Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodward, Henry

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WOODWARD, HENRY (1714–1777), actor, the eldest son of a tallow chandler in the borough of Southwark, London, was born in London 2 Oct. 1714, and intended for his father's occupation. He was at Merchant Taylors' school from 1724 to 1728. After his father's failure in business ‘Harry’ Woodward, as he was generally called, joined the Lilliputian troupe of Lun [see Rich, John] at Lincoln's Inn Fields, playing on 1 Jan. 1729 in the ‘Beggar's Opera’ as the Beggar and Ben Budge (the ‘Thespian Dictionary’ says as Peachum). During the season the performance was repeated fifteen times, and Woodward, now thoroughly stage-struck, remained with Rich, who instructed him in harlequin and other characters. ‘Master’ Woodward appeared at Goodman's Fields on 5 Oct. 1730, and as ‘Young’ Woodward played on 30 Oct. Simple in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor.’ On 31 Dec. he was Dicky in the ‘Constant Couple,’ on 7 Jan. 1731 Page in the ‘Orphan,’ and on 5 May Tom Thumb, for his benefit, when he spoke a prologue written by himself. On 12 May he was a Spirit in the ‘Devil of a Wife,’ and on 1 and 2 June a priestess in ‘Sophonisba,’ and a Spirit in the ‘Tempest.’ At Goodman's Fields, where he remained until 1736, we read in the bills of Woodward, Young Woodward, Master Woodward, and H. Woodward. Presumably these are all the same, though Dr. Doran seems to think the contrary. To one or other of these names appear Haly in ‘Tamerlane,’ Selim in ‘Mourning Bride,’ Harlequin, First Drawer in the ‘Cheats, or the Tavern Bilkers,’ Daniel in ‘Conscious Lovers,’ Donalbain, Setter in ‘Old Bachelor,’ Squire Richard in the ‘Provoked Husband,’ Harry in ‘Mock Doctor,’ Jaques in ‘Love makes a Man,’ Squire Clodpole in ‘Lover's Opera,’ Supple in ‘Double Gallant,’ Fetch in ‘Stage Coach,’ and Shoemaker in ‘Relapse.’ On 25 Sept. 1734, Woodward acted harlequin as Lun, jun. Subsequently he was seen as Petit in the ‘Inconstant,’ Prince John in ‘The Second Part of King Henry IV,’ Victory in ‘Britannia,’ Sneak in ‘Country Lasses,’ Slango in ‘Honest Yorkshireman,’ and Albanact in ‘King Arthur.’ Woodward's name appears on 29 Jan. 1736 as Issouf, an original part, in Sterling's ‘Parricide.’

After the removal of the company to Lincoln's Inn Fields, Woodward appeared on 3 Jan. 1737 as Harlequin Macheath in the ‘Beggars' Pantomime, or the Contending Columbines.’ The authorship of this is ascribed to Lun, jun., i.e. Woodward, who dedicated to Mrs. Clive and Mrs. Cibber the printed version, 12mo, 1736, with an apology for having burlesqued their quarrel over the part of Polly in the ‘Beggar's Opera.’ On 12 Feb. 1737 Woodward was the first Spruce in Lynch's ‘Independent Patriot, or Musical Folly,’ and on 21 Feb. the first Young Manly in Hewitt's ‘Tutor for the Beaus [sic], or Love in a Labyrinth.’

