Hippisley, John (d.1748) (DNB00)

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HIPPISLEY, JOHN (d. 1748), actor and dramatist, was born near Wookey Hole in Somersetshire. He seems to have belonged to a well-known Somerset family [see Hippisley, Sir John Coxe]. He is said in the ‘Biographia Dramatica’ to have first come on the stage as a candle-snuffer, and on the death of Pinkethman to have succeeded to his parts. Doubt is thrown by Genest on these latter statements. Hippisley's first recorded appearance took place at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 7 Nov. 1722, as Fondlewife in the ‘Old Bachelor.’ He is announced in the bills as never having appeared on that stage before. This was followed in the same season by Scrub, Sir Hugh Evans, Gomez in the ‘Spanish Fryar,’ Polonius, Pandarus in ‘Troilus and Cressida,’ and other comic parts. At Lincoln's Inn Fields he remained until the season of 1732–3, playing among many other characters Sir Francis Gripe in the ‘Busy Body,’ Scapin, Barnaby Brittle in the ‘Amorous Widow,’ Sir William Wisewood in ‘Love's Last Shift,’ Corbaccio in ‘Volpone,’ Old Woman in ‘Rule a Wife and have a Wife,’ Obadiah in the ‘Committee,’ and Calianax in the ‘Maid's Tragedy,’ and originating one or two characters, the most important of which was Peachum in the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ 29 Jan. 1728. He also for his benefit, 23 April 1731, played David Shenkin in his own farce, the ‘Journey to Bristol, or the Honest Welshman,’ 8vo, 1731. It is a fairly amusing production, and was probably first seen at Bristol, where Hippisley built a theatre, and whither he was in the habit of taking annually a company in the summer. It was sold by ‘John Hippisley, Comedian, at his Coffee House in Newcastle Court with- out Temple Bar,’ thus establishing the fact that, like many other comedians, Hippisley had a second occupation. This piece, with some alterations, and under the title of ‘The Connaught Wife,’ was given in 1767 at the Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, and printed in London in 8vo in the same year. Hippisley also took part, presumably in 1730, in an unrecorded representation of his own ‘Flora,’ 8vo, 1730 (12mo, 1768). This was an adaptation from the ‘Country Wake’ of Thomas Doggett [q. v.] Hippisley played Sir Thomas Testy, 20 March 1732, in his sequel to the opera of ‘Flora, or Hob's Wedding,’ 8vo, 1732. ‘Hob's Wedding’ is another adaptation from the ‘Country Wake,’ and is attributed to John Leigh, the comedian. On 14 April 1732 Hippisley gave an entertainment, which had much success, entitled ‘Hippisley's Drunken Man.’ In this, however, he had been preceded by John Harper (d. 1742) [q. v.] In 1732–3 Lincoln's Inn Fields and Covent Garden were under the same management, and on 7 Dec. 1732, the opening night of the new Covent Garden Theatre, Hippisley played Sir Wilful Witwoud in the ‘Way of the World.’ On 15 Jan. 1733 he was Lord Plausible in the ‘Plain Dealer.’ Under the head of ‘Bartholomew and Southwark Fairs,’ and with the date 1733, Genest (Account of the Stage, iii. 401) mentions (from his own bills) ‘Fielding and Hippisley's booth.’ At Covent Garden Hippisley remained for the rest of his life. His numerous new parts included Shallow in the ‘Second Part of King Henry IV,’ Foresight, Dogberry, Ananias in the ‘Alchemist,’ Clown in the ‘Winter's Tale,’ Lovegold in the ‘Miser,’ and Gardiner in ‘King Henry VIII.’ On 17 Jan. 1747 he was the original Sir Simon Loveit in Garrick's ‘Miss in her Teens.’ After this time his name disappears from the bills. He died at Bristol 12 Feb. 1748. Besides his theatre in this city he had a second in course of erection at Bath.

Davies (Life of Garrick, i. 356) speaks of Hippisley as a ‘comedian of lively humour and droll pleasantry,’ a sober Shuter approaching extravagance but stopping short of offence. His appearance was comic, and always elicited laughter and applause from the audience. This was in part due to a burn on his face, received in youth. He says of himself, in his epilogue to the ‘Journey to Bristol,’ that his ‘ugly face is a farce.’ He told Quin that he thought of bringing up his son to the stage, when Quin replied, ‘If that is the case, it is high time to burn him.’ A story told of him in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ shows that he had much wit in pleasing an audience (cf. the epitaph suggested in Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 92). His Fondlewife was original, and scarcely inferior to that of Cibber. His Corbaccio in ‘Volpone’ was a superb picture of covetousness and deafness, surpassing that of Benjamin Johnson (d. 1742) [q. v.], with whom it was customary to his disadvantage to compare him. By his performance of Fumble, a ridiculous old dotard, in D'Urfey's ‘Plotting Sisters’ he saved the piece. His Fluellen was an artistic performance, with no trace of buffoonery or caricature. A picture of Hippisley, attributed to Hogarth, is in the Mathews collection at the Garrick Club.

Three of Hippisley's children went on the stage. John Hippisley (d. 1767) appeared at Covent Garden as Tom Thumb, 26 April 1740. He is credited with the authorship of a ‘Dissertation on Comedy … by a Student of Oxford,’ London, 1750, 8vo; but no such Hippisley appears in the ‘Alumni Oxonienses’ about that date. He was author of ‘Essays: (1) On the populousness of Africa; (2) On the trade at the forts on the Gold Coast; (3) On the necessity of erecting a fort at Cape Apollonia. With a Map of Africa,’ London, 1764, 8vo (Brit. Mus. Cat.), and was probably the ‘Governor Hippersley of Cape Coast Castle’ who died 1 Jan. 1767 (Gent. Mag. 1767, p. 47).

Jane Hippisley, subsequently Mrs. Green (d. 1791), made her first appearance at her father's benefit, Covent Garden, on 18 March 1735, as Cherry in ‘The Stratagem.’ She rose to eminence; was Garrick's Ophelia in his first season at Goodman's Fields; was, as Miss Hippisley, the original Kitty Pry in the ‘Lying Valet,’ and Biddy in ‘Miss in her Teens;’ and as Mrs. Green, which name she took in 1747–8, was the first Mrs. Malaprop. Among her characters were Miss Prue, Anne Page, Perdita, Ophelia, Miss Hoyden, Nerissa, Æmilia, Doll Tearsheet, Duenna, and Mrs. Hardcastle. She played in Dublin in 1751–2, and probably in 1753–4, and acted the ‘Irish Widow’ at Bristol so late as 4 July 1781. But for the rivalry of Mrs. Clive, she would have been the best representative on the stage of old ladies and abigails. Her farewell of the London stage took place 26 May 1780, as Mrs. Hardcastle. She died at her house at Jacob's Well, Bristol, in the winter of 1791.

Miss E. Hippisley (fl. 1741–1766), subsequently Mrs. Fitzmaurice, came out at Goodman's Fields as Angelina in ‘Love makes a Man’ to the Clodio of Garrick, 25 Jan. 1741, her first appearance on the stage. She was an actress of inferior talent, played in York in 1766 as Mrs. Fitzmaurice, went to Bath, and was a ‘dresser’ at the theatre. [Genest's Account of the Stage; Baker, Reed, and Jones's Biographia Dramatica; Theatrical Biography, 1772; Richard Jenkins's Memoirs of the Bristol Stage; Davies's Life of Garrick and Dramatic Miscellanies; Victor's History of the Theatres of London and Dublin.]

J. K.