Special Collections & Archives

Dion Boucicault Collections

London Assurance

Accession code: UKC/CALB/LON

London Assurance, a comedy in five acts, written when Dion Boucicault was 21, was his first play to be produced, and his first great success. The play was first performed by Charles Mathews and Madame Vestris's company at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London, March 4, 1841. The play's first title was Out of Town, but it was renamed London Assurance before the first production.

London Assurance at St. James's Theatre, 1913

Characters in the play

  • Sir Harcourt Courtly
  • Max Harkaway
  • Charles Courtly
  • Mr. Adolphus "Dolly" Spanker
  • Dazzle
  • Mark Meddle
  • Cool
  • James (Simpson)
  • Martin
  • Solomon Isaacs
  • Lady Gay Spanker
  • Grace Harkaway
  • Pert

Plot

London Assurance is essentially a comedy of manners, centring on the contrast between town and country.

Act 1 begins with Charles, the son of Sir Harcourt Courtly, returning home after a night of excess, accompanied by a man called Dazzle. With the help of the valet Cool he avoids running into his father, who believes Charles is a sober and studious young man who drinks nothing stronger than barley water. Sir Harcourt, a fop of sixty-three who tries to pass for forty, is engaged to marry Grace, the young niece of his old friend, Max Harkaway, a country squire. Grace is young, beautiful, and rich - a very desirable match for Sir Harcourt. The girl, on the other hand, must marry Sir Harcourt or forfeit her inheritance, which, if she refuses, will revert to Sir Harcourt's heir - Charles. The squire has come to visit Sir Harcourt to discuss wedding arrangements; Dazzle manages to get himself invited to the squire's seat, Oak Hall, in Gloucestershire, and Charles is easily persuaded to join Dazzle on his trip to the country in order to escape his creditors.

Act 2 sees Charles and Dazzle arrive at Oak Hall, where Grace has just explained to her maid Pert that love is simply an "epidemic madness" and that she will be perfectly content to marry Sir Harcourt, as a "young husband might expect affectation and nonsense". Charles, who does not know of his father's involvement, immediately begins to court her, while Dazzle makes the most of any opportunity to freeload. Then Sir Harcourt arrives, and Charles pretends he does not know him, assuming the name of Augustus Hamilton.

In Act 3, the situation is further complicated by the arrival of Max's daughter, the boisterous Lady Gay Spanker, and her exasperatingly meek husband "Dolly". Sir Harcourt is instantly infatuated with Lady Gay, while Grace begins to fall for Charles/Augustus. When Lady Gay walks in on a passionate scene between the two young people, she is easily persuaded by Charles to keep Sir Harcourt occupied by leading him on.

In the final two acts the plot thickens further. Augustus departs and returns as Charles, telling Grace that Augustus has been killed to test her feelings; Lady Gay and Sir Harcourt plan an elopement; and Dolly challenges Sir Harcourt to a duel. However, all complications are finally resolved. The two young people get to marry, which also means that the money will fall to them, Lady Gay and Dolly are reconciled, Sir Harcourt finds out that his son is a rake, and finally admits that the "gentlemanly ease" of the country is preferable to urbanite "assurance". The only remaining riddle is the identity of Dazzle, who admits that he himself has no idea who he really is.

Productions of London Assurance

Production 1
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, Bow Street, Westminster, London, England
4.3.1841

Production 2
Theatre Royal, Williamson Square, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
26.7.1841 - 30.7.1841

Production 3
Theatre Royal, Haymarket, Westminster, London, England
29.7.1876

Production 4
Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, London, England
17.11.1890

Production 5
St. James's Theatre, King Street, Piccadilly, London, England
27.6.1913

Production 6
Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, Westminster, London, England
23.6.1970

Production 7
Palace Theatre, Broadway, New York, New York, United States of America
5.12.1974

Production 8
Cork Opera House, Emmet Place, Cork City, County Cork, Eire
25.2.1975

Production 9
Leeds Playhouse, Calverley Street, Leeds, Yorkshire, England
10.11.1988

Production 10
Theatre Royal, Haymarket, Westminster, London, England
13.12.1989

Related Material

Printed edition
Item number: F190281
Dick's edition, Calthrop Boucicault Collection.

Printed edition
Item number: F190280
Calthrop Boucicault Collection.

Printed edition
Item number: F190279
Samuel French's edition, Calthrop Boucicault Collection.

Printed edition
Item number: F179519
Methuen's Theatre Classics edition, Reading-Rayner Collection.

Printed edition
Item number: F179518
Samuel French's edition, Reading-Rayner Collection.

Printed edition
Item numbers: 0590534, 0590532, 0590533
Samuel French's edition, Pettingell Collection.

Printed edition
Item numbers: 0596867, 0590204
Dick's edition, Pettingell Collection.

Printed edition
Item numbers: 0596883, 0590530, 0590531
Lacy's edition, Pettingell Collection

University of Kent - © University of Kent

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 764000t the Library | Give Library feedback | Library Regulations

Last Updated: 02/02/2018