Walker, Thomas (1698-1744) (DNB00)

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WALKER, THOMAS (1698–1744), actor and dramatist, the son of Francis Walker of the parish of St. Anne, Soho, was born in 1698, and educated at a school near his father's house, kept by a Mr. Medow or Midon. About 1714 he joined the company of Shepherd, probably the Shepherd who was at Pinkethman's theatre, Greenwich, in 1710, and was subsequently, together with Walker, at Drury Lane. Barton Booth saw Walker playing Paris in a droll named ‘The Siege of Troy,’ and recommended him to the management of Drury Lane. In November 1715 (probably 6 Nov.) he seems to have played Tyrrel in Cibber's ‘Richard III.’ On 12 Dec. 1715 he was Young Fashion in a revival of the ‘Relapse.’ On 3 Feb. 1716 he was the first Squire Jolly in the ‘Cobbler of Preston,’ an alteration by Charles Johnson of the induction to the ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ On 21 May ‘Cato,’ with an unascertained cast, was given for his benefit. On 17 Dec. he was the first Cardono in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Cruel Gift.’ He also played during the season Axalla in ‘Tamerlane’ and Portius in ‘Cato.’ Beaupré, in the ‘Little French Lawyer,’ was given next season, and on 6 Dec. 1717 he was the first Charles in Cibber's ‘Nonjuror.’ Pisander in the ‘Bondman,’ Rameses—an original part—in Young's ‘Busiris’ (7 March 1719), and Laertes followed, and he was (11 Nov.) the first Brutus in Dennis's ‘Invader of his Country,’ an alteration of ‘Coriolanus,’ and (17 Feb. 1720) the first Daran in Hughes's ‘Siege of Damascus.’ Cassio and Vernon in the ‘First Part of King Henry IV,’ Alcibiades in ‘Timon of Athens,’ Pharmaces in ‘Mithridates,’ Octavius in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ Aaron in ‘Titus Andronicus,’ are among the parts he played at Drury Lane. On 23 Sept. 1721 he appeared at Lincoln's Inn Fields as Edmund in ‘Lear,’ playing during his first season Carlos in ‘Love makes a Man,’ Polydore in the ‘Orphan,’ Bassanio, Hotspur, Don Sebastian, Oroonoko, Aimwell in the ‘Beaux' Stratagem,’ Young Worthy in ‘Love's Last Shift,’ Bellmour in the ‘Old Bachelor,’ Paris in Massinger's ‘Roman Actor,’ Lorenzo in the ‘Spanish Friar,’ and many other parts in tragedy and comedy. At Lincoln's Inn he remained until 1733, playing, with other parts, Antony in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ Adrastus in ‘Œdipus,’ Constant in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ Leandro in the ‘Spanish Curate,’ Hephestion in ‘Rival Queens,’ Alexander the Great, Captain Plume, King in ‘Hamlet,’ Phocias—an original part—in the ‘Fatal Legacy’ (23 April 1723), Roebuck in Farquhar's ‘Love and a Bottle,’ Massaniello, Lovemore in the ‘Amorous Widow,’ Wellbred in ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ Harcourt in the ‘Country Wife,’ Younger Belford in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Dick in the ‘Confederacy,’ Cromwell in ‘Henry VIII,’ Massinissa in ‘Sophonisba,’ Marsan—an original part—in Southerne's ‘Money the Mistress’ (19 Feb. 1726), Don Lorenzo in the ‘Mistake,’ Pierre in ‘Venice Preserved,’ and Young Valère in the ‘Gamester.’

On 29 Jan. 1728 Walker took his great original part of Captain Macheath in the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ a rôle in which his reputation was established. He was an indifferent musician; but the gaiety and ease of his style, and his bold dissolute bearing, won general recognition. On 10 Feb. 1729 he was the first Xerxes in Madden's ‘Themistocles,’ and on 4 March the first Frederick in Mrs. Haywood's ‘Frederick, Duke of Brunswick.’ Lysippus in a revival of the ‘Maid's Tragedy’ and Juba in ‘Cato’ followed. On 4 Dec. 1730 he was the original Ramble in Fielding's ‘Coffee-house Politician.’ He also played Myrtle in the ‘Conscious Lovers,’ Cosroe in the ‘Prophetess,’ Corvino in ‘Volpone,’ and Lord Wronglove in the ‘Lady's Last Stake,’ and was, in the season 1730–1, the first Cassander in Frowde's ‘Philotas,’ Adrastus in Jeffrey's ‘Merope,’ Pylades in Theobald's ‘Orestes,’ and Hypsenor in Tracy's ‘Periander.’

