Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hull, Thomas
HULL, THOMAS (1728–1808), actor and dramatist, born in 1728 in the Strand, where his father practised as an apothecary, was educated at the Charterhouse with a view to the church, and made an unsuccessful attempt to follow his father's profession. According to the 'Biographia Dramatica,' he first appeared at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, and thence proceeded to Bath, where he managed the theatre for John Palmer [q.v.] His first recorded appearance was, however, at Covent Garden, 5 Oct. 1759, as Elder Wou'dbe in Farquhar's `Twin Rivals.' In the course of the season he played Charles in the 'Nonjuror,' the attendant spirit in `Comus,' and, for his benefit, Manly in the 'Provoked Husband.' The following season saw him as Juan in 'Rule a Wife and have a Wife,' Lord Morelove in the 'Careless Husband,' Friar Lawrence, and Springlove in the 'Jovial Crew,' and also witnessed his marriage to Miss Morrison, a not very distinguished actress of the theatre, who played for his benefit, under the name of Morrison the Lady in 'Comus,' 28 April 1764. At Covent Garden Hull stayed without a break, so far as can be ascertained, till the end of his career, a period of forty-eight years. Among the parts assigned him were Friar Lawrence, Mr. Page, King Henry V, King Henry VI, Horatio, Worthy in the 'Recruiting Officer,' Æson in `Medea,' Camillo and Chorus in 'Winter's Tale,' Voltore in the 'Fox,' Cromwell in 'King Henry VIII,' Duncan, Prospero, Ægeon in 'Comedy of Errors,' Adam in `As you like it,' Pinchwife in the `Country Wife,' Pisanio in `Cymbeline,' Flavius in 'Timon,' King in 'Hamlet,' Pandulph in `King John,' and innumerable others. He was the original Harpagus in Hoole's 'Cyrus' (3 Dec. 1768), Edwin in Mason's `Elfrida' (21 Nov. 1772), Pizarro in Murphy's `Alzuma' (23 Feb. 1773), Mador in Mason's `Caractacus' (6 Dec. 1776), Sir Hubert in Hannah More's `Percy' (10 Dec. 1777), and Mr. Shandy in Macnally's `Tristram Shandy' (26 April 1783). From 1775 to 1782 he managed Covent Garden for Colman. It was his pride that during his long connection with Covent Garden he never missed playing his part but once, when he was confined to his bed by a violent fever. The plays attributed to him, with one or two exceptions which are noted, were acted at Covent Garden. Hull's name appeared for the last time on the bills on 28 Dec. 1807, when he played the Uncle in `George Barnwell.' He died on 22 April 1808 at his house, near Dean's Yard, Westminster, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster. A proposal to restore by subscription the inscription on his tomb, which had become illegible, was made in 1876 (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. v.438). Hull's plays, with the exception of `King Henry II,' which may rank with most tragedies of the day, display a fluency and a knack of arrangement due to his histrionic experience. His prose style is easy, pleasant to read, and sometimes decidedly happy. He enjoyed the friendship of Shenstone, some of whose letters he published, and other persons of note. Lingering too long on the stage, he outlived his reputation as an actor, which in his best days was dependent upon judgment, propriety, and modesty, rather than upon more brilliant qualities. He conveyed the idea of thoroughly understanding the characters assigned him, and supported with much success Brabantio, Friar Lawrence, Prospero, and other parts of the `heavy father' class. Hull was the means of establishing the Theatrical Fund. It had been some time in contemplation, when in sight of the distresses of Mrs. Hamilton [q.v.], Hull called the actors together, and the fund was founded. Two portraits of Hull are in the Mathews collection in the Garrick Club.
Hull's plays are:
- `The Twins,' an alteration of the `Comedy of Errors,' 24 April 1762; never printed, but once acted, and possibly assigned to Hull in error.
- `The Absent Man,' a farce, 28 April 1764; never printed.
- `Pharnaces,' 8vo, an opera altered from the Italian, acted at Drury Lane probably in 1765.
- `Spanish Lady,' musical entertainment, 8vo, 1765, acted 2 May 1765, and again with alterations 11 Dec. 1769.
- `All in the Right,' a farce, from the French of Destouches, 26 April 1766; not printed.
- `The Fairy Favour,' 8vo, 1766, a masque written for the entertainment of the Prince of Wales, acted at Covent Garden about 1767.
- `The Perplexities,' 8vo, 1767, 31 Jan. 1767, an adaptation of Tuke's `Adventures of Five Heroes,' in which Hull played Don Juan.
- 'The Royal Merchant,' 14 Dec. 1767, an opera founded on Beaumont and Fletcher's `Beggar's Bush.'
- `The Prodigal Son,' an oratorio, 4to, 1773, set to music by Dr. Thomas Arnold (see Notes and Queries, 4th ser.iv.271), and performed at the installation of Lord North as chancellor of the university of Oxford.
- `Henry the Second, or the Fall of Rosamond,' a tragedy in five acts and in verse, 8vo, 1774, acted 1 May 1773, with Hull as Clifford, Mrs. Hull as Queen Eleanor, and Mrs. Hartley as Rosamond; it was more than once revived. Four editions of this appeared in 1774; an edition was issued in York in 1775, and the play is included in the collections of Bell and of Inchbald.
- 'Edward and Eleonora,' a tragedy, 8vo, 1775, slightly altered from Thomson, 18 March 1775.
- `Love finds the Way,' a comic opera, not printed, founded on the `School for Guardians,' 18 Nov. 1777.
- 'Iphigenia, or the Victim,' not printed, 23 March 1778, a tragedy slightly altered from a translation by Boyer of Racine. Hull played Agamemnon.
- `The Fatal Interview,' a tragedy, not printed, Drury Lane, 16 Nov. 1782. Mrs. Siddons played the heroine, but the piece failed.
- `True British Tar, or found at a Pinch,' a one-act musical entertainment, played in 1786 at Hull, and not printed.
- `Timon of Athens,' altered from Shakespeare and Shadwell (not printed), 13 May 1786. Hull played Flavius.
- 'The Comedy of Errors,' 8vo, 1793, 3 June 1793, slightly altered from Shakespeare. Hull was Ægeon.
- 'Disinterested Love,' 30 May 1798, an unprinted alteration from Massinger, in which Hull played Octavio.
- `Elisha, or the Woman of Shunem,' an oratorio, 8vo, 1801, assumably not given at Covent Garden.
After the custom of the day, the airs, duets, &c., of the musical pieces alone are printed.
Hull also wrote: `The History of Sir William Harrington,'a novel, 4 vols. 1771; reprinted 1797; translated into German, Leipzig, 1771, and French, Lausanne, 1773. 'Richard Plantagenet, a Legendary Tale,' 4to, 1774. `Select Letters between the late Duchess of Somerset, Lady Luxborough, and others, including a Sketch of the Manners, &c., of the Republic of Venice,' 2 vols. London, 8vo, 1778. `Moral Tales in Verse,' 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1797. `A Collection of Poems and Translations in English and Latin,' Bath,1780 (?), 4to. His name also appears to `Genuine Letters from a Gentlewoman to a young Lady, her Pupil. Now first revised and published by T. Hull,' 1772, 12mo, 2 vols. (see `Preston, J.,' Brit. Mus. Cat.)
[Books cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Baker, Reed, and Jones's Biographia Dramatica; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual; Dramatic Censor, 1770; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies and Life of Grarrick; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes; Brit. Mus. Cat.]