Sir Francis Cowley Burnand (1836- ), English humorist, was born in London on the 29th of November 1836. His father was a London stockbroker, of French-Swiss origin; his mother Emma Cowley, a direct descendant of Hannah Cowley (1743-1809), the English poet and dramatist. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and originally studied first for the Anglican, then for the Roman Catholic Church; but eventually took to the law and was called to the bar. From his earliest days, however, the stage had attracted him - he founded the Amateur Dramatic Club at Cambridge, - and finally he abandoned the church and the law, first for the stage and subsequently for dramatic authorship. His first great dramatic success was made with the burlesque Black-Eyed Susan, and he wrote a large number of other burlesques, comedies and farces. One of his early burlesques came under the favourable notice of Mark Lemon, then editor of Punch, and Burnand, who was already writing for the comic paper Fun, became in 1862 a regular contributor to Punch. In 1880 he was appointed editor of Punch, and only retired from that position in 1906. In 1902 he was knighted.
His literary reputation as a humorist depends, apart from his long association with Punch, on his well-known book Happy Thoughts, originally published in Punch in 1863-1864 and frequently reprinted.
See Recollections and Reminiscences, by Sir F.C. Burnand (London, 1904).