FITZBALL, EDWARD (1792–1873), English dramatist, whose real patronymic was Ball, was born at Burwell, Cambridgeshire, in 1792. His father was a well-to-do farmer, and Fitzball, after receiving his schooling at Newmarket, was apprenticed to a Norwich printer in 1809. He produced some dramatic pieces at the local theatre, and eventually the marked success of his Innkeeper of Abbeville, or The Ostler and the Robber (1820), together with the friendly acceptance of one of his pieces at the Surrey theatre by Thomas Dibdin, induced him to settle in London. During the next twenty-five years he produced a great number of plays, most of which were highly successful. He had a special talent for nautical drama. His Floating Beacon (Surrey theatre, 19th of April 1824) ran for 140 nights, and his Pilot (Adelphi, 1825) for 200 nights. His greatest triumph in melodrama was perhaps Jonathan Bradford, or the Murder at the Roadside Inn (Surrey theatre, 12th of June 1833). He was at one time stock dramatist and reader of plays at Covent Garden, and afterwards at Drury Lane. He had a considerable reputation as a song-writer and as a librettist in opera. The last years of his life were spent in retirement at Chatham, where he died on the 27th of October 1873.
His autobiography, Thirty-Five Years of a Dramatic Author’s Life (2 vols., 1859), is a naïve record of his career. Numbers of his plays are printed in Cumberland’s Minor British Theatre, Dick’s Standard Plays and Lacy’s Acting Edition of Plays.