Holcroft, Thomas

, a dramatic and miscellaneous writer and translator, was born in Orange-court, Leicesterfields, Dec. 22, 1744. His father was in the humble occupation of a shoe-maker, and does not appear to have given his son any education. The first employment mentioned, in which the latter was concerned, was as servant to the hon. Mr. Vernon, of whose race-horses he had the care, and became very expert in the art of horsemanship. He is said also to have worked for many years at his father’s trade. He possessed, however, good natural abilities, and a thirst for knowledge, of which he accumulated a considerable fund, and learned with facility and success the French, German, and Italian languages. When about his twenty-fifth year, he conceived a passion for the stage, and his first performance was in Ireland. He had afterwards an engagement of the same kind in London, but never attained any eminence as an actor, although he always might be seen to understand his part better than those to whom nature was more liberal. He quitted the stage in 1781, after the performance of his first play, “Duplicity,” which was successful enough to encourage his perseverance as a dramatic writer. From this time he contributed upwards of thirty pieces, which were either acted on the London stages, or printed without having been performed. Scarcely any of them, however, have obtained a permanent situation on the boards. He published also the following novels “Alwyn,1780; “Anna St. Ives,1792; “Hugh Trevor,1794; and “Brian Perdue,1807. His translations were, “The private Life of Voltaire,” 12mo; | Memoirs of Baron Trenck,” 3 vols. 12mo; Mirabeau f $ “Secret History of the Court of Berlin,” 2 vols. 8vo; madame de Genlis’s “Tales of the Castle,” 5 vols. 12mo; “The posthumous Works of Frederick II. of Prussia,” 13 vols. 8vo; “An abridgment of Lavater’s Physiognomy,” 3 vols. 8vo. Mr. Holcroft having imbibed the revolutionary principles of France, had joined some societies in this country, which brought him under suspicion of being concerned with Hardy, Tooke, and Thelwall, who were tried for high treason in 1794, but they being acquitted, Mr. Holcroft was discharged without being put upon his trial. His last work was his “Travels,” in Germany and France, 2 vols. 4to, which, like some other of his speculations, was less advantageous to his bookseller than to himself. Iri 1782 he published a poem called “Huntan happiness, or the Sceptic,” which attracted little notice on the score of poetical merit, but contained many of those loose sentiments on religion, which he was accustomed to deliver with more dogmatism than became a man so little acquainted with the subject. In these, however, he persisted almost to the last, when, on his death-bed, he is said to have acknowledged his error. He died March 23, 1809. 1


Biog. Dram. Gent.