Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Waldron, Francis Godolphin

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WALDRON, FRANCIS GODOLPHIN (1744–1818), writer and actor, was born in 1744. He became a member of Garrick's company at Drury Lane, and is first heard of on 21 Oct. 1769, when he played a part, probably Marrall, in ‘A New Way to pay Old Debts.’ On 12 March 1771 he was Dicky in the ‘Constant Couple.’ He made little progress as an actor, and his name rarely occurs in the bills. Garrick gave him, however, charge of the theatrical fund which he established in 1766, and he was at different times manager of the Windsor, Richmond, and other country theatres. On 25 April 1772 he was the original Sir Samuel Mortgage in Downing's ‘Humours of the Turf.’ On 17 May 1773 Waldron took a benefit, on which occasion he was the original Metre, a parish clerk, in his own ‘Maid of Kent,’ 8vo, 1778, a comedy founded on a story in the ‘Spectator’ (No. 123). On 12 May 1775, for his benefit and that of a Mrs. Greville, he produced his ‘Contrast, or the Jew and Married Courtezan,’ played once only and not printed. Tribulation in the ‘Alchemist’ followed, and on 22 or 23 March 1776 he was the original Sir Veritas Vision in Heard's ‘Valentine's Day.’ His ‘Richmond Heiress,’ a comedy altered from D'Urfey, unprinted, was acted at Richmond in 1777, probably during his management of the theatre. On 19 Feb. 1778 he was, at Drury Lane, the first Cacafatadri in Portal's ‘Cady of Bagdad.’ He also played Shallow in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor.’ His ‘Imitation,’ a comedy, unprinted, was brought out at Drury Lane for his benefit on 12 May 1783 and coldly received. It is a species of reversal of the ‘Beaux' Stratagem,’ with women substituted for men and men for women. On the occasion of its production Waldron played Justice Clack in the ‘Ladies' Frolic.’ The same year Waldron published, in octavo, ‘An Attempt to continue and complete the justly admired Pastoral of the Sad Shepherd’ of Ben Jonson. The notes to this are not without interest. ‘The King in the Country,’ a two-act piece, 8vo, 1789, is an alteration of the underplot of Heywood's ‘King Edward the Fourth.’ It was played at Richmond and Windsor in 1788, after the return of George III from Cheltenham, and is included by Waldron in his ‘Literary Museum.’ ‘Heigho for a Husband,’ 8vo, 1794, is a rearrangement of ‘Imitation’ before mentioned. It was more successful than the previous piece, was played at the Haymarket on 14 July 1794, and was revived at Drury Lane in 1802. Its appearance had been preceded on 2 Dec. 1793 at the Haymarket by that of the ‘Prodigal,’ 1794, 8vo, an alteration of the ‘Fatal Extravagance,’ which is provided with a happy conclusion. In the preface to this Waldron, who had become the prompter of the Haymarket under the younger Colman, says he made the alteration at Colman's desire. At the Haymarket Waldron was the first Sir Matthew Medley in Hoare's ‘My Grandmother’ on 16 Dec. 1793. He was still occasionally seen at Drury Lane, where he played Elbow in ‘Measure for Measure,’ and the Smuggler in the ‘Constant Couple.’ On 9 June 1795 he was, at the Haymarket, the first Prompter in Colman's ‘New Hay at the Old Market.’ For his benefit on 21 Sept. were produced ‘Love and Madness,’ adapted by him from Fletcher's ‘Two Noble Kinsmen,’ and ‘'Tis a wise Child knows its own Father,’ a three-act comedy also by him. Neither piece is printed. The ‘Virgin Queen,’ in five acts, an attempted sequel to the ‘Tempest,’ was printed in octavo in 1797, but unacted. It is a wretched piece which the ‘Biographia Dramatica’ declares ‘very happily executed.’ The ‘Man with two Wives, or Wigs for Ever,’ 8vo, 1798, was acted probably in the country. The ‘Miller's Maid,’ a comic opera in two acts, songs only printed with the cast, was performed at the Haymarket on 25 Aug. 1804, with music by Davy. It is founded on a ‘Rural Tale’ by Robert Bloomfield [q. v.], was played for Mrs. Harlowe's benefit, and was a success. Until near the end of his life Waldron made an occasional appearance at the Haymarket, at which, as young Waldron, his son also appeared, his name being found to Malevole, a servant, in Moultrie's 'False and True,' Haymarket, 11 Aug. 1798.

Waldron was not only actor and playwright, but also editor and bookseller. In 1789 he brought out an edition of Downes's 'Roscius Anglicanus' with some notes. From 54 Drury Lane he issued in octavo in 1792 'The Literary Museum, or Ancient and Modern Repository,' also published with another title-page as 'The Literary Museum, or a Selection of Scarce Old Tracts,' forming a work of considerable literary and antiquarian interest. He followed this up with the 'Shakspearean Miscellany' (London, 1802, four parts, 4to), a second collection of scarce tracts, chiefly from manuscripts in his possession, with notes by himself and portraits of actors, poems (then unpublished) by Donne and Corbet, and other curious works. Both of these heterogeneous collections are scarce. Waldron also wrote or compiled the lives in the 'Biographical Mirrour' (3 vols. 1795–8), 'Free Reflections on Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments [purporting to be] under the hand and seal of W. Shakespeare in the possession of S. Ireland' (1796, 8vo), 'A Compendious History of the English Stage' (1800, 12mo), 'A Collection of Miscellaneous Poetry' (1802, 4to), and 'The Celebrated Romance intituled Rosalynde. Euphues Golden Legacie' (1802), with notes forming a supplement to the 'Shakspearean Miscellany.' He also contributed a notice of Thomas Davies, the actor and bookseller, to Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes.'

Waldron died in March 1818, probably at his house in Drury Lane. His portrait as Sir Christopher Hatton in the 'Critic' was painted by Harding and engraved by W. Gardiner in 1788 (Bromley, p. 415). His antiquarian compilations constitute his chief claim to recognition, and show a range of reading rare among actors. Such of his dramas as were printed are without originality or value (though Gifford praises Waldron's continuation of the 'Sad Shepherd'), and as an actor he never got beyond what is known as 'utility.'

[Works cited; Gent. Mag. 1818, i. 283–4; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Biographia Dramatica; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Thespian Dictionary; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe; Young's Memoirs of Mrs. Crouch; Secret History of the Green Room; Allibone's Dictionary; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. K.