Gentleman, Francis

, a dramatic and poetical writer of the minor order, was born in Ireland, October 23, 1728, and received his education at Dublin. At the age of fifteen he obtained a commission in the same regiment with his father, who likewise belonged to the army; but, making an exchange to a new-raised company, he was dismissed the service on his regiment being reduced at the conclusion of the war in 1748. On this event he indulged his inclination for the stage, and appeared at Dublin in the character of Aboan, in the play of Oroonoko. Notwithstanding an unconsequential figure, and uncommon timidity, he says he succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations; but, having some property, and hearing that a legacy had been left him by a relation, he determined to come to London, where it appears he dissipated what little fortune he possessed. He then engaged to perform at the theatre in Bath, and remained there some time. From thence he went to Edinburgh, and afterwards belonged to several companies of actors at Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, and other places. 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 soon had the mortification to find all his prospects clouded by the sudden death of his patron. In 1770 he performed at the Hay-market, under the management of Mr. Foote, and continued with him three seasons, during which time, and afterwards, he wrote some of his dramatic pieces and poems. He returned to his native country probably about 1777, and struggled for the remainder of his life under sickness and want, from which death at last relieved him Dec. 21, 1784. The editor of the “Biographia Dramatica” enumerates fifteen dramatic pieces, either written or altered for the stage by him, none of which are now remembered, or had originally much success. He wrote also “Characters, an Epistle,1766, 4to, and “Royal Fables,1766, 8vo, poetical productions of very considerable merit. But his best performance was the “Dramatic Censor,1770, 2 vols. 8vo, in which he criticises about fifty of the principal acting plays, and the chief actors of his time, with much impartiality and judgment. The latter, however, seems entirely to have forsaken him when he became editor of Shakspeare’s plays, published by Bell in 1774-5, unquestionably the worst edition that ever appeared of any English author. 1


Biog. Dram.