Francis Gentleman

1728-1784; appeared in Oroonoko, in Dublin, and produced The Modish Wife (1774) at Chester; published the Dramatic Censor anonymously in 1770; often relieved by Garrick, whom he ridiucled in his Stratford Jubilee. Edited Bell’s acting Shakespeare, played Sir Epicure Mammon in his Tobacconist (1771), adapted from The Alchemist. Author of 18th century plays and criticism, most famously, The Censor, 2 vols, 1770, which criticises contemporary playwrights. RR CAB ODNB PI DIW OCIL

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Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies, Vol.II [of 2] (London & Dublin 1821)

A DRAMATIC and poetical author of some celebrity, was born in York-street, Dublin, on the 23rd of October, 1728, and received his education in that city, where he was school-fellow with the celebrated Mossop the tragedian. At the age of fifteen, he obtained a lieutenant’s commission in the same regiment wherein his father was major; but making an exchange into a new raised company, he was dismissed the service on his regiment being reduced at the conclusion of the war in 1748. In consequence of this occurrence, he cultivated his inclination for the stage, and appeared at Smock-alley Theatre, Dublin, in the character of Aboan, in the tragedy of Oroonoko. Notwithstanding a figure by no means prepossessing, and uncommon timidity, be says he succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations; but having some property, and receiving intelligence that a legacy had been left him by a relation, he determined on a visit to London, where he quickly dissipated what little fortune he possessed. He then entered into an engagement at the Bath theatre, where he remained a short time, and from thence went to Edinburgh, and afterwards belonged to several Thespian companies at Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, and other places; but at length, growing tired of a public life, he settled at Malton, a market town, about twenty miles from York, where he married, and had some expectation of being provided for by the Marquis of Granby, to whom he was recommended by a gentleman who had known his father. With this hope he removed to London, but un- fortunately soon found all his prospects obscured for ever; by the sudden death of his patron. In 1775, he performed at the Haymarket, under the management of Mr. Foote, and continued with him three seasons, during which period, and afterwards, be wrote some of his dramatic pieces and poems: be was at length dischaiged, “at a time of peculiar embarrassment to the manager.” He then returned to his native country, about the year 1777, {181} and struggled for the remainder of his life, in sickness and want, from which he was relieved by death, on the 21st of December, 1784.

He wrote and altered fifteen dramatic pieces, none of which are now remembered, or had originally much success. He was the author also of “Characters”, an epistle, published in 4to. in 1766; and “Royal Fables”, in 8vo. both poetical productions of very considerable merit; but his best performance is the Dramatic Censor, in two vols. 8vo. published in 1770, in which he criticises about fifty of the principal acting plays, with both impartiality and judgment, and he likewise had the discredit of being editor of the worst edition of Shakspeare’s plays, that ever obtruded itself on the public eye*.

(Ryan, op. cit., pp.180-81; see full-text copy via index or as attached.)

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); Fortune, a rhapsody (1751); Narcissa and Eliza, dramatic tale in verse (1754); The Sultan of Love and Fame (1770); The Tobacconist, com. (1771), Zaphira, trag. (1754), The Coxcombs, farce (1771), The Mentalist, dramatic scene (1759); b. York St. Dublin 1728, d. George Lane [i.e. Sth. Gt. George’s St.] Dublin in poverty. Edition of Shakespeare. SEE also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.180.

J. S. Crone, A Concise Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Talbot 1928), ed. Bell’s Acting Shakespeare; anonymous autobiog in Exshaw’s Mag (Dublin 1775) [O’Donoghue MSS]. CAB; b. York St., died in poverty. The Modish Wife (1773) considered his best play. ‘Here fawning priests with looks demure/In hopes to get a better cure/Appeared to grace the friendly crowd/And very low, for livings, bow’d’ (‘The Birthday’ from Royal Fables). [CAB]

Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (Tralee 1946), Francis Gentleman 1728-1784; 15 pieces, mostly adaptations; Sejanus (1752), from Jonson; Osman (Bath c.1753), not printed; Zaphira (Bath 1754), not printed; The Sultan or Love and Fame (Bath, York and Scarborough c. 1754; Hay, 1769) 1770, orig. from Turkish history; Richard II (Bath 1754), from Shakespeare, not printed; The Mentalist, satire (Manchester c.1759), not printed; The Fairy Court, interlude (Chester c.1770), played by children, 15 nights; The Tobacconist, com. (Edinburgh, c.1750; Hay, 22 July 1771) 1771, from Jonson’s Alchemist; The Modish Wife (Chester 1761; Hay, 18 Sept. 1773) 1774 ed. with account of author; Oroonoko, orf the Royal Slave (Edinburgh c.1760, DL 11 Mar 1769, expurgated Southerne; The Stratford Jubilee, com. (Stratford on Avon, c. 1769) 1769; The Coxcombs (Hy 16 Sept 1771), alteration of Jonson’s Epicoene, not printed; Cupid’s Revenge, past. (Hay, 27 July 1772) 1772, mus. by Hook; The Pantheonites, dram, ent. (Hay 3 Sept 1773) 1773; Orpheus and Eurydice, op. (Smock Alley, 1783), trans. from Italian. Author of Dramatic Censor, and a ‘worst’ ed. of Shakespeare, for Bell, 1774, 1775.

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), cites F. Gentleman, Orpheus and Eurydice (1783) [110].

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