Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Daly, Richard

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DALY, RICHARD (d. 1813), actor and theatrical manager, was the second son of an Irish gentleman in the county of Galway. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a fellow-commoner, and while there engaged actively in the violent contests which occasionally took place between students and citizens. Daly is described as of tall stature and of elegant personal appearance, although squint-eyed. He was much addicted to gambling, and noted as a successful duellist, both with sword and pistol. The exhaustion of his patrimony led him to seek employment as an actor, and after having been instructed for the stage by his countryman, Macklin, he made his appearance at Covent Garden, London, in the character of Othello. This attempt was unsuccessful. He was, however, befriended by Spranger Barry's widow, Mrs. Crawford, and her husband, with whom he returned to Ireland. In their company at Cork he played Norval and other parts with success, and obtained an engagement from Thomas Ryder, then lessee of the Theatre Royal, Dublin. Daly first appeared on the Dublin stage as Lord Townley. He was well received, and subsequently attained to first-class parts in the Dublin theatre. His position was much improved by his marriage with Mrs. Lister, a popular actress and singer of high personal character, and possessed of considerable property. The pecuniary embarrassments of Ryder enabled Daly to acquire the lease of Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, which he opened in 1781. Some of the most eminent actors of the time performed there under his management. Among them were John Philip Kemble, Macklin, Mrs. Jordan, Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Billington, and Mrs. Siddons. On the insolvency of Ryder and of Crawford, his successor at Crow Street Theatre, Daly became proprietor of that establishment, as well as of Smock Alley and of some Irish provincial theatres. In November 1786 Daly obtained a patent from the crown for a theatre royal at Dublin, with important rights in relation to theatrical performances throughout Ireland. In 1788 the Theatre Royal, Crow Street, was opened by Daly after an expenditure of 12,000l. on its rebuilding and decoration. The house had for a short time a profitable career; but its receipts were soon diminished by the establishment of Astley's Amphitheatre, and by frequent disturbances within the theatre itself. These were supposed to be instigated, or at least encouraged, by the severe strictures on Daly which appeared in two Dublin newspapers, the 'Evening Post' and the 'Weekly Packet.' John Magee, an eccentric and energetic man, the proprietor and editor of these journals, continuously published in them diatribes, in prose and verse, against Daly and his associate, Francis Higgins, a wealthy solicitor of obscure origin and low repute, who was believed to be confidentially employed by the chief justice, Lord Clonmel, and English government officials in Ireland. In addition to imputations against Daly in his Private and public capacity, Magee charged him with having improperly obtained a large sum from lottery-offices in Dublin, by having anticipated information from London by means of carrier pigeons. Legal proceedings for libel were in 1789 instituted by Daly against Magee, and the latter was imprisoned, being unable to find bail for 7,800l., the amount of the 'fiats' or warrants issued against him by the chief justice. Questions as to the legality of these 'fiats' were argued in the court of king's bench, Dublin, and discussed in the House of Commons there. Magee's trial took place in June 1790, in the king's bench, before Lord Clonmel and a special jury. On Daly's behalf eleven eminent barristers were engaged, including John Philpot Curran, and 200l. damages were awarded. Daly's theatrical revenue was much diminished by the establishment of a private theatre at Dublin in 1792 by some of the principal nobility and gentry, under the direction of Frederick E. Jones. In that year a series of statements depreciatory of Daly's character and management were published anonymously at London, as a portion of an answer to an attack on the eminent actress, Mrs. Billington. On the ground of the decay of the drama in Ireland under the management of Daly a memorial from persons of importance was in 1796 presented to the viceroy. Earl Camden, in favour of authorising the establishment of a new theatre royal in Dublin, under F. E. Jones. This movement was opposed by Daly, and the subject was referred to the consideration of the law officers of the crown. After a lengthened inquiry and negotiations an agreement was effected in 1797 by which Daly, in consideration of annuities for himself and his children, transferred his interest in the Dublin theatres to Jones. These arrangements were made under the immediate supervision of the lordlieutenant and the law officers of the government. An annual pension of 100l. was in 1798 granted by the crown to Daly. He died at Dublin in September 1813.

[Hibernian Magazine, 1785; Dublin Chronicle, 1788; Trial of John Magee, 1790; Answer to Memoirs of Mrs. Billington, 1792; Anthologia Hibemica, 1794; Dramatic Mirror, 1808; Gent, Mag. 1814; Boaden's Life of J. P. Kemble, 1825; Recollections of J. O'Keeffe. 1826; Boaden's Memoirs of Mrs. Siddons, 1827; Beminiscences of M. Kelly, 1826; manuscripts relative to Dublin theatres; Hist, of City of Dublin, vol. ii. 1859; Life of Sir M. A. Shee, 1860; Prior's Life of E. Malone, 1860.]

J. T. G.