The Author


• Who’s Who in the Theatre

• ‘Burnand & Sullivan’

• Wilde on Burnand

• More Burnand Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery


Frontispiece, vol. 2 of Burnand's 'Records and Reminiscences'  
BURNAND, Sir Francis Cowley, cr. 1902; dramatic author, third editor of Punch; b. Nov. 29, 1836; descended on his father’s side from an old Savoyard family, and on mother’s from Mrs. Cowley, the famous dramatic authoress; e. Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge; founded the A.D.C., Cambridge, 1855; called to Bar and practised occasionally; m. (1) Cecilia Victoria Ranoe, a favourite actress, (2) Mrs. Payson Jones, widow; his first farce, written when he was fifteen, played privately at Eton, and publicly at Worthing; one of the most prolific dramatic authors and burlesque writers ever known, nearly 200 works standing to his credit, many of which secured extraordinary success; his first production on the public stage was a burlesque entitled, “Dido,” produced at the St. James’s Theatre, as far back as 11 Feb., 1860; his most notable pieces have been “The Iles of St. Tropez,” 1860; “Fair Rosamond,” 1862; “The Deal Boatman,” 1863; “Ixion, or the Man at the Wheel,” 1863; “Windsor Castle,” 1865; “Black Eyed Susan” (burlesque), 1866; “Cox and Box,” 1867; “The Turn of the Tide,” 1869; “Poll and Partner Joe,” 1871; “Artful Cards,” 1877; “Proof,” 1878; “Our Club,” 1878; “Betsy,” 1879; “The Colonel,” 1881; “Captain Therèse,” 1890; “La Cigale,” 1890; “Miss Decima,” 1891; “The Saucy Sally,” 1892; “Mrs. Ponderbury’s Past,” 1895; in collaboration with J. Hickory Wood wrote pantomime “Cinderella,” produced at Drury Lane, 1905; and for the same theatre, 1909, was partly responsible for the pantomime, “Aladdin”; was on Punch about forty-five years, and as editor he completed his twenty-fifth year in 1905, retiring in 1906; was knighted in 1902; wrote “Personal Reminiscences of the A.D.C., Cambridge,” 1880, and “Records and Reminiscences,” 1904. Address: 18 Royal Crescent, Ramsgate. Club: (London) Garrick.
(Died 21 Apr. 1917; age 80)

(Source: Who’s Who in the Theatre, comp. & ed. John Parker, 2nd. ed., London: Pitman, 1914, p. 84; the final addition is from Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912–1976, Detroit: Gale, 1978, p. 335.)




‘Burnand and Sullivan’

In the 1860s, Burnand collaborated with Arthur Sullivan, providing the libretti for two comic operas: Cox and Box (1866) and The Contrabandista (1867, revised as The Chieftain, 1894). All are available online, via the Burnand page in the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive.




Oscar Wilde on F.C. Burnand and The Colonel

Dear Grossmith, I should like to go to the first night of your new opera [Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience] at Easter ...
With Gilbert and Sullivan I am sure we will have something better than the dull farce of The Colonel. I am looking forward to being greatly amused.

(Oscar Wilde, Letter to George Grossmith [who played Bunthorne in Patience], Keats House [April 1881], Complete Letters, ed. Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, New York: Henry Holt, 2000, p. 109)

... I have also, you will be interested to hear, seen Indians; most of them are curiously like Joe Knight in appearance, ... There are also among them Burnands and Gilberts — in fact Burnand in a blanket and quite covered with scarlet feathers is now trying through the window to force me to buy a pair of bead slippers and making signs to a ruffianly looking Gilbert who is with him to tomahawk me if I refuse.

(Oscar Wilde, Letter to Mrs. Bernard Beere, [?Sioux City, ?c. 20 March 1882], Complete Letters, 152–3)

... [The liar] is the very basis of civilised society, and without him a dinner party, even at the mansions of the great, is as dull as a lecture at the Royal Society, or a debate at the Incorporated Authors, or one of Mr. Burnand’s farcical comedies.

(Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” quoted after George P. Landow’s etext on the Victorian Web from: The Complete Writings of Oscar Wilde, vol. 7, New York: The Nottingham Society, 1909, p. 29 [in The Nineteenth Century, where Decay was first published in January 1889, the comment on Burnand is omitted])