At the end of the season (1737) the theatre was closed, and Woodward went to Drury Lane, appearing on 13 Jan. 1738 as Feeble in the ‘Second Part of King Henry IV.’ Here he remained until 1741–2, playing many parts in comedy (for a full list see Genest). Among them were Slender, Gibbet in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Kastril in ‘Alchemist,’ Abel in ‘Committee,’ Jeremy in ‘Love for Love,’ Simon Pure, Sir Amorous La Foole in ‘Silent Woman,’ Duretete, Sir Novelty Fashion, Lord Foppington, Poet in ‘Timon of Athens,’ Pistol, Richmond in ‘Charles I,’ Silvius in ‘As you like it,’ Ventoso in Dryden's ‘Tempest,’ and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. The original parts assigned him are insignificant. They consist of French Cook in ‘Sir John Cockle at Court,’ Dodsley's sequel to the ‘King and the Miller of Mansfield,’ 23 Feb. 1738; Poet in Miller's ‘Hospital for Fools,’ 15 Nov. 1739; Dapperwit in Edward Phillips's ‘Britons, Strike Home,’ 31 Dec.; Beau in Garrick's ‘Lethe,’ 15 April 1740; and Neverout in ‘Polite Conversation,’ taken from Swift, 23 April. On 29 Dec. 1741 he appeared at Covent Garden as Coachman in the ‘Drummer.’ At Drury Lane he remained till 1747, playing the lead in comedy, and adding to his repertory some fifty characters. Among these were Osric, Campley in ‘Funeral,’ Bullock in ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Brisk in ‘Double Dealer,’ Jerry Blackacre in ‘Plain Dealer,’ Lucio in ‘Measure for Measure,’ Lord Sands, Pistol, Ben in ‘Love for Love,’ Parolles, Sir Courtly Nice, Guiderius in ‘Cymbeline,’ the Lying Valet, Antonio in ‘Don Sebastian,’ and Colonel Feignwell. Two original parts were assigned him—Flash in Garrick's ‘Miss in her Teens,’ 17 Jan. 1747; and Jack Meggot in Hoadley's ‘Suspicious Husband,’ 12 Feb. of the same year.

Engaged by Sheridan for Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Woodward made his first appearance there on 28 Sept. 1747 as Marplot in the ‘Busybody,’ and played also Brass in the ‘Confederacy,’ Trappanti in ‘She would and she would not,’ and other parts. As Marplot he came out again on 10 Sept. 1748 at Drury Lane, ‘first appearance for seven years.’ He repeated some of his Dublin successes, and was seen during the season as Tom in ‘Conscious Lovers,’ Justice Greedy in ‘A New Way to pay Old Debts,’ Ramble in ‘London Cuckolds,’ Gregory in ‘Mock Doctor,’ Captain Brazen, Scrub, Mercutio, Harlequin in ‘Emperor of the Moon,’ Fine Gentleman in ‘Lethe,’ Faddle in ‘Foundling,’ and Ramilie in the ‘Miser,’ and gave on 18 March 1749 his own unprinted interlude, ‘Tit for Tat,’ in which he made sport of Foote, who had taken him off in his ‘Diversions of the Morning.’ In November 1752 the actor had to make an affidavit that he had not insulted one Fitzpatrick (the same probably who in 1763 caused a riot in the theatre).

During this same year (1752) Woodward was subjected to an attack at the hands of the mountebank ‘Sir’ John Hill [q. v.], who inserted in his ‘Inspector’ a letter ‘to Woodward, comedian, the meanest of all characters.’ This elicited a pamphlet, ‘A Letter from Henry Woodward, Comedian, the meanest of all Characters [see Inspector, No. 524], to Dr. John Hill, Inspector-General of Great Britain, the greatest of all Characters (see all the Inspectors)’ [London], 1752 (2nd edit.), 8vo. This was followed by ‘A Letter to Mr. Woodward, on his Triumph over the Inspector. By Sampson Edwards, the Merry Cobler of the Haymarket,’ London, n.d. [1752], 8vo; ‘A Letter to Henry Woodward, Comedian, occasioned by his Letter to the Inspector. By Simon Partridge, the Facetious Cobler of Pall Mall,’ &c., London, n.d. [1752], 8vo, and finally ‘An Answer to Woodward, by the Earl of …,’ London, 1753, 8vo, a mock defence of Hill.

Between 1751 and 1756 Woodward had produced and doubtless acted in several unprinted pantomimes of his own—‘Harlequin Ranger,’ season of 1751–2; ‘The Genii,’ produced in 1752, and often revived; ‘Queen Mab,’ 1752; ‘Fortunatus,’ 1753, frequently revived, ‘Proteus, or Harlequin in China,’ 1755; and ‘Mercury Harlequin,’ 1756. These all displayed gifts of construction and invention, and were highly popular. Some of them had previously been seen in Dublin. ‘Marplot in Lisbon’ (1760, 12mo) was acted at Drury Lane on 20 March 1754. It is only a compression, with some slight alterations by Woodward, of Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Marplot,’ a continuation of the ‘Busybody,’ and was seen again in Dublin and at Covent Garden.

