Charles Francis Coghlan

Charles Francis Coghlan (June 11, 1842 – November 27, 1899) was an Anglo-Irish actor and playwright once popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Charles Francis Coghlan
“The Wallet of Time “ 1913
Born(1842-06-11)June 11, 1842
Paris, France
DiedNovember 27, 1899(1899-11-27) (aged 57)
OccupationActor and Playwright
Years active1859-1899
RelativesRose Coghlan (sister)

Early life

Charles F. Coghlan was born on June 11, 1842, in Paris, France [1] to British subjects, Francis (sometimes spelled Frances) and Amie Marie (née Ruhly) Coghlan. His father, a native of Dublin, Ireland, was the founder of Coghlan's Continental Dispatch and publisher of Coghlan's Continental Guides, and counted among his friends, Charles Dickens, Charles Reade, and other literary figures of the day.[2][3] Amie Coghlan was born on the English Channel Island of Jersey sometime around 1821. Charles Coghlan was later raised in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and Hull, Yorkshire and though originally groomed for a career in law he had chosen instead to be an actor whilst still in his teens.[1][4][5]


Charles Coghlan began his stage career in 1859 as a minor player with the Sadler's Wells Theatre's summer tour. During their engagement in Dublin, Ireland Coghlan approached John Baldwin Buckstone, then manager of the Haymarket Theatre, with a play he had written. Buckstone passed on the play, but instead gave him the chance to play Monsieur Mafoi, a small role in “The Pilgrim of Love” a play adapted by Lord Byron from Irving's “Legends of the Alhambra” that opened at the Haymarket on April 9, 1860. Over the following few seasons Coghlan would play a number of supporting roles that steadily increased his stature as an actor. In 1868 he played Charles Surface in Sheridan's "School for Scandal" at the St James's Theatre and later that year played Sir Oscar opposite Adelaide Neilson in Marston's “Life for Life” at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Coghlan would remain with Prince of Wales over the next seven or eight seasons playing leading roles such as Geoffrey Delamayn in Collins’ "Man and Wife” and Harry Speadbrow in Gilbert's Sweethearts.[5][6]

In 1876 Augustin Daly brought Coghlan to America where he would spend the greater balance of his career. He made his Broadway debut on September 12, 1876, at the Fifth Avenue Theater, as Alfred Evelyn in Lord Lytton's “Money” and was an instant success. Two months later, at the same venue, Coghlan played Orlando opposite Fanny Davenport's Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It.[7] The next season Coghlan was engaged as the leading man at the Union Square Theater, where he played Jean Remind during the successful run of Augustus R. Cazauran's The Celebrated Case. He returned to London in 1881 to play Col. Woods, U.S.A. in the long-running "The Colonel" produced at the Prince of Wales. On December 13,1890 Coughlan was declared bankrupt[8] He had liabilities of £315[9]. The pinnacle of Coghlan's near twenty-five-year career in America came on December 2, 1898, at the Fifth Avenue Theater in his own adaptation of the Dumas’ play Kean titled The Royal Box, in which he played the part of the actor Clarence. This great success was tempered the following year by the failure of his play "Citizen Pierre", in which he made his last New York performance. During his career Coghlan had played opposite his sister, Rose Coghlan, and in support of Lillie Langtry and Minnie Maddern Fiske. His last appearance on the stage was at Houston, Texas, on October 28, 1899, as Clarence in "The Royal Box".[5][6]


Actress Louisa Elizabeth Thorn, a native of London, England,[10] was apparently Charles Coghlan's common-law wife for twenty-five years or more and the mother of his daughter Gertrude Coghlan.[5] When in 1893 Coghlan married nineteen-year-old Kuhne Beveridge[11], a promising sculptor and aspiring actress from a prominent Illinois family, questions arose about his former marital status.[12] Rose Coghlan soon came to her brother's defense stating she had known for years that Louisa and Charles never legally married.[13] Not long afterwards though, Rose decided to dissolve the business partnership she had with her brother.[14] Upon learning of her father's marriage, an upset Gertrude Coghlan reportedly told the press, “I am Charles Coghlan’s adopted daughter and not related to him in any way.”[15] Perhaps as an attempt to save his daughter the stigma of an illegitimate birth, Coghlan later supported Gertrude's claim that she was adopted, just not legally through the courts.[16] Within a year of his marriage Coghlan would return to Louisa leaving Beveridge to seek an absolute divorce on the grounds of desertion.[17][18] A few years later Gertrude joined her father's company playing Juliet in the Broadway production of the Royal Box and afterwards on the road.[19] Gertrude Coghlan, who took to the stage at age sixteen, would go on to have a theatrical career spanning nearly fifty years.[5][20]

