Houlton, Robert (DNB00)

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HOULTON, ROBERT (d. 1801), dramatist and journalist, born about 1739, was the son of the Rev. Robert Houlton of Milton, Clevedon, Somerset (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, ii. 697). On 24 July 1755 he matriculated at Oxford from Corpus Christi College, but in 1757 he was chosen as a demy of Magdalen College. He graduated B.A. on 27 April 1759, M.A. on 21 April 1762. He resigned his demyship in 1765, and shortly afterwards married. In 1767 his father published a sermon on 'The Practice of Inoculation justified,' dedicated to Daniel Sutton, a surgeon who had improved the method of inoculation, and announced in the appendix 'A Volume of Miscellaneous Poetry,' to be issued by his son, but nothing further is known of the volume. Sutton the surgeon and his family seem to have confided to the younger Houlton the secrets of their method of inoculation, and the latter eventually went to Ireland to practice it. By way of advertising himself, he published 'Indisputable Facts relative to the Suttonian Art of Inoculation, with Observations on its Discovery, Progress, &c.,' 8vo, Dublin, 1768. In 1770 he was admitted to an ad eundem degree of M.A. in Trinity College, Dublin, and was subsequently admitted M.B.. To eke out an income Houlton attempted dramatic writing and journalism, and supplied for the Dublin operatic stage such librettos as 'The Contract,' 1783; 'Double Stratagem,' 1784 (an alteration of 'The Contract'); 'Gibraltar,' 1784; 'Orpheus and Eurydice,' 1784; and 'Calypso,' 1785. In the spring of 1792 he returned to London, and was soon afterwards appointed editor of the 'Morning Herald'. Ill-health compelled him to resign this post in about a twelvemonth, and after a long and expensive illness he was committed to the Fleet prison for debt in 1795. In January 1796 Dr. Routh, president of Magdalen College, sent him some assistance in answer to his appeal. With the aid of James Hook [q. v.], who composed the music, Houlton brought out at Drury Lane Theatre on 21 Oct. 1800 his comic opera called 'Wilmore Castle,', which after running for five nights, had, the author avers, to be withdrawn in consequence of an organised attack (Preface to printed copy). Conceiving himself ill-used, he published a pamphlet entitled 'A Review of the Musical Drama of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, for... 1797–1800, which will tend to... elucidate Mrs. Plowden's late... publication [i.e. 'Virginia,' an opera, with a preface],' &c., 8vo, London, 1801.

[Bloxam's Reg. of Magd. Coll. Oxford. vi. 304–8; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, Baker's Biographia Dramatica (1812), i. 367, ii. 77, 108, 125, 173, 265, iii. 411.]

G. G.