At Drury Lane he remained until 1758, being seen as the Little French Lawyer, Sir Harry Wildair, Trappolin in ‘Duke and no Duke,’ Quicksilver in ‘Eastward Hoe,’ Bobadil, Stephano in the ‘Tempest,’ Celadon in the ‘Comical Lovers,’ Face, Sir John Daw, Sir Fopling Flutter, Launcelot Gobbo, Polonius, Subtle in ‘Alchemist,’ Clown in ‘Winter's Tale,’ Copper Captain, Lissardo in the ‘Wonder,’ Falstaff in the ‘Second Part of King Henry IV,’ and other characters. Chief among his original parts were Witling in Mrs. Clive's ‘Rehearsal, or Bays in Petticoats,’ 15 March 1750; Don Lewis in Moore's ‘Gil Blas,’ 2 Feb. 1751; a part in his own unprinted ‘Lick at the Town,’ 16 March; Petruchio in Garrick's ‘Catharine and Petruchio,’ 18 March 1754; Dick in Murphy's ‘Apprentice,’ 2 Jan. 1756; Block in Smollett's ‘Reprisal,’ 22 Jan. 1757; Daffodil in the ‘Modern Fine Gentleman,’ 24 March; Nephew in the ‘Gamesters,’ altered from Shirley by Garrick, 22 Dec.; and Razor in Murphy's ‘Upholsterer,’ 30 March 1758.

At the end of the season of 1757–8 Woodward finally severed his connection with Drury Lane. His last engagement had been prodigal of interest and incident. He was Garrick's right-hand man, and divided with him the empire over comedy. His Mercutio, when Garrick and Barry in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ divided the town, had been an unsurpassable triumph. Murphy said, concerning the performance, that ‘no actor ever reached the vivacity of Woodward.’ His performance of Bobadil was pronounced ‘ wonderful’ by Tate Wilkinson. No less conspicuous triumph had attended his Parolles.

Woodward's inducement to leave Drury Lane had been a tempting but, as it proved, delusive, offer from Spranger Barry [q. v.] Barry had counted on the support of Macklin in opening a new theatre in Dublin. Macklin proving recalcitrant, he turned to Woodward, who had saved 6,000l., and Woodward, after some hesitation, entered on the scheme at the persuasion of Barry, whom Rich declared capable of ‘wheedling a bird from the tree and squeezing it to death in his hand.’ On 22 Oct. 1758 Crow Street Theatre, built by subscription, was opened under the new management, Woodward speaking a prologue but not acting. On 28 Jan. 1760 Foote's ‘Minor’ was produced. Woodward, as the original Mrs. Cole, acted with so much coarseness as to damn a piece that afterwards made a success in London. The only other parts he played in Dublin in which he had not been seen in London were Young Philpot in the ‘Citizen,’ Squire Groom in ‘Love à-la-Mode,’ and Humphrey Gubbin in the ‘Tender Husband.’ But the Dublin management was not a success, and by 1762 Woodward had lost half his savings. In this year the joint-managers, who in 1761 had opened a new theatre in Cork, quarrelled, recriminated, and dissolved partnership, Woodward returning to London (for some incidents of the estrangement of Woodward and Barry see C. McLoughlin, Zanga's Triumph, or Harlequin and Othello at War, 1762, 8vo).

On reappearing in London at Covent Garden in ‘Marplot,’ on 5 Oct. 1763, Woodward, who had spoken in Dublin many prologues of his own writing, delivered one entitled ‘The Prodigal's Return;’ this occasioned a vexatious charge of ‘ingratitude’ when in 1764 he revisited Dublin. At Covent Garden he played some of the parts in which he had been seen in Ireland, and was the first Careless in Murphy's ‘No One's Enemy but his Own,’ 9 Jan. 1764; a part, probably Lord Lavender, in Townley's ‘False Concord,’ 20 March, Young Brumpton in the ‘School for Guardians,’ 10 Jan. 1767; Careless in Colman's ‘Oxonian in Town,’ 7 Nov.; Lofty in Goldsmith's ‘Good-natured Man,’ 29 Jan. 1768; Marcourt in Colman's ‘Man and Wife,’ 7 Oct. 1769; and Captain Ironsides in Cumberland's ‘Brothers,’ 2 Dec. He had also been seen as Justice Shallow, the Humorous Lieutenant, Sir John Brute, Lord Ogleby, and Sir Brilliant Fashion, and had produced in 1766 his own ‘Harlequin Doctor Faustus.’ On 19 Nov. 1770, as Marplot in the ‘Busybody,’ he made under Foote his first appearance in Edinburgh, playing a round of characters. On his homeward journey he acted under Tate Wilkinson in York. Still under Foote, he was on 26 June 1771 at the Haymarket the first Sir Christopher Cripple in the ‘Maid of Bath.’ Back at Covent Garden, which he did not further quit, he was the first Tardy in ‘An Hour before Marriage,’ 25 Jan. 1772; General Gauntlet in the ‘Duellist,’ 20 Oct. 1773; Tropick in Colman's ‘Man of Business,’ 31 Jan. 1774; Captain Absolute in the ‘Rivals,’ 17 Jan. 1775; Sir James Clifford in Kelly's ‘Man of Reason,’ 9 Feb. 1776; and FitzFrolick in Murphy's ‘News from Parnassus,’ 23 Sept. He had also been seen as Ranger, Jodelet in his alteration of the ‘Man's the Master’ (1775, 8vo) on 3 Nov. 1773, and Lord Foppington in the ‘Man of Quality.’ His ‘Harlequin's Jubilee’ was given at Covent Garden in 1770. His ‘Seasons,’ founded on the ‘Spectator,’ is included in Mrs. Bellamy's ‘Apology’ for her life. Woodward's last appearance was on 13 Jan. 1777, when he played Stephano in the ‘Tempest.’ On 18 March he was too ill to act for his benefit. On 17 April he died at his house, Chapel Street, Grosvenor Place, and was buried in the vaults of St. George's, Hanover Square. Mrs. Woodward predeceased her husband, and Woodward spent the last ten years of his life with George Anne Bellamy [q. v.] To her he left the bulk of his estate, which, however, she never succeeded in obtaining.

