daughter of John Neville, the widow of Mr. Weston, the actor. She died 3 June 1864. He married, thirdly, an American lady, who survived him. Many of Falconer's dramas and librettos have been printed, and he was also the author of ‘Murmurings in the May and Summer of Manhood,’ ‘O'Ruark's Bride,’ and ‘Man's Mission,’ poems, 1865, and of another volume of poems entitled ‘Musings.’

[Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 4 Dec. 1875, pp. 233–4; Pascoe's Dramatic List, 1879, pp. 116–20; Stirling's Old Drury Lane, 1881, i. 273–4; Era Almanack, 1868, p. 21; Era, 5 Oct. 1879, p. 6.]

G. C. B.