Crisp, Samuel (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


CRISP, SAMUEL (d. 1783), dramatist, was only son of Samuel Crisp, by Florence, daughter of Charles Williams. At the solicitation of Lady Coventry he wrote a tragedy on the death of Virginia. The play was reluctantly accepted by Garrick, who contributed prologue and epilogue, and on 25 Feb. 1754 it was produced at Drury Lane, where the acting and the exertions of friends kept it running ten nights. But though there was little open censure, it was felt that an experiment had been made on the patience of the public which would not bear repetition. When a few weeks later ‘Virginia’ appeared in print, the critics—the Monthly Reviewers in particular—condemned plot, characters, and diction, with severity and, it must be admitted, with justice. Crisp, however, being under the delusion that he was a great dramatist, devoted himself with ardour to the task of revision, in the hopes of being completely successful in the following year; but Garrick showed little disposition to bring the amended tragedy on the stage, and at length was obliged to return a decided refusal. Crisp in bitter disappointment withdrew to the continent. ‘He became,’ in the words of Macaulay, ‘a cynic and a hater of mankind.’ On his return to England he sought retirement from 1764 with his friend Christopher Hamilton at the latter's country-house, Chessington Hall, not far from Kingston in Surrey, situate on a wide and nearly desolate common and encircled by ploughed fields. Here he was frequently visited by his sister, Mrs. Sophia Gast of Burford, Oxfordshire, by his old friend and protégé Dr. Burney, and by Burney's family. ‘Frances Burney he regarded as his daughter. He called her his Fannikin; and she in return called him her dear Daddy. In truth, he seems to have done much more than her real parents for the development of her intellect; for though he was a bad poet, he was a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent counsellor.’ When Miss Burney sent him the manuscript of her comedy, ‘The Witlings,’ Crisp, a better friend to her than he had been to himself, unhesitatingly told her that she had failed in what she playfully called ‘a hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle.’ Some of her charming letters to Crisp have been published in her ‘Diary and Letters.’ So completely had Crisp hidden himself from the world that in the edition of Baker's ‘Biographia Dramatica,’ published in 1782, the year before his death, we find him described as ‘Mr. Henry Crisp, of the custom house,’ errors repeated in the edition of 1812, and in the index to Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes.’ He died at Chessington on 24 April 1783, aged 76, and lies buried in the parish church, where a marble tablet erected to his memory bears pompous lines by Dr. Burney. His library was sold the following year.

[Diary of Madame d'Arblay, and Macaulay's Review; Brayley's Hist. of Surrey, iv. 404; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, iv. 386–7; Baker's Biog. Dramat. ed. 1812, i. 155, iii. 383; Gent. Mag. xxiv. 128–9; Monthly Review, x. 225–31; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 346, iii. 656.]

G. G.