[ Back to Plays ]  [ Front Page ]

The Lighthouse - amateur theatrical version in 1865.

The Lighthouse play.

Amateur production in 1865 with Palgrave Simpson as Aaron Gurnock.

Revival at the Boscombe Theatre, part of Boscombe Lodge, home of Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet.


The Lighthouse was a melodrama loosely based on Collins's 1853 short story, 'Gabriel's Marriage', but set in the Eddystone Lighthouse of December 1748.  In May 1855, Collins sent the finished play to Dickens who enthusiastically took over the production.  Dickens played Aaron Gurnock, the head lightkeeper, and arranged for Clarkson Stanfield to paint the backdrop.  Other parts were taken by Collins, Augustus Egg, Mark Lemon, Mary Dickens and Georgina Hogarth.  The production ran for four nights at Tavistock House, from 16 June 1855, followed by a single performance on 10 July at Campden House, Kensington.


The Lighthouse was staged at the Royal Olympic Theatre from 10 August - 17 October 1857, Collins's first professional production. [ Cast listRobson played Aaron Gurnock and George Vining read the Prologue.  An American version opened at the New Theatre, New York, on 21 January 1858.  There was an amateur production with Palgrave Simpson on 3 May 1865 at the Royal Bijou Theatre (Lambeth School of Art) and further revivals at Shelley's Boscombe Theatre during the 1870s and 1880s.  The Lighthouse was translated into French by Emile Forgues.

Actor George Cooke in The Lighthouse.

George Cooke who played Samuel Furley (a pilot) at the Olympic in 1857


From Reminiscences, Impressions & Anecdotes, Franceso Berger, 1913

Everybody knows that Dickens was a fine Actor, and that, at one time, he very nearly "took to the stage" as a vocation.  He had "private theatricals" each Christmas-time, in which he himself, his family, and intimate friends acted.  In this circle he was spoken of as "the Manager," and his eldest son was known as "young Charles."  In 1855 Wilkie Collins wrote a Play for one of these occasions, called "The Lighthouse," and Dickens asked me to compose for it an original Overture and arrange the Incidental Music, which I gladly undertook to do.

For these performances Dickens had a theatre specially constructed, in the rear of his house, with proper footlights, proper scenery, proper curtain - in fact no expense or trouble was spared to make the whole thing complete.  "The Lighthouse," after being played at Tavistock House, was reproduced at Campden House, Kensington, then occupied by Colonel Waugh.  I had a small but efficient Orchestra to conduct, and presided at a Piano.  The scenery was painted by Clarkson Stanfield, R.A.; the dresses were by Taylor of the Adelphi Theatre, and Nathan of Titchbourne Street; Wilson of the Strand was perruquier; and the properties were by Ireland of the Adelphi.  The actors were Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mark Lemon, Augustus Egg, Edward Hogarth, Miss Hogarth, and Mamie Dickens (Dickens' elder daughter).


[ Top of Page ]  [ Back to Plays ]  [ Front Page ]


Site map

All material in these pages is © copyright Andrew Gasson 1998-2010