The Octoroon
The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Edition
  • Publication Date: May 16, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554812110 / 1554812119
  • 136 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Octoroon

The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Edition

  • Publication Date: May 16, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554812110 / 1554812119
  • 136 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Regarded by Bernard Shaw as a master of the theatre, Dion Boucicault was arguably the most important figure in drama in North America and in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was largely forgotten during the twentieth century—though he continued to influence popular culture (the iconic image of a woman tied to railway tracks as a train rushes towards her, for example, originates in a Boucicault melodrama). In the twenty-first century the gripping nature of his plays is being discovered afresh; when The Octoroon was produced as a BBC Radio play in 2012, director and playwright Mark Ravenhill described Boucicault’s dramas as “the precursors to Hollywood cinema.”

In The Octoroon—the most controversial play of his career—Boucicault addresses the sensitive topic of race and slavery. George Peyton inherits a plantation, and falls in love with an octoroon—a person one-eighth African American, and thus, in 1859 Louisiana, legally a slave. The Octoroon opened in 1859 in New York City, just two years prior to the American Civil War, and created a sensation—as it did in its subsequent British production.

This new edition includes a wide range of background contextual materials, an informative introduction, and extensive annotation.


“With this useful edition, my students can for the first time read a range of documents, brought together in one edition, recounting the drama’s staging and reception. By including reviews, descriptions of performances, and other contextualizing texts, editor Sarika Bose situates Boucicault’s drama in the transatlantic theatre and literary histories to which it rightly belongs and within which it should be read.” — Theresa Gaul, Texas Christian University

“This new edition of The Octoroon contains valuable background information about Dion Boucicault and his career as a dramatist as well as apt selections from his letters. … Other enhancements, which include illustrations of playbills and related sheet music, demonstrate this drama’s popularity, while a judicious selection of reviews and letters to the editor of American and British periodicals show the audience and critics in written conversation with Boucicault about the play’s ending, which Boucicault himself described as ‘composed by the Public, and edited by the Author.’” — Nicole Tonkovich, University of California, San Diego

“I have been teaching The Octoroon for years, and am so excited to turn from the Xeroxed piles of supplementary material to this thorough and informative edition that collects everything in one place and provides a rich context for Boucicault’s important work. This edition, with its careful recounting of the play’s alternative endings, supplies a framework for reading The Octoroon in terms of theatre history, transatlantic studies, and the global history of slavery.” — Helena Michie, Rice University

A Note on the Text

The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana

In Context

  • American Reviews
    • “‘The Octoroon.’ A Disgrace to the North, a Libel on the South,”
      Spirit of the Times; A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports,
      Literature and the Stage
      (17 December 1859)
      from “The Octoroon” The Charleston Courier, Tri-Weekly
      (22 December 1859)
      from “Winter Garden—First Night of ‘The Octoroon,’” The New York Herald (7 December 1859)
  • English Reviews
    • “Saving the Octoroon,” Punch (21 December 1861)
      from “Theatres and Music,” John Bull (Saturday, 23 November 1861)
      from “Adelphi” (Review of The Octoroon), The Athenaeum (23 November 1861)
      “Pan at the Play,” Fun (Saturday, 30 November 1861)
      “Adelphi Theatre” (Review of Revised Play), The Times [London] (12 December 1861)
      “Pan at the Play,” Fun (Saturday, 21 December 1861)
  • Letters to Editors Concerning the Lawsuit
    • “The Octoroon Conflict: Financial and Political View of the Case—Letter from Mrs. Agnes Robertson Bourcicault,” The New York
      (Friday, 16 December 1859)
  • A Selection of Letters from Boucicault Defending the Content of The Octoroon
    • “Letter from the Author of the ‘Octoroon,’” The New York Herald (7 December 1859)
      “The Octoroon Gone Home,” New York Times (9 February 1860)
      “‘The Octoroon’: To the Editor of the Times,” The Times [London] (Wednesday, 20 November 1861)
  • Boucicault on Acting
    • from Dion Boucicault, “The Art of Acting” (1882)
  • Alternative Endings
    • The Illustrated London News (14 December 1861)
      “Music and the Drama,” Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (Sunday, 15 December 1861)
      from The Octoroon: Founded on Dion Boucicault’s Celebrated and Original Melodrama (1897)
      from Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon, Lacy’s Acting Edition, No. 963 (c.1861)
      from Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon: A Drama in Three Acts (26 October 1861)
  • On Slavery
    • from Dion Boucicault, unpublished note, Theatre Museum, London (1861)
      from Fredrika Bremer, “Fredrika Bremer Sees the New Orleans Slave Market” (1853)
      from Civil Code of the State of Louisiana (1825)
  • Illustrations
    • from The Illustrated London News (30 November 1861)
      Cover, Reynolds Miscellany (4 January 1862)
      Cover, The Octoroon (Dick’s Standard Plays)

Permissions Acknowledgments

Sarika Bose, a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia, specializes in Victorian drama.