Woodward has had few equals in comedy. His figure was admirably formed and his expression so composed that he seemed qualified rather for tragedy or fine gentlemen than the brisk fops and pert coxcombs he ordinarily played. He was unable, however, to speak a serious line with effect, but so soon as he had to charge his face with levity, and to display simulated consequence, brisk impertinence, or affected gaiety, he was the most engaging, consequential, and laughable of actors. Churchill, in ‘The Rosciad,’ tried to depreciate him as ‘a speaking harlequin, made up of whim,’ but the stroke was ineffective. He was quite unequalled as Bobadil, a part, says Dr. Doran, that died with him. His Mercutio has never in report been surpassed. In Marplot he ‘was everything the author or spectator could wish.’ Sir Joseph Wittol, Brisk, Tattle, Parolles, Osric, and Lucio were parts in which he was unequalled, and his Touchstone and Sir Andrew Aguecheek were much approved. In Trappolin, Captain Flash, Clodio, Sosia Duretête, Lissardo, Captain Mizen, Brass, and Scrub, his deportment was too studied. Sometimes indeed he over-acted. It was said in his behalf that while in greatest favour with the town he was content to play, in the ‘Rehearsal,’ a soldier bringing in a message. He received the highest terms of any comic actor of the day. His claims to rank as a dramatist, except as regards his pantomimes, are trivial, his work containing next to nothing original.

A portrait of Woodward, by Worlidge, as Brass in the ‘Confederacy;’ a second, by Vandergucht, as Petruchio, engraved by J. R. Smith, and reproduced in the illustrations to Chaloner Smith's ‘Catalogue;’ and a sketch of him as Razor in the ‘Upholsterer,’ by De Wilde after Zoffany, are in the Garrick Club. One, by F. Hayman, as the Fine Gentleman in ‘Lethe,’ was engraved by McArdell; and one by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in what character is not said, engraved by James Watson. A portrait as Petruchio, after Vandergucht, and one as the Fine Gentleman, are among the engraved portraits in the National Art Library. A writer in ‘Notes and Queries’ refers to ‘Illustrations by Woodward of the Seven Ages of Parsons’—‘Curate,’ ‘Priest,’ ‘Pedagogue,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Rector,’ ‘Incumbent,’ and ‘Welsh Parson’ (9th ser. ii. 309).

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Hitchcock's Irish Stage; Chetwood's History of the Stage; Biographia Dramatica; Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs and Wandering Patentee; An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy, 1785; Manager's Note Book; Clark Russell's Representative Actors; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe; Davies's Life of Garrick, and Dramatic Miscellanies; Thespian Dictionary; Churchill's Rosciad; Fitzgerald's Life of Garrick; Dibdin's History of the Stage; Boaden's Life of Siddons; O'Keeffe's Recollections; Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage; Georgian Era; Lowe's Bibliography of the Stage; Victor's Works; Victor and Oulton's History of the Stage; Dramatic Censor, 1770.]

J. K.