Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 39.djvu/194

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Mossop
Mossop
188

on by Fitzpatrick, a bitter enemy of Garrick and a would-be arbiter of the stage [see Garrick, David], and Mossop came to look upon himself as oppressed and injured. His reception at Crow Street was enthusiastic, and he added to his repertory Ventidius, Iago, and Kitely. Mossop and Barry formed an eminently popular combination. A further engagement was offered, on terms beyond precedent. Mossop declined, however, and announced his intention to open on his own account Smock Alley Theatre, a resolution which he carried out to his own ruin and that of his rival in Crow Street. Backed up by aristocratic patronage Mossop opened his season (17 Nov. 1760), as soon as the period of mourning for the death of George II had passed,with 'Venice Preserved,' Mossop playing Pierre, West Digges Jaffier, and Mrs. Bellamy Belvidera. A wild antagonism was carried on between the two houses, at which the same pieces were frequently played on the same night. During this and the following season Mossop made a fairly successful struggle, engaging Mrs. Fitzhenry, Mrs. Abington, Reddish, King, and Tate Wilkinson, but he owed his temporary escape from ruin to his engagement of an Italian opera company. In 1762-3 the receipts at the two houses were inadequate to the expenses at one. So impoverished was the treasury that actors of both sexes with a nominal salary of 6l1. per week only received 61. in as many months, and were in want of bread. Such money as Mossop received he spent in litigation or lost at the gambling-table, while Barry was arrested for debt on the stage. Mossop held on in a fashion until 1770-1, adding to his characters Zamti in the 'Orphan of China,' Leon in ' Rule a Wife and have a Wife,' Carlos in 'Like Master like Man,' Archer in the ' Stratagem,' Belcour in the 'West Indian,' and very many more characters, including, presumably, Brutus, Timon of Athens, the Old Bachelor, Lord Townly, Chamont, Hotspur, Sempronius, and Marcian. Such successes as he obtained were principally musical, Ann Catley [q. v.] in especial proving a great attraction.

In 1767-8 the retirement of Barry left Mossop without a competitor. He took possession immediately of both theatres, appearing as Richard at Crow Street 7 Dec. 1767. In the summer of 1769 he visited Cork. A third theatre in Capel Street, Dublin, was opened in 1776 by Dawson, Mahon, and Wilkes. Under Mossop's management tragedy had been acted at Crow Street, and comedy, rope-dancing, &c., at Smock Alley. In 1770 Mossop resigned Crow Street. Large sums of money had been taken and lost, the company had received mere driblets of money, and Mossop, though the idol of Dublin, found himself at times playing with a strong company to less than 51. Under the weight of troubles, vexations, and debt he broke down in health, and solicited public generosity for a benefit 17 April 1771, at which he was unable to appear. Proceeding to London in search of recruits, he was arrested for debt by one of his company, and lodged in the King's Bench, which he only quitted as a bankrupt. Benefit followed benefit at Smock Alley, and earnest appeals were made to the Dublin world to rescue one of the 'best theatrical performers now living.' No permanent relief was obtained. On recovering his liberty he, with customary churlishness and vanity, refused to apply to Garrick, saying that Garrick knew he was in London, thereby implying that application should come from him. All chance of help from Garrick was destroyed by the publication in 1772 of 'A Letter to David Garrick on his Conduct,' written by the Rev. David Williams for the purpose of forcing an engagement from that actor. Negotiations were opened with Covent Garden, but Mrs. Barry refused to act with Mossop. A year's tour on the continent was undertaken with a friend named Smith. From this Mossop returned emaciated and depressed, and with inadequate command of his faculties, and he died in the Strand 18 Nov. 1773, or, according to the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' on 27 Dec. 1774, at Chelsea, in great poverty (4½ s. only being in his possession), and, as was said, of a broken heart. An offer by Garrick to pay for his funeral was refused by Mossop's maternal uncle, a bencher of the Inner Temple. While in management he had borrowed money from Garrick, who proved against his estate for 200l.

A portrait of Mossop as Bajazet is mentioned by Bromley ; he was of middle size, fairly well formed, with an expressive face and an eye of much fire. He had a voice deep and loud, not very capable of tenderness, but useful in rhetorical passages. A born actor, he was unaware of his own limitations, and, though without a superior in a part such as the Duke in 'Measure for Measure,' thrust himself into parts, such as Archer and Belcour, for which he had very slight qualifications. In amenability to flattery Garrick even could not surpass him, and his most grievous errors were due to listening to interested advisers. Mossop wasted his time in fashionable society, and lost in gambling the money he should have paid to his company. The 'Dramatic Censor ' pronounces his Sempronius and Marcian unsurpassed, Churchill