Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/8

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Of this translation Prior, in the preface to his ‘Poems’ (1733), says: ‘I take this occasion to thank my good friend and schoolfellow, Mr. Dibben, for his excellent version of the “Carmen Seculare,” though my gratitude may justly carry a little envy with it; for I believe the most accurate judges will find the translation exceed the original.’

[Addit. MS. 5867, f. 64; Hutchins's Dorsetshire (1813), iii. 161; London Mag. 1741, p. 206; Welch's Alumni Westmon. (Phillimore), pp. 222, 231, 232; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy); Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

T. C.

DIBDIN, CHARLES (1745–1814), dramatist and song-writer, was born at Southampton on or before 4 March 1745. The date 1748 is commonly but inaccurately given; his baptismal register shows that he was privately baptised, being no doubt sickly at birth, on 4 March, and christened on the 26th at Holyrood Church, Southampton, where his father, Thomas Dibdin, was parish clerk. It is most improbable that Charles was, as he asserted, the eighteenth child of his father, ‘a silversmith, a man of considerable credit.’ Charles had been intended for the church, but music alone delighted him; his good voice in boyhood won him the position of chorister at Winchester Cathedral, under Fussell the organist, and soon the Winchester concert-rooms at the races and assizes ‘echoed with his vocal fame’ (Professional Life, i. 14). When he was ‘twelve’ (or fifteen?) years old he was kindly treated by Archdeacon Eden and John Hoadly (1711–1776) [q. v.], chancellor of the diocese. He became the principal singer at the Subscription Concerts; but his popularity with the clergy and officers left him little leisure even for musical study. He was rejected on account of his youth when he applied for the post of organist at Waltham, Hampshire. Invited to London, at free quarters, by his elder brother Thomas the seaman, he visited the theatres, made a position for himself by playing voluntaries at the churches, and often ‘played out the congregation of St. Bride's’ before he was sixteen. He was employed by Old Johnson, who kept a music-shop in Cheapside, but his sole employment was to tune harpsichords. His brother Tom had started in the Hope, West-Indiaman, and had been captured by a French seventy-four, so that no help could be expected from him. The Thompsons of St. Paul's Churchyard gave him his first three guineas for the copyright of six ballads, published at three halfpence each, after they had been sung by Kear at Finch's Grotto. He had not learnt music scientifically until he was sixteen, when he put in score Corelli's harmonies. He was introduced by Berenger to John Beard [q. v.], who accepted and produced for him a pastoral operetta, ‘The Shepherd's Artifice,’ 21 May 1764, and twice repeated it next season. In the summer of 1762 he had performed with Shuter, Weston, and Miss Pope at the Richmond Theatre, then called the Histrionic Academy. Next summer he went to Birmingham with Younger's company, and took some extra work at Vauxhall there; visited Coventry to see the Lady Godiva pageant, and 31 Jan. 1765 at Covent Garden played the part of Ralph in Isaac Bickerstaffe's ‘The Maid of the Mill,’ on Dunstall's incapacity becoming evident. He was encored in all the songs, and set the fashion of wearing ‘Ralph handkerchiefs.’ His salary was raised ten shillings a time in each of three successive weeks. He signed articles for three years, at 3l., 4l., and 5l. per week. Bickerstaffe's ‘The Maid of the Mill’ ran fifty nights. Dibdin condemns the envy and opposition of brother actors, which gradually drove him away from the profession in disgust. His taste was for operatic music, not for acting. After a second season at Birmingham he performed at Love's new theatre at Richmond. In 1767 he was the original Watty Cockney in ‘Love in the City,’ afterwards altered into ‘The Romp,’ for which he composed choruses and songs, including the popular ‘Dear me! how I long to be married!’ Dr. T. A. Arne [q. v.] generously saved him from the malignity of Simpson the hautboy player, but the piece lasted one week only. He next composed two-thirds of the music for ‘Lionel and Clarissa,’ by Bickerstaffe [q. v.], which was given in 1770 the sub-title of ‘The School for Fathers,’ of which nearly all the music was Dibdin's. For this he got no more than 48l. According to a current report he had already married the daughter of a respectable tradesman, a woman without beauty, but a handsome portion, and had deserted her when her fortune was dissipated, with the result that she lived on a scanty pittance till 1793 or later; no imputation was thrown on her character (Crosby, p. 103). In 1767 he had formed an illicit connection with Harriet Pitt, a dancer at Covent Garden, who played small parts. Her children by Dibdin included Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin (1768–1833) (see below), and Thomas John Dibdin (1771–1841) [q. v.] Dibdin deserted Harriet Pitt about 1774, and she then returned to the stage under the name of Mrs. Davenet.

George Colman, succeeding Beard in the last year of Dibdin's articles, treated him harshly and with meanness. His benefit night was spoilt by the compulsory closing of the theatre on the death of Princess Matilda. On 30 Oct. 1768 Bickerstaffe's ‘Padlock,’ produced at