Cooper, John (fl.1810-1870) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12
Cooper, John (fl.1810-1870)

by John Joseph Knight ‎
Date of birth 1793 in the ODNB.

COOPER, JOHN (fl. 1810–1870), actor, was the son of a tradesman in Bath, in which city he was born. After playing Alonzo in a private theatre, he appeared on the Bath stage, 14 March 1811, as Inkle in ‘Inkle and Yarico,’ and subsequently enacted two or three other parts. After a short visit to Cheltenham, he appeared on 15 May 1811 at the Haymarket as Count Montalban in the ‘Honeymoon,’ and, besides playing other characters, was the original William Wyndham in Dimond's ‘Royal Oak,’ 10 June 1811, and Hartley in Theodore Hook's ‘Darkness Visible,’ 23 Sept. 1811. He then joined Cherry, the manager of several Welsh theatres, after whose death he played in the north of England and Scotland. In Edinburgh he acted Edgar to the Lear of Kean, and was in Glasgow the original Virginius in Knowles's tragedy of that name, subsequently (17 May 1820) produced by Macready at Covent Garden. On 1 Nov. 1820 he made as Romeo his first appearance at Drury Lane. His Romeo was received with much favour. Othello, which followed on 8 Nov. 1820, Booth being Iago, was less successful. In the course of the opening season at Drury Lane he played Titus in Payne's ‘Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin,’ Alonzo in ‘Pizarro,’ Antony in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ Hastings in ‘Jane Shore,’ Tullus Aufidius in ‘Coriolanus,’ Joseph in the ‘School for Scandal,’ Richmond in ‘Richard III,’ Inkle in ‘Inkle and Yarico,’ Frederick in the ‘Poor Gentleman,’ Don Julio in ‘Bold Stroke for a Husband,’ Rob Roy, Iago to Kean's Othello, and many other parts, besides ‘creating’ several new rôles, the most important of which was the Doge in Byron's ‘Marino Faliero.’ Talfourd speaks of his performance as not readily to be forgotten (New Monthly Mag. iii. 274). During the twenty-five years which followed his services were generally in request at Drury Lane, at Covent Garden, where he appeared on 14 Oct. 1823 as St. Franc in the ‘Point of Honour,’ a translation by Charles Kemble of ‘Le Déserteur’ of Mercier, and at the Haymarket. Once, in mutiny at a proposed reduction of salary, he went as a star to the Surrey, and played in the ‘Law of the Land.’ A steady, a capable, and an eminently conscientious but a heavy and mechanical actor, he played during this period a singularly large number of parts, some of them of leading importance. He was the original Duke of Sheridan Knowles's ‘Love,’ Covent Garden, 1839, and played many characters originally in the dramas of the same author. Among his best parts were Iago and the Ghost in ‘Hamlet.’ Previous to, and during Charles Kean's occupation of the Princess's, he was at that theatre, taking such characters as Henry IV in ‘King Henry IV, Part I.,’ the Duke of York in ‘King Richard II,’ 12 March 1857, Kent in ‘King Lear,’ 5 April 1858, and appearing as the original Mr. Benson in Morton's ‘Thirty-three last Birthday.’ Upon retirement from the Princess's, Cooper withdrew from the stage upon a competency he had saved. At the close of his life he lived at 6 Sandringham Gardens, Ealing, and he died on 13 July 1870 at Tunbridge Wells, whither he had gone in search of health.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; London Magazine and Theatrical Inquisitor, vol. iii. 1821; Macready's Reminiscences, by Sir F. Pollock, 1875; Cole's Life of Charles Kean, 1859; Marshall's Lives of Actors; Tallis's Dramatic Magazine; Era newspaper, 17 July 1870.]

J. K.