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Dion Boucicault Collections

The Streets of London/The Poor of New York

Accession code: UKC/CALB/STR

THE POOR OF NEW YORK was written in 1857, while Boucicault was in the United States and desperately in need of money after the birth of his second child. Closely based on "Les Pauvres de Paris" (1856) by Edouard-Louis-Alexandre Brisbarre and Eugene Nus, it was a collaboration between Boucicault and three journalists, Seymour, Goodrich, and Warden - although the bulk of the writing was done by Boucicault - and was first advertised as being "by the **** Club". Popular with 19th century audiences, but derided by critics, it was a play which Boucicault himself admitted was "guano" rather than "poetry". The Poor of New York was first performed at Wallack's Theatre, New York, in 1857. It was revived in 1864 in Liverpool, as THE POOR OF LIVERPOOL, and then frequently adapted to the location where it was to be performed, becoming THE POOR OF MANCHESTER or LEEDS, and then THE STREETS OF ISLINGTON, LONDON, or DUBLIN.

Cast of first London production

Characters in the play

  • Gideon Bloodgood (or Crawley, in some versions)
  • Badger
  • Captain Fairweather
  • Mark Livingstone
  • Paul Fairweather
  • Mr. Puffy
  • Dan Puffy
  • Daniels
  • Edwards
  • Mrs. Fairweather
  • Mrs. Puffy
  • Alida Bloodgood
  • Lucy Fairweather

Plot

The Poor of New York was initially set during the financial panics of 1837 and 1857, although the local and historical details were later frequently adapted to the places where the play was performed. It was the first of Boucicault's plays (like The Octoroon, or Jessie Brown) which tapped directly into the contemporary mood. The play also features a sensation scene, in which a house burns down on stage.

In Act 1, Captain Fairweather decides to deposit his life's savings with the Banker Gideon Bloodgood (Crawley in some versions), not knowing that Bloodgood's bank is about to go bankrupt and Bloodgood himself planning to abscond. The money is accepted and he is given a receipt. At the same time, Bloodgood's clerk Badger is aware of his employer's plans and attempts to blackmail him. Bloodgood pays him off - intending to take Fairweather's money and run - when the Captain returns. He has heard that Bloodgood's bank is in peril and wants his money back. Bloodgood refuses and the Captain dies of an apoplectic fit. While Bloodgood triumphs, Badger pockets the receipt.

Act 2, set twenty years later during another financial panic, shows us what has become of the Fairweather family. The Captain's wife, his son Paul, and his daughter Lucy are living in severely reduced circumstances, lodgers of the good-hearted, but likewise poor Puffy family. Paul has recently lost his job, and Lucy works at a millinery shop. Their friend, the aristocratic Mark Livingstone, who has a romantic interest in Lucy, has likewise become ruined. Meanwhile, Bloodgood has become one of the richest men in the city, lavishing his wealth on his daughter Alida, a spoilt, hard-hearted young woman. He is the Puffys' and the Fairweathers' landlord and presses them for the rent, which neither family can pay.

In the third act, Livingstone appeals to Bloodgood, who is his creditor, for help. Alida, who, in spite of her wealth, has not been received into good society, seeks a well-connected husband. She gets her father to forgive the debt and lend Livingstone further funds, believing that she is buying herself a husband. Discovering that Mark and Lucy are in love, she persuades Lucy to give Mark up rather than see him ruined. Meanwhile, Badger has returned to blackmail Bloodgood for further money, but Bloodgood has him arrested.

Act 4 sees the Fairweathers and Puffys fallen on even harder times. The Fairweathers live in a poor lodging house and are, in fact, Badger's neighbours. Both Mrs. Fairweather and Lucy, unknown to the other, resolve to commit suicide by smoke inhalation, but are rescued by Paul and Mark, just as Bloodgood has come to see Badger to get the receipt back off him. Badger tells Paul that Bloodgood robbed his father of the money, but faints before he can produce the receipt.

In the final act, Bloodgood sets fire to the lodging house to destroy the evidence for his crime, but the reformed Badger rescues the receipt from the burning building. Mark learns of Lucy's bargain with Alida. Bloodgood is arrested, but forgiven by the Fairweathers, whose money is returned to them. Mark and Lucy get married, and the audience is reminded to be kind to the poor of New York, or Liverpool, or London, or Dublin...

Productions of The Streets of London

Production 1
Wallack's Theatre , Broadway and Thirteenth Street, New York, New York, United States
8.12.1857
as THE POOR OF NEW YORK

Production 2
Royal Amphitheatre, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
10.2.1864
as THE POOR OF LIVERPOOL

Production 3
Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street, St. Marylebone, London, England
Royal Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street, St. Marylebone, London, England
1.8.1864
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 4
Olympic Theatre, 622 Broadway, New York, New York, United States of America
4.10.1869
as THE POOR OF NEW YORK

Production 5
Adelphi Theatre, Strand, Westminster, London, England
2.6.1877
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 6
Adelphi Theatre, Strand, Westminster, London, England
25.7.1883
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 7
Queen's Theatre, Snow Hill, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
2.5.1888
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 8
Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Westminster, London, England
19.12.1932
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 9
Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket, Westminster, London, England
21.10. 1980
as THE STREETS OF LONDON

Production 10
SFX City Theatre, Upper Sherrard Street, Dublin, Leinster, Eire
1.1986
as THE STREETS OF DUBLIN (with changed character names)

Production 11
Tivoli Theatre, Francis Street, Dublin, Leinster, Eire
8.10.1992
as THE STREETS OF DUBLIN (Fergus Linehan's adaptation)

Production 12
Brixton Shaw Theatre, Brixton Hill, Brixton, London, England
18.12.1995
as THE STREETS OF DUBLIN (Fergus Linehan's adaptation)

Related Material

Printed edition
Item number: 0590559
THE POOR OF NEW YORK, Dick's Standard edition, Pettingell Collection

Printed edition
Item numbers: 0590552, 0590207
THE POOR OF NEW YORK, Dick's standard edition, Pettingell Collection

Printed edition
Item number: 0590551
THE POOR OF NEW YORK, French's edition, Pettingell Collection

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Last Updated: 02/06/2016