Posts Tagged ‘Richard Brinsley Sheridan’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Henry Ireland
2 August 1775 – 17 April 1835


William Henry Ireland

William Henry Ireland claimed throughout his life that he was born in London in 1777, recently discovered evidence puts his birth two years earlier, on 2 August 1775. His father, Samuel Ireland, was a successful publisher of travelogues, collector of antiquities and collector of Shakespearian plays and “relics”. There was at the time, and still is, a great paucity of writing in the hand of Shakespeare. Of his 37 plays, there is not one copy in his own writing, not a scrap of correspondence from Shakespeare to a friend, fellow writer, patron, producer or publisher. Forgery would fill this void.

William Henry also became a collector of books. In many later recollections Ireland described his fascination with the works and the glorious death of the forger Thomas Chatterton, and probably knew the Ossian poems of James Macpherson. He was strongly influenced by the 1780 novel Love and Madness by Herbert Croft, which was often read aloud in the Ireland house, and which contained large sections on Chatterton and Macpherson. When he was apprenticed to a mortgage lawyer, Ireland began to experiment with blank, genuinely old papers and forged signatures on them. Eventually he forged several documents until he was ready to present them to his father.

In December 1794, William told his father that he had discovered a cache of old documents belonging to an acquaintance who wanted to remain unnamed, and that one of them was a deed with a signature of Shakespeare in it. He gave the document – which he had of course made himself – to his overjoyed father, who had been looking for just that kind of signature for years.

A letter supposedly written by Shakespeare (forged by Ireland) expressing gratitude towards the Earl of Southampton.

Ireland went on to make more findings – a promissory note, a written declaration of Protestant faith, letters to Anne Hathaway (with a lock of hair attached), and to Queen Elizabeth – all supposedly in Shakespeare’s hand. He claimed that all came from the chest of the anonymous friend. He “found” books with Shakespeare’s notes in the margins and “original” manuscripts for Hamlet and King Lear. The experts of the day authenticated them all.

On 24 December 1795, Samuel Ireland published his own book about the papers, a lavishly illustrated and expensively produced set of facsimiles and transcriptions of the papers called Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare (the book bears the publication date 1796). More people took interest in the matter and the plot began to unravel.

In 1795, Ireland became bolder and produced a whole new play – Vortigern and Rowena. After extensive negotiations, Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan acquired rights for the first production of the play at London’s Drury Lane Theatre for £300, and a promise of half of all profits to the Irelands.

Sheridan read the play and noticed it was relatively simplistic compared to Shakespeare’s other works. John Philip Kemble, actor and manager of Drury Lane Theatre, later claimed he had serious doubts about its authenticity; he also suggested that the play appear on April Fool’s Day, though Samuel Ireland objected, and the play was moved to the next day.

Although the Shakespeare papers had prominent believers (including James Boswell), sceptics had questioned their authenticity from the beginning, and as the premiere of Vortigern approached, the press was filled with arguments over whether the papers were genuine or forgeries. On 31 March 1796, Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone published his own exhaustive study, An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, about the supposed papers. His attack on the papers, stretching to more than 400 densely printed pages, showed convincingly that the papers could be nothing other than modern forgeries. Although believers tried to hold their ground, scholars were convinced by Malone’s arguments.

Vortigern and Rowena opened on 2 April 1796, just two days after Malone’s book appeared. Contemporary accounts differ in details, but most agree the first three acts went smoothly, and the audience listened respectfully. Late in the play, though, Kemble used the chance to hint at his opinion by repeating Vortigern’s line “and when this solemn mockery is o’er.” Malone’s supporters had filled the theatre, and the play was greeted with the audience’s catcalls. The play had only one performance, and was not revived until 2008.

When critics closed in and accused Samuel Ireland of forgery, his son published a confession – An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts – but many critics could not believe a young man could have forged them all by himself. One paper published a caricature in which William Henry is awed by the findings when the rest of the family forges more of them (as opposed to what was really going on). Samuel Ireland’s reputation did not recover before his death in 1800.

In 1805 William Henry published The Confessions of William Henry Ireland, but confession did not help his reputation. He took on a number of miscellaneous jobs as a hack writer but always found himself short of money. In 1814 he moved to France and worked in the French national library, continuing to publish books in London all the while. When he returned in 1823, he resumed his life of penury. In 1832 he published his own edition of Vortigern and Rowena (his father had originally published it in 1799) as his own play with very little success.