The stage actor and director, Charles F. Coghlan (1896–1971), was often thought to be Coghlan's son, in fact he was his nephew, the son of the mezzo-soprano singer Elizabeth “Eily” Coghlan. She died in April 1900 at the age of thirty-six leaving Charles to be adopted by her sister, Rose Coghlan. Charles’ father, according to his mother's New York Times obituary, was Sydney Battam, a London banker. At the time of his wife's death, Bratton was living in London with their twelve-year-old daughter, while four-year-old Charles was with his mother in America.[21][22] At least one family researcher has made the claim that Charles F. Coghlan was the illegitimate son of Rose Coghlan and her one-time lover the future King Edward VII of England.[23]


Charles Francis Coghlan died in Galveston, Texas, on November 27, 1899, after a month's illness. He had originally come to the city with his company to perform "The Royal Box", but his illness prevented him from ever taking the stage. His body was temporarily placed in a metal casket and stored in a vault at a local cemetery to await further family instructions.[5] At first it was decided his remains would be interred on his farm in Fortune Bridge near the eastern tip of Prince Edward Island. Coghlan had sometime earlier purchased the property as a summer home and for his eventual retirement.[1][5] Several days after his death, it was announced through the press that his remains would be returned to New York for cremation.[24] Nearly a year later the disposition of the body had yet to be decided and, in the interim, his casket was swept away from its resting place by a storm surge generated from the deadly Galveston Hurricane of 1900.[25] The New York Actors Club had, for several years, a standing reward for anyone who recovered Coghlan's coffin. In January 1904 a metal coffin was found in a marsh;[26] at first it was thought to have been Coghlan's; however it proved to be the remains of a New York man.[27] Coghlan's coffin/remains was eventually found in January 1907[28] by a group of hunters who discovered it partially submerged in a marsh some nine miles from Galveston along the east coast of mainland Texas.[29][30]

Years after his death, a story arose that Coghlan's metal casket had been recovered in 1907, not far from his Prince Edward Island proper, by a group of Canadian fishermen in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, after drifting some two thousand miles along the East Coast of North America. Over the years some clever skeptic of this story referred to Coghlan's casket as the "homing coffin".[31][32] The genesis of the Canadian fishermen tale appears to have come from a 1929 Ripley's Believe It or Not! column.[33][34] The 1907 news reports of the recovery of his coffin/remains do not tell of the disposition of his remains; he was certainly not reburied on Prince Edward Island.[35]

Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of 1899

From Charles Francis Coghlan's obituary:

The words that were written in 1790 of his kinsman, the MacCoghlan, last Lord of Delvin-Ara, well describe Charles Coghlan: "He was a remarkably handsome man, gallant, eccentric, proud, satirical, hospitable in the extreme, and of expensive habits.' A contemporary American critic thus summed up his excellence as an actor in 1879: "It is to the complete and perfect forgetting of self in his performance that the high esteem in which Mr. Coghlan is held by the thinking audience is due. He never descends to the cheap creating of effects; he plays his part for all it is worth; he does not play Charles Coghlan, with the kind assistance of somebody's text, for the amusement of his friends and admirers.".[6]

Dutch symphonic black metal band Carach Angren include a song about Charles Francis Coghlan on their 2017 album Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten.[36]

Plays by Charles Coghlan

List of plays written or adapted by Charles Francis Coghlan.

  • "Love and Hate, or The Court of Charles I" (1858) privately published [37]
  • Good as Gold (1869)[38]
  • Lady Flora (1876), originally titled “Her Own Choice, a Comedy”.[39]
  • The House of Darnley.(1877) wrote the last act of the uncompleted play by Lord Lytton.[40]
  • For Life (1877 in America), adaptation of the French play “Morte Civile”.[41]
  • Jocelyn (1889) starring Rose Coghlan.[42]
  • Lady Barter (1891) starring Lily Langtree[43]
  • The Check Book (1894) starring Rose Coghlan.[44]
  • A Quiet Rubber (1876), adaptation of " Une Partie de Piquet,".[45]
  • The Royal Box (1898), adaptation of the Dumas’ play “Kean"[46]
  • Citizen Pierre (1899)[47]


