Lionel Frederick Leonard Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Unlike the heroes and heroines of his own plays, Frederick Lonsdale came from a decidedly humble background. Lonsdale was born Lionel Frederick Leonard on February 5, 1881, in St. Helier, the capital of Jersey in the Channel Islands. The third son of a local tobacconist and his wife, Frederick and Susan Leonard, Lonsdale was an unruly child who disappointed his family by refusing to attend school and by running off to Canada in his late teens on a romantic impulse. There he seems to have lived by his wits and, according to his own account, was not above perpetrating fraud to finance his passage back to England. On his return, he worked for some time on the Southampton docks and wrote plays in his spare time. When he moved back to Jersey in 1903, his first play had already been produced at a suburban London theater and had been noticed favorably by one of the leading British critics, Clement Scott, who had entered the theater by chance to shelter himself from the rain. The producing company brought the play to St. Helier that same year, and from that point Lonsdale began to be accepted into the more elevated reaches of Jersey society. His transformation from the “villainous and undisciplined child” of a small-town shopkeeper into an international celebrity whose smallest sartorial innovations made instant newspaper copy seems to have begun at about this time. Lonsdale was obviously a keen observer and a gifted mimic, and he rapidly assumed the manners and accent of the upper class,...

(The entire section is 608 words.)