There has been recent scholarly interest in his later Gothic novels and his poetry. His illustrated Histories were popular, so to say that Ireland died in obscurity is probably not correct. He was, however, perpetually impoverished; he spent time in debtors’ prison, and was constantly forced to borrow money from friends and strangers. When he died, his widow and daughters applied to the Literary Fund for relief. They received only token amounts.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Fyshe Palmer
August 1747 – 2 June 1802


Thomas Fyshe Palmer

Thomas Fyshe Palmer was born in Ickwell, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Henry Fyshe who assumed the added name of Palmer because of an inheritance, and Elizabeth, daughter of James Ingram of Barnet.

Palmer was educated at Eton College and Queen’s College, Cambridge from 1765, with the purpose of taking holy orders in the Church of England. He graduated B.A. in 1769, M.A. in 1772, and BD in 1781. He obtained a fellowship of Queens’ in 1781, and officiated for a year as curate at Leatherhead, Surrey. While at Leatherhead he was introduced to Samuel Johnson, and dined with him in London; but he had become disillusioned with some aspects of the Church of England.

Palmer then read in Joseph Priestley’s works, and became a Unitarian. For the next ten years Palmer preached Unitarianism to congregations in Dundee and other Scottish towns. A Unitarian society had been founded by William Christie, a merchant, at Montrose, and Palmer offered his services as a preacher (14 July 1783). In November 1783 Palmer reached Montrose, and remained as Christie’s colleague till May 1785. He then moved to Dundee to become pastor of a new Unitarian society there, and he founded a Unitarian church. He preached also in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Arbroath, and Forfar, and formed further Unitarian societies. In 1789 he took temporary charge of the society at Newcastle. In 1792 his sermons in Edinburgh attracted attention, and pamphlets were published in refutation of his doctrines.

When agitation for political reform began in 1792, Dundee became one of its centres in Scotland. A society called the ‘Friends of Liberty’ was formed in 1793, and met in the Berean meeting-house in the Methodist Close, beside the house where Palmer lived in the Overgait. The society was composed mainly of working men. One evening in June 1793 Palmer was attended a meeting, when George Mealmaker, weaver in Dundee, brought a draft of an address to the public which he purposed circulating as a handbill. Palmer revised it, modifying it to a complaint against the government for war taxation, and a claim for universal suffrage and short parliaments. The address was sent to be printed in Edinburgh in July 1793. The authorities were alarmed, and decided to meet an anticipated revolution in time; and, in the belief that they were attacking a revolutionary leader, Palmer was arrested in Edinburgh on 2 August on a charge of sedition as the author of the document.

At the preliminary legal inquiry he refused to answer the questions put to him, pleading his ignorance of Scots law. He was confined in Edinburgh gaol, but afterwards freed on bail. An indictment was served on him directing him to appear at the circuit court, Perth on 12 September to answer to the charge. The presiding judges were David Rae, Lord Eskgrove and Alexander Abercromby, Lord Abercromby; the prosecutor was John Burnett, advocate-depute, assisted by Allan Maconochie; and Palmer was defended by John Clerk, and Mr. Haggart. One of the first witnesses was George Mealmaker, who admitted that he was the author of the address, and stated that Palmer was opposed to its publication. Other officials of the ‘Friends of Liberty’ corroborated, and the evidence proved nothing relevant to the charge beyond the fact that Palmer had ordered one thousand copies to be printed, but had given no instructions as to distribution.
Both the judges summed up adversely, and, when the jury found the accused guilty, he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. The conviction of Palmer, following close on that of Thomas Muir, raised indignation among the Whig party throughout the kingdom; and during February and March 1794 attempts were made by the Earl of Lauderdale and Earl Stanhope in the House of Lords, and by Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the House of Commons, to obtain the reversal of the sentence. But the government, under William Pitt, was too strong.

Palmer was detained in Perth Tolbooth for three months, then taken to London and placed on the hulk Stanislaus at Woolwich, where he was put in irons for forced labour for three months. Palmer left in the Surprize, along with the so-called Scottish Martyrs, Thomas Muir, William Skirving and Maurice Margarot, embarking in February but sailing in April 1794, with a gang of convicts for Botany Bay. The vessel arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales, on 25 October, and as Palmer and his companions had letters of introduction to the governor, they were well treated, and had houses assigned to them.

