Mountfort, William

, an English dramatic writer, but in much greater eminence as an actor, was born in 1659, in Staffordshire. It is probable, that he went early upon the stage, as it is certain that he died young; and Jacob informs us, that, after his attaining a degree of excellence in his profession, he was entertained for some time in the family of the lord-chancellor JerTeries, “who,” says sir John Reresby, “at an entertainment of the lordmayor and court of aldermen, in the year 1685, called for Mr. Mountfort to divert the company (as his lordship was pleased to term it): he being an excellent mimic, my lord made him plead before him in a feigned cause, in which he aped all the great lawyers of the age in their tone of voice, and in their action and gesture of body, to the very great ridicule not only of the lawyers, but of the law itself; which, to me (says the historian) did not seem altogether prudent in a man of his lofty station in the law: diverting it certainly was; but prudent in the lord high-chancellor I shall never think it. 7 ' After the fall of Jefferies, our author again returned to the stage, in which profession he continued till his death, in 1,692. Gibber, in his” Apology,“says that he was tall, well made, fair, and of an agreeable aspect; his voice clear, full, and melodious; a most affecting lover in tragedy, and in comedy gave the truest life to the real character of a fine gentleman. In scenes of gaiety, he never broke into that respect that was due to the presence of equal or superior characters, though inferior actors played them, nor sought to acquire any advantage over other performers by finesse, or stage-tricks, but only by surpassing them in true and masterly touches of nature. He might perhaps have attained a higher degree of excellence and fame, had he not been untimely cut off, by the hands of an assassin, in the thirty-third year of his age. His death is tlius related. Lord Mohun, a man of loose morals, and of a turbulent and rancorous spirit, had, from a kind of sympathy of disposition, contracted the closest, intimacy with one captain Hill, a still more worthless character, who had long entertained a passion for that celebrated actress Mrs. Bracegirdle. This lady, however, had rejected him, with the contemptuous | disdain which his character justly deserved; and this treatment, Hill’s vanity would not suffer him to attribute to any other cause than a pre-engagement in favour of some other lover. Mountfort’s agreeable person, his frequently performing the counter-parts in love scenes with Mrs. Bracegirdle, and the respect which he used always to pay her, induced captain Hill to fix on him, though a married man, as the supposed bar to his own success. Grown desperate then of succeeding by fair means, he determined to attempt force: and, communicating his design to lord Mohun, whose attachment to him was so great as to render him the accomplice in all his schemes, and the promoter even of his most criminal pleasures, they determined on a plan for carrying her away from the play-house; but, not finding her there, they got intelligence where she was to sup, and, having hired a number of soldiers and a coach for the purpose, waited near the door for her coming out; and, on her so doing, the ruffians actually seized her, and were going to force her into the coach; but her mother, and the gentleman whose house she came out of, interposing till farther assistance could come up, she was rescued from them, and safely escorted to her own house. Lord Mohun and captain Hill, however, enraged at their disappointment in this attempt, immediately resolved on one of another kind, and, with violent imprecations, openly vowed revenge on Mr. Mountfort. Mrs. Bracegirdle’s mother, and a gentleman, who were earwitnesses to their threats, immediately sent to inform Mrs. Mountfort of her husband’s danger, with their opinion that she should warn him of it, and advise him not to come home that night; but, unfortunately, no messenger Mrs. Mountfort sent was able to find him. In the mean time, his lordship and the captain paraded the streets with their swords drawn, till about midnight, when Mr. Mountfort, on his return home, was met and saluted in a friendly manner by lord Mohun; but, while that scandal to the rank and title which he bore was treacherously holding him in a conversation, the assassin Hill, being at his back, first gave him a desperate blow on the head with his left hand, and immediately afterwards, before Mr Mountfort had time to draw and stand on his defence, he, with the sword he held ready in his right, ran him through the body. This last circumstance Mr. Mountfort declared, as a dying man, to Mr. Bancroft, the surgeon who attended him. Hill immediately made his escape; but lord Mohun was | seized, and stood his trial: but as it did not appear that he immediately assisted Hill in the perpetrating this assassination, and that, although lord Mohun had joined with the captain in his threats of revenge, yet the actual mention of murder could not be proved, his lordship was acquitted by his peers. He afterwards, however, himself lost his life in a duel with duke Hamilton, in which it has been hinted that some of the same kind of treachery, which he had been an abettor of in the above-mentioned affair, was put in practice against himself. Mr. Mountfort’s death happened in Norfolk-street in the Strand, in the winter of 1692. His body was interred in the churchyard of St. Clement Danes. He left behind him six dramatic pieces, which are enumerated in the” Biographia Dramatica."1