  1. The Wallet of Time chapter 32 pg.423
  2. Famous Actresses of the Day in America, Volume 1, 1899, pg.261
  3. Coghlan's illustrated guide to the Rhine: with routes through Belgium By Francis Coghlan, 1863
  4. 1851-1871 England Census
  5. Charles Coghlan is Dead - New York Times November 28, 1899; pg. 7;
  6. Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of 1899, Volume 4, 1900, pg. 588-589, Appletons and Company
  7. Shakespeare On the Stage by William Winter 1915, pg. 262
  8. Daily Alta California, Volume 83, Number 167, 14 December 1890
  9. San Francisco Call, Volume 69, Number 61, 30 January 1891
  10. 1871-1881 England Census Records (Charles Coghlan)
  11. [Various birthdates are given for her from 1874 to 1878; she was still living as of May 1916 in Munich, Germany]
  12. Charles Coghlan's Young Wife - New York Times; October 27, 1893; pg. 2;
  13. Not Charles Coghlan's Wife. - New York Times; November 4, 1893; pg. 1
  14. Brotherly Charles Coghlan. - New York Times ; December 3, 1893; pg. 16;
  15. The Galveston Daily News, December 10, 1893 pg. 9
  16. Charles Coghlan Explains The Young Actress Who Bears His Name is His Daughter, He Says (Arts & Entertainment) -The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL) Monday, October 30, 1893; pg. 4
  17. Coghlan with His First Wife. - New York Times; June 18, 1894; Pg. 1
  18. Otherwise Unnoticed - The Herald-Dispatch, Decatur, Illinois, September 15, 1894; Pg. 17
  19. Inherited Talent for the Stage Sons and Daughters of Well-Known Actors Who Are Winning Fame for Themselves upon the Stage - The Milwaukee Sentinel, September 18, 1898; pg. 3;
  20. Gertrude Coghlan," Former Actress, 73 - New York Times; September 13, 1952; pg. 17;
  21. The Theatre Magazine vol. 21-22; 1915, pg. 132
  22. Miss Coghlan Dead.- New York Times - April 9, 1900; pg. 2
  23. Charles Coghlan –
  24. Coghlan's Body to be Cremated Here. New York Times. November 29, 1899; pg. 1.
  25. Charles Coghian's Body Missing. - New York Times - September 25, 1900; pg. 2;
  26. New York Tribune January 21,1904 Chronicling America Library of Congress Accessed 14 October 2018
  27. The Salt Lake tribune., April 24, 1904, Society and Magazine Section, Page 10, Image 30 Chronicling America Library of Congress Accessed 14 October 2018
  28. The Semi-weekly Messenger January 22,1907 Image Three quoting the Galveston Dispatch. Chronicling America Library of Congress Accessed 14 October 2018
  29. Modern English Biography: (Supplement v.1-3) By Frederic Boase pg. 2091
  30. Coghlan's Body Found - The New York Times.; January 15, 1907; pg. 1
  31. The Info Journal, Volumes 16-17, 1992 pg.20
  32. The Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 24 2000 pg.15
  33. Galveston Saga of Fifty Years Ago - The Galveston Daily News, December 4, 1949, pg. 1
  34. Believe it or not!: A modern book of wonders, miracles, freaks, monstrosities and almost-impossibilities by Robert Le Roy Ripley 1929 pg. 49
  35. The Floating Coffin Kathleen Maca Tales from Texas accessed October 14,2018
  36. "Carach Angren - album listening session - Metal Exposure". Metal Exposure. 2017-03-15. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  37. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, (London, England) January 31, 1858 BOOKS ETC. RECEIVED “Love and Hate; or the Court of Charles I,” an historical drama in Four Acts by Charles Coghlan, 11 Wellington Street North, Strand.
  38. A Dictionary of the Drama: a Guide to the Plays, Play-wrights ..., Volume 1 By William Davenport Adams 1904, pg. 595
  39. Her own choice, a comedy [by C.F.Coghlan
  40. Ellen Terry and Her Impersonations. An Appreciation By Charles Hiatt 1898, pg. 95
  41. A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, Volume 3, By Thomas Allston Brown 1903, pg. 14
  42. The History of the New York Stage 1903 pg. 582
  43. The Dramatic Year Book for 1891 pg. 158
  44. Miss Coghlan in "The Check Book."; The Popular Actress Begins a Summer Term at the Madison Square New York Times May 10, 1894
  45. The Critic: Volume 25 1896 - Page 51
  46. The Royal Box; Coghlan, Dumas
  47. Munsey's Magazine, Volume 21; 1915; pg. 465

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coghlan, Charles Francis". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 651.

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