Whilst serving his seven years of exile in Sydney Palmer did not suffer the usual convict restraint, and he engaged in business enterprises. Besides cultivating the land, the exiled reformers constructed a small vessel, and traded to Norfolk Island. At the end of 1799 Palmer and his friend James Ellis—who had followed him from Dundee as a colonist—combined with others to purchase a vessel in which they might return home, when Palmer’s sentence expired in September 1800.

Palmer and Ellis intended to trade on the homeward way, and provisioned their vessel for six months; but their hopes of securing cargo in New Zealand were disappointed, and they were held up for half a year. They sailed to Tongatabu, where a war prevented them from landing. They steered for the Fiji Islands, where they were well received; but while making for Goraa, one of the group, their vessel struck a reef. Having refitted, they started for Macao.

Adverse storms drove them about the Pacific until their provisions were exhausted, and they were compelled to put in at Guguan, one of the Ladrone Islands, then under Spanish rule. Spain and Britain were then at war, and Spanish governor treated them as prisoners of war. When Palmer was attacked with dysentery, he succumbed. He died on 2 June 1802, and was buried by the seashore. Two years later an American captain touched at the Isle of Guguan, and, having found out where Palmer had been buried, he had the body exhumed and taken on board his vessel, with the governor’s permission. The remains were taken to Boston, Massachusetts, and reinterred in the cemetery there.

A monument was erected in the Old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh, in 1844 to commemorate Palmer, Muir, and the other Scottish Martyrs.

Palmer’s publications were mostly magazine articles and pamphlets.

  • To the Theological Repository he contributed regularly in 1789–90, as Anglo-Scotus.
  • In 1792 he published a controversial pamphlet entitled An Attempt to refute a Sermon by H. D. Inglis on the Godhead of Jesus Christ, and to restore the long-lost Truth of the First Commandment, against Henry David Inglis.
  • His Narrative of the Sufferings of T. F. Palmer and W. Skirving was published in 1797.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Sheridan Knowles
12 May 1784 – 30 November 1862


James Sheridan Knowles

James Sheridan Knowles was born in Cork. His father was the lexicographer James Knowles (1759–1840), cousin of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The family moved to London in 1793, and at the age of fourteen Knowles published a ballad entitled The Welsh Harper, which, set to music, was very popular. His talents secured him the friendship of William Hazlitt, who introduced him to Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He served for some time in the Wiltshire and afterwards in the Tower Hamlets militia, leaving the service to become a pupil of Dr Robert Willan (1757–1812). He obtained the degree of M.D., and was appointed vaccinator to the Jennerian Society.

Although Dr Willan offered him a share in his practice, Knowles decided to give up medicine for the stage, making his first appearance as an actor probably at Bath, and played Hamlet at the Crow Theatre, Dublin. At Wexford he married, in October 1809, Maria Charteris, an actress from the Edinburgh Theatre. In 1810 he wrote Leo, a successful play in which Edmund Kean appeared; another play, Brian Boroihme, written for the Belfast Theatre in the next year, attracted crowds; nevertheless, Knowles’s earnings were so small that he was obliged to become assistant to his father at the Belfast Academical Institution. In 1817 he moved from Belfast to Glasgow, where, besides keeping a flourishing school, he continued to write for the stage.

His first important success was Caius Gracchus, produced at Belfast in 1815; and his Virginius, written for Edmund Kean, was first performed in 1820 at Covent Garden. In William Tell (1825), Knowles wrote for William Charles Macready one of his favourite parts. His best-known play, The Hunchback, was produced at Covent Garden in 1832, and Knowles won praise acting in the work as Master Walter. The Wife was brought out at the same theatre in 1833; and The Love Chase in 1837.

In his later years he forsook the stage for the pulpit, and as a Baptist preacher attracted large audiences at Exeter Hall and elsewhere. He published two polemical works: the Rock of Rome and the Idol Demolished by Its Own Priests in both of which he combated the special doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Knowles was for some years in the receipt of an annual pension of £200, bestowed by Sir Robert Peel in 1849. In old age he befriended the young Edmund Gosse, whom he introduced to Shakespeare. Knowles makes a happy appearance in Gosse’s Father and Son. He died at Torquay on 30 November 1862.

