Beckingham, Charles (DNB00)

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BECKINGHAM, CHARLES (1699–1731), poet and dramatist, was born, according to the register of Merchant Taylors' School, on 25 July 1699 (Robinson's Register, ii. 32). His father was a linendraper in Fleet Street. Beckingham was educated at Merchant Taylors' School under Dr. Smith, and is said to have displayed 'great proficiency in his studies,' and given 'the strongest testimonials of extraordinary abilities.' Nothing in his works justifies these eulogies. On 18 Feb. 1718 'Scipio Africanus,' an historical tragedy in the regulation five acts, was produced at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This was followed at the same house on 7 Nov. of the next year by a second work of a similar description, entitled 'Henry IV of France.' The youth of the author, and the presence of a large number of his fellow-students who had been permitted to visit the theatre, gave some éclat to the production of the earlier work. This, however, is but an average specimen of academic labour. A chief subject of praise in contemporary writers is the manner in which the so-called unities are observed by its author. The plot is founded on a story told by Livy (xxvi. 49-50) and other classical writers concerning the restoration of a beautiful captive by Scipio Africanus to Allucius, a Spaniard. A considerable portion of the play consists of tedious love scenes, which are necessarily fictitious. Quin played Scipio. 'Scipio Africanus' was acted four times in all, two performances being, it is stated, for the author's benefit. It was printed in 12mo in 1718. 'Henry IV of France' deals with the jealousy of the Prince of Condé of his wife, who is in love with the king, and ends with the murder of Henry by Ravaillac at the instigation of the papal nuncio and the priests. This play was also given four times, Quin appearing as Henry IV. It was printed in 8vo in 1820. In addition to these dramas Beckingham wrote a poem on the death of Rowe, the dramatist; a second entitled 'Christ's Sufferings, translated from the Latin of Rapin,' and dedicated to the Archbishop of York; and other minor poems. He died 19 Feb. 1730-31.

[Jacob's Poetical Register; Baker, Reed, and Jones's Biographia Dramatica; Genest's Account of the English Stage.]

J. K.