Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jones, Frederick Edward

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JONES, FREDERICK EDWARD (1759–1834), manager of the Dublin Theatre, born at Vesington, co. Meath, Ireland, in 1759, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a man of position and means, and passed some years on the continent as the associate of people of rank. With Lord Westmeath he took the Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin, and opened it, 6 March 1793, with the ‘Beggar's Opera’ and the ‘Irish Girl,’ given by ‘distinguished amateurs.’ At this house he himself played Sir Lucius O'Trigger in the ‘Rivals.’ In 1794 he obtained permission to open a theatre for seven years in Dublin, and to hire female but not male performers. He was, however, prohibited from taking money at the doors. At the instance of his aristocratic patrons he applied in 1796 to the Earl of Camden for a patent for a theatre, and finally leased, on very onerous terms, Crow Street Theatre from the manager, Richard Daly [q. v.] Supported by Lord Westmeath, Jones spent 1,200l. on the house. The interior, thanks to the decorations of Marinari and Zaffarini, became one of the handsomest in the United Kingdom. The new house was opened in 1796, and after a few weeks was closed in consequence of the proclamation of martial law. Two years later a new patent was granted him from St. James's under the privy seal 25 June 1798. Jones spent a further sum of 5,000l., but had again, for political reasons, to close in 1803. A bill to grant him a solatium of 5,000l., brought forward in parliament in answer to his application, was rejected on the second reading. In 1807 Richard Brinsley Sheridan invited Jones to purchase a share in Drury Lane, and to manage the house on a salary of 1,000l. for ten years, and a percentage on net profits. The scheme was defeated by the burning of Drury Lane, 24 Feb. 1809. Jones sold in 1808 an eighth share in Crow Street Theatre for 5,000l., and a second eighth share to Crampton for the same sum. Crampton undertook the management with disastrous results, and Jones had to resume the reins within six months. Encountering, however, persistent antagonism, provoked in part by his independence, he once more withdrew from the management in 1814. A series of disturbances had culminated in 1814 in a riot, in which the theatre was wrecked, and Jones laid the blame upon the government, with which, as a liberal in politics, he had become unpopular. After resuming management further riots occurred in 1819. A cabal against him proved successful, his applications for a renewal of the patent were refused, and the patent was granted to Thomas Harris of Covent Garden [q. v.] Jones lost heavily by this arrangement, and was imprisoned for debt. He died in retirement in 1834. A patent for a second theatre in Dublin was granted in 1829 to his sons, Richard Talbot Jones and Charles Horatio Jones. Frederick Jones, apparently another son, was acting in Dublin in 1821.

Jones was a handsome man, over six feet in height, was held to resemble the regent in manners, and was known as Buck Jones. Although his sons were on the stage, there is no sign that he himself was a professional actor. He was a member of Daly's, the most aristocratic club in Ireland, and lived in magnificent style in a house in Fortick's Grove, rented from Lord Mountjoy for 1,000l. a year, and rechristened by its old name Clonliffe House. In this house he once, with a garrison of soldiers, stood something tantamount to a siege from armed burglars. Jones Road, leading to this residence, still preserves his name. ‘Familiar Epistles to Frederick Jones, Esq., on the present State of the Irish Stage,’ Dublin, 1804, 12mo, assigned to John Wilson Croker, but, it is said, expressly repudiated by him, attracted much attention on its publication, and was, with a small polemical literature in prose and verse, the authorship of no item in which is quite certain, three or four times reprinted. They censure some of Jones's actors, but deal little with himself beyond imputing to him gourmandise. In the preface, indeed, Jones is said to be a pleasant companion and an honourable gentleman. Jones, who had belonged to a corps of fencibles, is in English publications occasionally styled ‘Captain.’ Mrs. Jordan speaks of him in somewhat disparaging terms.

[Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin; Theatrical Observer, Dublin, various years; Hist. of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, Dublin, 1870; Lady Morgan, her Career, Literary and Personal, by W. J. FitzPatrick, F.S.A., Dublin; Thespian Dict.; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. x. 252; Boaden's Life of Mrs. Jordan; Monthly Mirror, vol. ix.]

J. K.