A full list of the works of Knowles and of the various notices of him will be found in the The Life of James Sheridan Knowles (1872), privately printed by his son, Richard Brinsley Knowles (1820–1882), who was well known as a journalist. It was translated into German.


  • Leo; or, The Gipsy (1810)
  • Brian Boroihme; or, The Maid of Erin (1811)
  • Caius Gracchus (1815)
  • Virginius (1820) A Tragedy in Five Acts
  • William Tell (1825)
  • The Beggar’s Daughter of Bethnal Green (1828)
  • Alfred the Great; or The Patriot King (1831)
  • The Hunchback (1832)
  • A Masque (in one act and in verse on the death of Sir Walter Scott) (1832)
  • The Wife; A Tale of Mantua (1833)
  • The Beggar of Bethnal Green (1834)
  • The Daughter (1837)
  • The Love Chase (1837)
  • Woman’s Wit; or, Loves Disguises (1838)
  • The Maid of Mariendorpt (1838)
  • Love (1839)
  • John of Procida; or, The Bridals of Messina (1840)
  • Old Maids (1841)
  • The Rose of Arragon (1842)
  • The Secretary (1843)
  • The Bridal (1847) (An adaptation of The Maid’s Tragedy)
  • Alexina; or, True unto Death (1866)

Novels and short stories

  • The Magdalen and Other Tales (1832)
  • Fortescue (1847)
  • George Lovell (1852)
  • Old Adventures (1859)
  • Tales and Novelettes etc. (1874)


  • A Collection of Poems on Various Subjects (1810)
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • The Senate, or Social Villagers of Kentish Town, a Canto (1817)

Theological writings

  • The Rock of Rome; or, The Arch Heresy (1849)
  • The Idol Demolished by Its Own Priest (1852) (An answer to Cardinal Wiseman’s Lectures on Transubstantiation.)
  • The Gospel Attributed to Matthew in the Record of the Whole Original Apostlehood (1855)


  • The Elocutionist (1831) (A collection of pieces in prose and verse; peculiarly adapted to display the art of reading…)
  • A Treatise on the Climate of Madeira (1850)
  • The Debater’s Handbook (1862)
  • Lectures on Dramatic Literature (1875)

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton
3 April 1782 – 30 April 1837


William Henry Lyttelton

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton was the son of William Henry Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, by his second marriage to Caroline, daughter of John Bristow of Quiddenham, Norfolk. He was educated at Rugby School, then matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 24 October 1798 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) on 17 June 1802 and a Master of Arts (M.A.) on 13 December 1805. A student from December 1800 until 1812 a brilliant scholar of Greek, on 5 July 1810 he was created a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) on the occasion of Lord Grenville’s installation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Lyttelton unsuccessfully contested Worcestershire in March 1806, but was returned in the following year, and represented the county until 1820 for the Whig party. His maiden speech was made on 27 February 1807 in favour of the rejection of the Westminster petition; and on 16 March he brought forward a motion (rejected by 46 votes) expressing regret at the substitution of the Duke of Portland’s administration for Lord Grenville’s. He attacked the new ministers, especially Spencer Perceval, for bigotry. He supported the naval expedition to Copenhagen in opposition to the bulk of his party, but voted with them on the motion of Samuel Whitbread for the production of papers relative to it.

Lyttelton felt the Whig jealousy of the influence of the court. In supporting John Christian Curwen’s bill for the prevention of the sale of seats, he suggested that the Duke of York and Albany, the late Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, had to some extent corrupted members of parliament; and in speaking on the budget resolutions of 1808 he declared his belief that the influence of the prerogative had increased. Again, on 4 May 1812, in a debate on the Royal Sinecure Offices Bill, he said that the Prince Regentwas surrounded by favourites. Nevertheless, Lyttelton in 1819 thought that the “revolutionary faction of the radicals” ought to be opposed. In the same session he thought an inquiry was needed into the Peterloo massacre.

Lyttelton advocated abolishing the system of having climbing boys sweep chimneys, and was a strong opponent of the property tax. He supported Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s motion of 6 February 1810 against the standing order for the exclusion of strangers from the house. In the same session, on 16 February, he opposed the voting of an annuity to the Duke of Wellington. He spoke strongly against the Alien Bill in 1816 and 1818.

