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Julian Russell Sturgis (21 October 1848 – 13 April 1904) was an Americanmarker-born novelist, poet, librettist and lyricist. He played football as an amateur for the Wanderers F.C. winning the English FA Cup in 1873, and was thus the first American to play in a winning FA Cup Final team.

Early life

Sturgis was born in Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker but moved to Englandmarker when only seven months old when his father, Russell Sturgis, a successful Boston and Far East merchant (1805 – 1887), joined Baring Brothers in London. and his half brother was the art critic Russell Sturgis. He was a pupil at Eton Collegemarker, where he played an active role in the mixed Wall and Field XIs in 1867, being Keeper of the Field in 1867, and editing the Eton College Journal.

On leaving Eton, he went up to Balliol Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker where he rowed for three years for the College. After graduating, he became a barrister and acquired Britishmarker nationality.

Football career

He joined the Wanderers in 1872, making his first appearance in a 2–0 defeat by the Royal Engineers on 30 November 1872. Wanderers automatically qualified for the 1873 FA Cup Final as the cup holders, having won the inaugural competition the previous year. Although having made only a handful of appearances for the Wanderers, Sturgis was selected for the final playing as one of five forwards. In the final, played at Lillie Bridgemarker on 29 March 1873, the Wanderers defeated Oxford University 2–0, with goals from Arthur Kinnaird and Charles Wollaston. As all the other players in this or the previous Cup Final were either English or Scottish, Sturgis was thus the first American to appear in, let alone play on the winning side of, an F.A. Cup Final. This claim is often made with respect to John Harkes, who played on the losing side for Sheffield Wednesday in the 1993 FA Cup Final.

Sturgis appeared twice more for the Wanderers, with his final appearance being on 3 November 1875. Sturgis also played for the Old Etoniansmarker, and in a tight battle in the FA Cup Semi-final against Oxford University played at the Kennington Ovalmarker on 19 February 1876, he scored the only goal for the public school old boys to take them to their second consecutive final, ironically against the Wanderers. The final was also played at The Oval, and the first match on 11 March 1876 ended in a 1–1 draw. The Wanderers were victorious 3–0 in the replay played on 18 March, with two goals from Thomas Hughes and one by Charles Wollaston.

Novelist and poet

Sturgis subsequently became a novelist, and amongst his works were:
  • John-a-Dreams: A Tale (1878)
  • Little Comedies - Six Plays in Verse, or Prose (1880)
  • Dick's Wandering (1882)
  • My Friends and I (1884)
  • John Maidment (1886)
  • Thraldom (1887)
  • Comedy of a Country House (1890)
  • Count Julian, A Tragedy (1893)
  • A Book of Song (1894; poetry)
  • The Folly of Pen Harrington (1897)
  • Stephen Callinari (1901)
  • Comedy Sketches for Two and Three Characters (1902)

Librettist and lyricist

Program cover
In 1885, Sturgis wrote the libretto for Arthur Goring Thomas's opera, "Nadeshda", which was first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre on 16 April 1885, and was considered to be Thomas's best opera.

Amongst his songs were "Sleep" (Beautiful up from the deeps of the solemn sea), "Through the ivory gate" (I had a dream last night), and "Whence", which were set to music by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry.

His best-known collaboration was the opera Ivanhoe in 1891 with Arthur Sullivan, who was under pressure from the musical establishment to write a grand opera. The composer asked his usual collaborator, W.S. Gilbert, to supply the libretto, but the latter declined, saying that in grand opera the librettist's role is subordinate to that of the composer. Sullivan turned, instead, to Sturgis, who was recommended by Gilbert. Ivanhoe, based on Sir Walter Scott's novel, opened at Richard D'Oyly Carte's new Royal English Opera Housemarker on 31 January 1891. The libretto won praise as "a skilful and fairly dramatic adaptation of Scott's novel and a polished example of poetic lyric-writing". Although the opera was a success, running for an unprecedented 155 performances, it passed into virtual obscurity after the opera house failed. It was, as critic Hermann Klein observed, "the strangest comingling of success and failure ever chronicled in the history of British lyric enterprise!"

In 1901, he wrote the libretto for Charles Villiers Stanford's opera, "Much Ado About Nothing", which was mainly a re-ordering of passages from the play by William Shakespeare.


Sturgis died on 13 April 1904, aged 55. On the day of his death, Henry James wrote to his widow:

Sporting honours


Old Etoniansmarker


  1. Cavallini, pp. 100–01
  2. "Russell Sturgis" biography in Some Merchants and See Captains of Old Boston (1918)
  3. New York Times obituary, 14 April 1904
  4. Re-published June 2007 by Kessinger Publishing, LLC, ISBN 0548348537
  5. Entry at Database of Victorian Fiction
  6. Re-published September 2007 ISBN 1-434488-34-9
  7. Words at
  8. Words at
  9. Lyrics and information about "Whence"
  10. Ivanhoe at the G&S Archive
  11. Dailey, chapter four
  12. Stephen Turnbull's Biography of W. S. Gilbert at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive.


  • Dailey, Jeff. Sir Arthur Sullivan's Grand Opera Ivanhoe and its Theatrical and Musical Precursors (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008) ISBN 0-7734-5068-8

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