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Desprez, Frank (1853–1916)

Mabel Major Biography Entry

Frank Desprez, playwright, essayist, and poet, the eldest of the eleven children of Charles Desprez, jeweler and silversmith, was born in Bristol, England, on February 9, 1853. The family was of French descent. After concluding his education at Cosham School, Wiltshire, Desprez was apprenticed to a Bristol copper-engraving firm. Because of trouble with his right eye, he gave up engraving and moved to Texas while he was still in his teens with his cousin Willie Pinder. For about three years Desprez worked on a Texas ranch, though its location is unknown. Shortly after his return to England, he became involved with the theater, a connection that lasted the remainder of his life. He was consecutively or concurrently theatrical secretary, playwright, drama critic, and editor of a theatrical newspaper. He wrote more than twenty dramatic productions, sometimes using a pseudonym. Many of these were short pieces presented as curtain raisers or afterpieces for the Gilbert and Sullivan operas produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte. Two of Desprez's supporting pieces contain references to his life in Texas.

Desprez was also an essayist and poet. Dozens of his pieces on travel, art, music, and famous personalities were published in English periodicals, most of them between 1905 and 1914. His best-known work, however, is a poem, "Lasca," about a Mexican girl and her cowboy sweetheart caught in a cattle stampede "in Texas down by the Rio Grande." The ballad-like poem, first published in a London magazine in 1882, has often been reprinted, usually with deletions and changes, and recited in many parts of the English-speaking world. Between 1873 and 1882 at least four other of Desprez's poems were published, two of which are about Texas. In 1883 Desprez married Jessie McQueen, the daughter of an officer in Her Majesty's dragoons; they had a son and two daughters. Desprez died in London on November 25 (or 22), 1916.

Mabel Major, "The Man Who Wrote `Lasca'," Southwest Review 36 (1951).

Categories:

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Poets
  • Peoples
  • English
  • Authors and Writers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mabel Major, “Desprez, Frank,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 22, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/desprez-frank.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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