On the death of his half-brother George Lyttelton, 2nd Baron Lyttelton, on 12 November 1828, Lyttelton succeeded to the title. He did not take much part in the debates of the House of Lords, but on 6 December 1831 he made an speech in favour of the Reform Bill in the debate on the address. He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire on 29 May 1833.

Lyttelton died at the house of John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer, his brother-in-law, in Green Park, London, on 30 April 1837, aged 55.

Sydney Smith’s Letters of Peter Plymley were for a time ascribed to Lyttelton before their authorship was known. In August 1815, through his friendship with the captain, he obtained a passage on board the HMS Northumberland (1798) from Portsmouth to Plymouth to witness Napoleon’s departure into exile, and privately printed 52 copies of An Account of Napoleon Buonaparte’s Coming on Board H.M.S. Northumberland, 7 Aug. 1815; with Notes of Two Conversations Held with Him. He also printed a Catalogue of Pictures at Hagley (date of publication unknown), and published Private Devotions for School Boys.


Lady Sarah Spencer

Lyttelton married Lady Sarah Spencer, daughter of George John, 2nd Earl Spencer, on 4 March 1813; she was for a time governess to the children of Queen Victoria and a Lady of the Bedchamber, and died 13 April 1870. They had three sons:

  • George William, who succeeded to the title;
  • Spencer (1818–1882), who became marshal of the ceremonies to the royal household; and
  • William Henry Lyttelton, canon of Gloucester;

They also had two daughters, Caroline (1816–1902), who died unmarried; and Lavinia (1821–1850), wife of Henry Glynne, rector of Hawarden.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Frederic Reynolds
1 November 1764 – 16 April 1841


Frederic Reynolds

Frederic Reynolds was born in Lime Street, London, Frederic Reynolds was the grandson of an opulent merchant at Trowbridge, and the son of a whig attorney who acted for William Pitt the Earl of Chatham, John Wilkes, and many other prominent politicians. His mother was the daughter of a rich city merchant named West. For many years his father’s business was very prosperous, but about 1787 he was involved in financial difficulties. When Reynolds was about six years old he was sent to a boarding-school at Walthamstow, and on 22 January 1776 he was admitted at Westminster School. On 12 January 1782 he entered the Middle Temple, but he soon abandoned the law for playwriting.

Reynolds was also a noted amateur cricketer. Mainly associated with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), he made two first-class appearances. The first was for Earl of Winchilsea’s XI in 1795, and the second was for All-England in 1796.

His first piece, Werter, was founded on Goethe’s novel, and was produced at the Bath Theatre on 25 November 1785, and at Covent Garden Theatre, London, for Miss Brunton’s benefit, on 14 March 1786. In later years it was often reproduced on the stage, and it was printed both in London and Dublin, the play being cut down from five to three acts in about 1795. Eloisa, his second drama, was produced at Covent Garden in December 1786. Reynolds then abandoned tragedy for comedy, and his first comedy, The Dramatist, submitted to the public at the benefit of Mrs. Wells, on 15 May 1789 was received with great applause. It was performed before George III at Covent Garden on his first visit to the theater after his illness, on 18 October 1789. He wrote two pieces with Miles Peter Andrews. His play, The Caravan, or the Driver and his Dog, was performed at Drury Lane, with the introduction of a live dog that was trained to save a child from drowning by leaping from a rock and plunging into real water. It is still remembered through a jest of Sheridan, who burst into the greenroom, when the success of the play was established, with the shout of inquiry, “Where is he, my guardian angel?” The answer was made, “The author has just retired,” but Sheridan replied, “Pooh! I mean the dog-actor, author and preserver of Drury Lane Theatre.”

He married Elizabeth Mansel on 16 March 1799, a young lady from Llangyfelach, Glamorgan, South Wales, who had taken to the stage and was then engaged at the Covent Garden Theatre. Elizabeth’s brother was Robert Mansel, Manager of the Theatre Royal in York. Reynolds’s eldest son, Frederic Mansel Reynolds, was a novelist and editor of The Keepsake.

