Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stephens, George (1800-1851)

STEPHENS, GEORGE (1800–1851), dramatist, was born at Chelsea on 8 March 1800. In 1835 he published ‘The Manuscript of Erdély,’ a romance, 3 vols. This was followed by ‘The Voice of the Pulpit, being Sermons on various subjects,’ 1839 (preface dated Bromley Hall, Herts, 28 Nov. 1838); ‘Gertrude and Beatrice, or the Queen of Hungary: a tragedy in five acts,’ 1839; and ‘Père La Chaise, or the Confessor,’ 1840, 3 vols.

On 26 Aug. 1841 his tragedy ‘Martinuzzi, or the Hungarian Daughter,’ was produced at the English Opera House (now the Lyceum Theatre). By the introduction of songs it was speciously converted into a musical drama, and brought out in evasion of the law which limited the performance of five-act dramas to the patent houses and the Haymarket. Samuel Phelps and Mrs. Warner took the chief rôles, and the piece kept the stage for a month, although the critics thought little of its merits. In 1846 he wrote ‘Dramas for the Stage,’ two privately printed volumes containing ‘Nero,’ ‘Forgery,’ ‘Sensibility,’ and ‘Philip Basil, or a Poet's Fate,’ four tragedies; ‘Self-Glorification,’ a Chinese play; and ‘Rebecca and her Daughter,’ a comedy. He also wrote the introduction to the ‘Church of England Quarterly Review,’ 1837 (i. 1–34), besides an article, ‘The Slumber of the Pulpit.’ His further works were ‘The Patriot, a tragedy,’ 1849; and ‘The Justification of War as the Medium of Civilisation,’ 1850. In later life he suffered reverses of fortune. He died at Pratt Terrace, Camden Town, London, on 15 Oct. 1851. His widow Ellen died on 11 Aug. 1866, aged 56. By her he had a son and daughter.

To Stephens have been attributed three works published under the pseudonym of ‘St. John Dorset.’ Two of them, however, ‘The Vampire: a tragedy,’ 1821, and ‘Montezuma: a tragedy,’ 1822, appear to have been written by Hugo John Belfour [q. v.]; while the third, a volume of poems, was the joint production of Belfour and Stephens.

[Tallis's Dramatic Mag. May 1851, p. 197; Gent. Mag. 1851 ii. 661, 1852 i. 2.]

G. C. B.