1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dibdin, Thomas John

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DIBDIN, THOMAS JOHN (1771-1841), English dramatist and song-writer, son of Charles Dibdin, the song-writer, and of Mrs Davenet, an actress whose real name was Harriet Pitt, was born on the 21st of March 1771. He was apprenticed to his maternal uncle, a London upholsterer, and later to William Rawlins, afterwards sheriff of London. He summoned his second master unsuccessfully for rough treatment; and after a few years of service he ran away to join a company of country players. From 1789 to 1795 he played in all sorts of parts; he acted as scene painter at Liverpool in 1791; and during this period he composed more than 1000 songs. He made his first attempt as a dramatic writer in Something New, followed by The Mad Guardian in 1795. He returned to London in 1795, having married two years before; and in the winter of 1798-1799 his Jew and the Doctor was produced at Covent Garden. From this time he contributed a very large number of comedies, operas, farces, &c., to the public entertainment. Some of these brought immense popularity to the writer and immense profits to the theatres. It is stated that the pantomime of Mother Goose (1807) produced more than £20,000 for the management at Covent Garden theatre, and the High-mettled Racer, adapted as a pantomime from his father’s play, £18,000 at Astley’s. Dibdin was prompter and pantomime writer at Drury Lane until 1816, when he took the Surrey theatre. This venture proved disastrous and he became bankrupt. After this he was manager of the Haymarket, but without his old success, and his last years were passed in comparative poverty. In 1827 he published two volumes of Reminiscences; and at the time of his death he was preparing an edition of his father’s sea songs, for which a small sum was allowed him weekly by the lords of the admiralty. Of his own songs “The Oak Table” and “The Snug Little Island” are well-known examples. He died in London on the 16th of September 1841.