From 1814 to 1822 Reynolds was permanently engaged at Covent Garden Theatre as “thinker” for the management, and after the lapse of a year he discharged the same duties for Elliston at Drury Lane. In 1826 his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederic Reynolds (although later editions sometimes spell his name ‘Frederick’), was published. It was in this work he noted that, despite having written many successful dramatic works, he was not exceptionally wealthy. In the conclusion, he writes, “[H]aving been omitted from many wills on account of my supposed wealth, I hope this true, and faithful exposition of the real state of my finance, may catch the eye of some rich testator, and induce him to make me reparation, by bequeathing me a thumping legacy.” In 1831 appeared a novel by him, A Playwright’s Adventures, published as the first volume of the Dramatic Annual. His last work was the pantomime produced at the Adelphi Theatre, London, at Christmas 1840.

He died on 16 April 1841.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Linley the Elder
17 January 1733 – 19 November 1795


Thomas Linley

Thomas Linley the Elder was an English tenor and musician active in Bath, Somerset. Born in Badminton, Gloucestershire, Linley began his musical career after he moved to Bath at age 11 and became apprentice to the organist Thomas Chilcot. After his marriage to Mary Johnson in 1752, Linley at first supported his wife and growing family predominantly as a music teacher. As his children grew and he developed their musical talent, he drew an increasing amount of income from their concerts while also managing the assembly rooms in Bath. When the new Bath Assembly Rooms opened in 1771, Linley became musical director and continued to promote his children’s careers. He was eventually able to move to London with the thousands of pounds which he had amassed from their concerts.

Among Linley’s students were his eight children (Elizabeth Ann, Thomas, Mary, Samuel, Maria, Ozias, William, and Jane), as well as tenor Charles Dignum, singer and actress Anna Maria Crouch, and novelist Frances Sheridan. Linley collaborated with his son Thomas in penning the comic opera The Duenna, with libretto by his son-in-law Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Linley’s parents were William (1704–1792), a carpenter, and Maria (1701–1792). He was the couple’s eldest child and was born on 17 January 1733 in the village of Badminton in Gloucestershire. When Linley was 11 years old, in 1744, the family moved to Bath, Somerset where he served an apprenticeship with Thomas Chilcot, the organist at Bath Abbey. Before becoming Chilcot’s apprentice, Linley had initially assisted by pumping the organ. He may also have received tuition from Domenico Paradisi who was giving harpsichord lessons in London from around 1747. William Boyce also tutored him in London.

He married Mary Johnson (1729–1820) on 11 May 1752 in Batheaston; Johnson was described by Ozias Humphry, who lodged with the couple for two years from 1762 until 1764, as having musical talents almost on a par with her husband. The couple had 12 children over an 18 year period from 1753 until 1771, but only eight lived beyond infancy or childhood. Seven went on to musical or theatrical careers: Elizabeth Ann Linley (1754–1792), his eldest daughter, wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan; his eldest son Thomas Linley the younger (1756–1778), composer and noted violinist; Mary Linley (1758–87), who gave up her career as a singer after she married playwright Richard Tickell in 1780; Samuel Linley (1760–1778), second son, singer and oboe player; Maria Linley (1763–84), singer; Ozias Thurston Linley (1765–1831), minor canon at Norwich and organist at Dulwich; and William Linley, (1771–1835), composer of glees, songs and writer. Another child, Jane Nash (1768–1806), sang in an amateur capacity until her marriage. Music historian Charles Burney visited when the children were young and listened to them singing and playing instruments; he described the family as “a Nest of Nightingales”.

The family were well established in Bath and Linley worked as a music teacher; when Elizabeth was born in 1754 they were living in a house on Abbey Green. In the mid-1760s they rented a house with eleven rooms on Orchard Street to accommodate the ever increasing number of children. Linley is likely to have received some financial assistance from his father whose business was flourishing but the family still encountered monetary difficulties. Linley’s wife was frugal but “her parsimony grew legendary” when she was employed as a wardrobe mistress at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, after the family fortunes had prospered.

The early years of marriage saw Linley as the sole income producer for the family; some of the older children, particularly Elizabeth and Mary, were sent to stay with relatives, or perhaps boarding school. Linley was a tenor, an organist and harpsichordist but at that time was generating his income mainly by teaching and his tuition skills were increasingly sought out; Frances Sheridan was one of his pupils in 1763, although she became better known as a playwright and novelist. Another of his pupils was Anna Maria Crouch who later stated she was apprehensive of him. Charles Dignum was also trained by Linley.