On 10 Feb. 1733, at the new theatre in Covent Garden, Walker was the first Periphas in Gay's ‘Achilles.’ At this house he played Lothario, Banquo, Hector in Dryden's ‘Troilus and Cressida,’ Angelo in ‘Measure for Measure,’ Sempronius in ‘Cato,’ Lord Morelove in ‘Careless Husband,’ Timon, Carlos in the ‘Fatal Marriage,’ the King in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Ghost in ‘Hamlet,’ Fainall in the ‘Way of the World,’ Colonel Briton, Bajazet, Henry VI in ‘Richard III,’ Young Rakish in the ‘School Boy,’ Falconbridge, Dolabella in ‘All for Love,’ Horatio in ‘Fair Penitent,’ Norfolk in ‘Richard II,’ Marcian in ‘Theodosius,’ Kite in ‘Recruiting Officer,’ and Scandal in ‘Love for Love.’ The last part in which he can be traced at Covent Garden is Ambrosio in ‘Don Quixote,’ which he played on 17 May 1739. In 1739–40 he appears to have been out of an engagement, but he played, 17 May 1740, Macheath for his benefit at Drury Lane. In 1740–41 he was seen in many of his principal parts at Goodman's Fields. But after Garrick's arrival at Goodman's Fields in 1741, Walker's name was taken from the bills and did not reappear until 27 May 1742, when the ‘Beggar's Opera’ and the ‘Virgin Unmasked’ were given for his benefit. He seems to have played in Dublin in 1742 as Kite in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ with Garrick as Plume.

Walker's first dramatic effort was compressing into one the two parts of D'Urfey's ‘Massaniello.’ This was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 31 July 1724, with Walker as Massaniello. John Leigh [q. v.] wrote concerning this—

    Tom Walker his creditors meaning to chouse,
    Like an honest, good-natured young fellow,
    Resolv'd all the summer to stay in the house
    And rehearse by himself Massaniello.

The ‘Quaker's Opera,’ 8vo, 1728, a species of catchpenny imitation by Walker of the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ was acted at Lee and Harper's booth in Bartholomew Fair. Whether Walker played in it is not known. The ‘Fate of Villainy,’ 8vo, 1730, probably an imitation of some older play, was given at Goodman's Fields on 24 Feb. 1730 by Mr. and Mrs. Giffard with little success. It is unequal in merit, some parts being fairly, others poorly, written. In 1744 Walker went to Dublin, taking with him this play, which was acted there under the title of ‘Love and Loyalty.’ The second night was to have been for his benefit. Not being able to furnish security for the expenses of the house, he could not induce the managers to reproduce it. He died three days later, 5 June 1744, his death being accelerated by poverty and disappointment.

Walker was a good, though scarcely a first-class, actor in both comedy and tragedy, his forte being the latter. He played many leading parts in tragedies, most of them now wholly forgotten. His best serious parts were Bajazet, Hotspur, Edmund, and Falconbridge; in comedy he was received with most favour as Worthy in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Bellmour in the ‘Old Bachelor,’ and Harcourt in the ‘Country Girl.’ Rich said concerning him that he was the only man who could turn a tune [sing] who could [also] speak. Davies says that his imitation as Massaniello of a well-known vendor of flounders was eminently popular, and that his Edmund in ‘Lear’ was the best he had seen. After his success in Macheath, in consequence of which Gay dubbed him a highwayman, he was much courted by young men of fashion, and gave way to habits of constant intemperance, to which his decline in his profession and premature death were attributed.

Walker had a good face, figure, presence, and voice. His portrait as Macheath, painted by J. Ellys and engraved by Faber, jun., a companion to that of Lavinia Fenton as Polly, is described in the ‘Catalogue of Engraved Portraits’ by Chaloner Smith, who says that four copies are known.

[Works cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Biographia Dramatica; Hitchcock's Irish Stage; Chetwood's General History of the Stage; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies; Betterton's [Curll's] History of the English Stage; Georgian Era.]

J. K.