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London Assurance
Written by Dion Boucicault
Date premiered March 4, 1841
Place premiered Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London
Original language English
Genre Comedy
Setting London and Oak Hall
IBDB profile

London Assurance (originally entitled Out of Town) is a five-act comedy by Dion Boucicault. It was the second play that he wrote, but his first to be produced. Its first production, from March 4, 1841 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (by Charles Matthews and Madame Vestris's company) was Boucicault's first major success.



  • Sir Harcourt Courtly, cultured 60-year-old fop
  • Charles Courtly, his dissolute son
  • Dazzle, Charles' equally dissolute companion
  • Max Harkaway, country squire
  • Grace Harkaway, Max's niece
  • Lady Gay Spanker, horse-riding virago
  • Mr. Adolphus "Dolly" Spanker, her hen-pecked husband
  • Mark Meddle, lawyer
  • Pert, Grace's maid
  • Cool, Charles' valet
  • James (Simpson)
  • Martin, servant to the Courtlys
  • Solomon Isaacs, moneylender, in pursuit of Charles[1]



Act 1

Charles and Dazzle arrive back at Sir Harcourt's London home after a night on the town, and manage to avoid Sir Harcourt with Cool's help - Sir Harcourt still believes Charles is a clean-living innocent. Max arrives to make the final arrangements for Sir Harcourt's marriage to Max's niece Grace - by arrangement, Sir Harcourt has financially helped Max in return for making Grace's inheritance contingent on her marrying Sir Harcourt (if she does not, it will pass to Charles). Sir Harcourt leaves and Dazzle bumps into Max, gaining himself an invitation to Oak Hall, Max's country house - a trip on which Charles will accompany him.

Act 2

At Oak Hall, Grace explains to her maid Pert her acceptance of marriage to the aged Sir Harcourt and her view of love as an "epidemic madness". Charles and Dazzle arrive, and the former (not knowing of his father's marriage plans) immediately starts courting Grace. When his father arrives, Charles pretends he is actually a man called Augustus Hamilton who merely bears a remarkable likeness to Charles.

Act 3

Max's daughter Lady Gay Spanker and her husband "Dolly" arrive, and Sir Harcourt immediately falls in love with the former. Grace begins to fall in love with Charles/Augustus in spite of herself and so, when Lady Gay interrupts their courtship, Charles easily persuades her to distract Sir Harcourt from marriage to Grace by apparently accepting his affections.

Act 4

Charles leaves as 'Augustus', returning as Charles to tell Grace that 'Augustus' has been killed, to see if she really loves him, whilst Lady Gay and Sir Harcourt plan to elope together. Together, however, Dolly and the meddling local lawyer Meddle manages to prevent the elopement.

Act 5

Dolly challenges Sir Harcourt to a duel, but both of them escape alive, and all is revealed. Dolly forgives Gay and Sir Harcourt finds out his son's true nature as well as acceding to the marriage.


The play is seen as an intermediate point between the 18th-century comedies of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith on the one hand and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest on the other.[2]

Production history

The play’s first production ran for three months, and was soon followed (from October 11, 1841, at the Park Theatre) by its first New York production, with Charlotte Cushman as Lady Gay Spanker. There were further New York productions in 1869, 1905, 1937 and 1997. A 1974 Royal Shakespeare Company production (directed by Ronald Eyre, with Donald Sinden as Sir Harcourt Courtly, Roger Rees as Charles, Judi Dench as Grace and Dinsdale Landen as Dazzle[1]) in 1974 transferred to the Albery Theatre in London and toured to New York. In 1976 the play was adapted for television by the BBC in the "Play of the Month" strand, with Anthony Andrews as Charles Courtly and Landen reprising his role of Dazzle.[3] It also featured Judy Cornwell as Lady Gay, James Bee as her husband Adolphus, Charles Gray as Sir Harcourt, Jan Francis as Grace, Clifford Rose as Cool and Nigel Stock as Max.

A further 1989 stage production at the Chichester Festival Theatre (directed by Sam Mendes and featuring Paul Eddington as Sir Harcourt) later transferred to London. Its cast also included John Warner as Adolphus.[4] Other productions include one at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester in 2004[5], a 2008 production at the Watermill Theatre in Bagnor which toured to Guildford.[6] The Royal National Theatre have announced plans to revive the play in a production beginning March 2010, directed by Nicholas Hytner and featuring Simon Russell Beale as Sir Harcourt.[7]


  1. ^ A name used by Noel Coward in Private Lives as a catch-word in the main characters' arguments.
  2. ^ London Assurance and other Victorian Comedies, introduction
  3. ^ London Assurance at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ John Warner's obituary
  5. ^ Guardian review
  6. ^ Gardner, Lyn (19 April 2008). "London Assurance - review". The Guardian.  
  7. ^



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