Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lowe, Thomas
LOWE, THOMAS (d. 1783), vocalist and actor, first appeared at Drury Lane Theatre on 11 Sept. 1740 as Sir John Loverule in ‘The Devil to Pay,’ introducing a popular song, ‘The Early Horn.’ In the course of his first two seasons Lowe played or sang Quaver (‘Virgin Unmasked,’ 27 Sept. 1740), Leander (‘Mock Doctor,’ 8 Oct.), Macheath (‘Beggar's Opera,’ 17 Oct.), songs in Arne's ‘Œdipus’ (19 Nov.), Bacchanal (Arne's ‘Comus,’ 10 Dec.), Amiens, with Arne's music, in ‘As you like it,’ 20 Dec. (when the play with its new setting was received ‘with extraordinary applause’), Arne's songs in ‘Twelfth Night’ (15 Jan. 1741), Welford (‘Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green,’ 3 April), Lorenzo (‘Merchant of Venice,’ 11 Jan. 1742), and Marcus (‘Cato,’ 4 March).
John Beard [q. v.] returned after five years' absence to supersede Lowe at Drury Lane, and Lowe migrated to Covent Garden, where he appeared on 26 Sept. 1748 as Macheath. His Arviragus in ‘Cymbeline,’ 15 Feb. 1749, and Colonel Bully in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ 4 Oct. 1752, appear to have been, with some small singing parts, the most notable impersonations which he added to his Drury Lane répertoire. When at the beginning of the winter season of 1760 Beard removed to Covent Garden, Lowe returned to Drury Lane, taking part, among other performances, in Stanley's ‘Tears and Triumphs of Parnassus,’ 25 Nov. 1760; in Shakespeare's ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ (as Balthazar), and the ‘Tempest’ (as Hymen). After the summer of 1763 his connection with the great theatres ceased.
In the meantime Lowe was associated with the production of several of Handel's oratorios, 1742 to 1750 (see list in Grove), and was from 1745 a favourite singer at Vauxhall Gardens and at Ruckholt House. The ‘General Advertiser’ for 13 May 1745 announced a concert at Ruckholt ‘to begin at ten o'clock in the morning (N.B. Breakfasting gratis),’ and the first performance of ‘an ode, “The Lake,” with several new hunting songs; first huntsman, Mr. Lowe.’ Lowe was a member of the Madrigal Society between 1741 and 1751.
For five years, beginning in 1763, Lowe was lessee and manager of Marylebone Gardens. ‘The orchestra,’ wrote J. T. Smith, ‘before which I have listened with my grandmother to hear Tommy Lowe sing, stood upon the site of the house now (1828) No. 17 Devonshire Place, and … nearly opposite to the old church still standing in High Street’ (Life of Nollekens, i. 33). The elder Storace and Dr. Arnold supported the enterprise, and the first season was prosperous; but in spite of Miss Catley's singing, Miss Trusler's plum-puddings, and the rousing choruses (by the audience) to Lowe's ‘Fellowcraft’ and other songs, Lowe was ruined in 1769, after an exceptionally wet summer. Thenceforward his efforts to gain a livelihood met with scanty success. After holding an engagement at Finch's Grotto Garden and managing the wells at Otters' Pool, near Watford (1771), he was engaged by King, on his purchase of Sadler's Wells, to sing there from 20 April 1772. He retained the engagement until his death on 1 March 1783.
His voice was said by Dibdin to be more even and mellow than that of Beard, ‘and in love songs, when little more than mere utterance was necessary, he might be said to have exceeded him. … Lowe lost himself beyond the namby-pamby poetry of Vauxhall; Beard was at home everywhere’ (History of the Stage, v. 364).
Portraits of Lowe, engraved by Bickham, were published with many songs. A painting, by Pine, of Lowe and Mrs. Chambers as Macheath and Polly was engraved by MacArdell (Bromley), and there is a print, published by Bew (1778), of Lowe in huntsman's dress, ‘with early horn.’ Lowe's only son, Halifax Lowe, made his first appearance as a singer at Sadler's Wells on 15 April 1784. He was said to resemble his father in voice and manner. He died in his twenty-ninth year about 2 Oct. 1790.
[London Daily Post Advertisements, 1740 to 1763; passim; Kelly's Reminiscences, i. 96; Morning Chronicle, 3 March 1783 (quoted in Gent. Mag. 1783 i. 272); Gent. Mag. 1790 ii. 980; European Mag. 1790, p. 319; London Mag. 1783, p. 146; Burney's Hist. iv. 447, 663, 667; Grove's Dict. ii. 170; Oliphant's Account of the Madrigal Society; Percival's Collection relating to Sadler's Wells, in Brit. Mus.]