a famous English actor and dramatist, born at Hereford; was educated at Lichfield, the home of his mother, and was for some months in his nineteenth year a pupil of Samuel Johnson; in 1737 he accompanied Johnson to London, with the intention of entering the legal profession, but soon abandoned the purpose, and started in the wine business with his brother; in 1741 he commenced his career as an actor, making his first appearance at Ipswich; in the autumn of the same year he returned to London, and as Richard III. achieved instant success; with the exception of a sojourn upon the Continent for two years, his life was spent mainly in the metropolis in the active pursuit of his profession; in 1747 he became patentee, along with James Lacy, of Drury Lane Theatre, which he continued to direct until his retirement from the stage in 1776; three years later he died, and was buried in Westminster Abbey; he was the author of many comedies and farces, which, however, are of no great merit, but his abiding fame rests upon his powers as an actor, his remarkable versatility enabling him to act with equal ease and success in farce, comedy, and tragedy; his admirable naturalness did much to redeem the stage from the stiff conventionalism under which it then laboured; his wife, Eva Maria Violette, a celebrated dancer of Viennese birth, whom he married in 1740, survived him till 1822, dying at the advanced age of 98 (1717-1779).

The Nuttall Encyclopaedia. . 1907.

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