Pupils were contracted to give a proportion of their earnings back to their tutors. He coached his children, providing their musical education from an early age. The children were put to work at a young age, firstly selling concert tickets then performing; Elizabeth began singing in concerts by the time she was nine-years-old in 1763. Anything earned by the children was commandeered by Linley and the talented youngsters quickly became a major source of his income. Linley took over the management of the musical performances held at the Assembly rooms in Bath in 1766; he had participated as the harpsichordist from 1755 when the performances were managed by Chilcot. The two eldest children, Elizabeth and Thomas, were utilised to sell the tickets for these concerts from 1762.

The new Bath Assembly Rooms opened in 1771 with Linley as Musical Director. Linley’s regular concerts starring his children were performed in front of full houses and his finances began to prosper. The family moved to Royal Crescent, a more fashionable address, raising their social standing. The children started to feature in concerts further afield including oratorios in London; Linley demanded high fees for them and organisers of a charity concert held to raise funds for the Foundling Hospital had to pay £100 for two of his daughters to sing. At the time of Elizabeth’s marriage to Richard Brinsley Sheridan on 13 April 1773 estimates appeared in the Bath Chronicle speculating Linley had earned almost £10,000 from her performances.

An agreement was made with John Christopher Smith and John Stanley for the older children to perform at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1773 that saw takings of over £500 per night for the oratorios performed during the Lenten season. The following year, in 1774, Linley joined Stanley in the management role of directing, writing and organising musical compositions at the theatre. Two years later, in June 1776, a partnership of his son-in-law, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Doctor James Ford who was a court physician and Linley purchased a half share of the theatre for a total of £35,000. Linley re-located his residence to Norfolk Street, London and mortgaged his properties in Bath to raise his £10,000 stake towards the purchase. The trio bought the remaining share after another two years paying David Garrick a similar amount giving them complete ownership. The Royal Society of Musicians elected him as a member in 1780.

According to musicologist, writer and singer, Mollie Sands, Linley was one of the “most famous of English-born [music] teachers”. As a composer, Linley wrote and arranged some songs and ensembles for The Duenna in 1775; written at the request of Sheridan and in collaboration with Linley junior, the opera was an exceptional success, being performed seventy-five times at Drury Lane – Lord Byron endorsed it as “the best opera ever written”. An earlier composition, Thomas Hull’s The Royal Merchant, performed at Covent Garden in 1767, was noted as a failure as well as a success. An unnamed critic wrote in The London Stage that “The music may be good, but the piece is trifling and childish”. In 1786 he collaborated with John Burgoyne on the successful Richard Coeur de lion.

Linley died suddenly on 19 November 1795 at his home, 11 Southampton Street in Westminster. He was survived by his wife but most of his children had predeceased him at a young age, possibly because of carrying a fatal genetic inheritance.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Anna Maria Crouch
April 20, 1763 – October 2, 1805


Anna Maria Crouch

Born Anna Maria Phillips, she first went on stage as a child, acting and singing. Articled to Thomas Linley, she made her debut at Drury Lane theatre in 1780 as Mandane in Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes, and became a principal in the regular company of the theatre under the management of Sheridan and Linley. In 1781 she made a great success as the heroine in Charles Dibdin’s Lionel and Clarissa. She was a notable Ophelia, Olivia and Celia. Her Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera was well-known. In 1787 her stage partnership began with the Irish actor and singer, Michael Kelly, on his arrival in London with Stephen and Nancy Storace from the Viennese court.

In 1784 she had married a naval lieutenant named Crouch. In 1790 she was at Brighton to perform at the opening of the Duke Street Theatre. By 1791, her marriage was suffering, and she was deeply involved in an affair with Kelly. However, this did not prevent her from entering into an affair with the Prince of Wales, occurring while he was living with Maria Anne Fitzherbert. The affair was brief, but she benefited financially, with the general belief being that she received somewhere in the amount of 10,000 pounds from the Prince when the affair ended. Following her marital separation from Crouch in 1791, her domestic partnership with Michael Kelly became generally known.

She died suddenly, of unknown causes, on October 2, 1805, while in Brighton. There are reports that indicate that her death was possibly as a result of a carriage accident. She is buried in St. Nicholas’s churchyard, Brighton.

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