Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mohun, Michael
MOHUN, MICHAEL (1620?–1684), actor, was, according to Bellchambers, born about 1625, but 1620 is probably a nearer approximation. Before the civil war he performed under Beeston, at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, where, among other characters, he played Bellamente in Shirley's 'Love's Cruelty,' licensed 14 Nov. 1631, and published 1640. Subsequently he fought on the side of Charles I, attaining the rank of captain, and on the close of the wars went to Flanders, where he acquitted himself with credit, and received the style and pay of major. Upon the Restoration Mohun returned with Charles II, and resumed his original occupation, joining Killigrew's company, with which he acted, 1660-3, at the theatre in Vere Street, Clare Market, erected on the site of Gibbon's Tennis Court. It seems probable that the company also played at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, and at the Red Bull Theatre in St. John Street. Pepys saw Mohun, or Moone, for the first time at the Vere Street Theatre on 20 Nov. 1660 in the ' Beggar's Bush ' of Beaumont and Fletcher, and says that he is declared to be 'the best actor in the world.' Mohun was the original Mopus to the Scruple of Lacy in Wilson's comedy 'Cheats' (1662), and on the opening of the Theatre Royal, on the site now occupied by Drury Lane Theatre, 8 April 1663, with the ' Humourous Lieutenant ' of Beaumont and Fletcher, he was Leontius (Genest, i. 34, 44). He subsequently played Leon in 'Rule a Wife and have a Wife,' and Truewit in Jonson's 'Epicœne, or the Silent Woman,' Face in the 'Alchemist' and Volpone in the 'Fox' followed, and in 1665 he was the original Montezuma in Dryden's 'Indian Emperor, or the Conquest of Mexico.' Melantius in the 'Maid's Tragedy 'became one of his great parts. Rymer praises Hart and Mohun in Amintor and Melantius, saying, 'There we have our Roscius and Æsopus both on the stage together.' Proof of the estimation in which Mohun was held by Charles is supplied in the fact that when the king, finding his court attacked to his face by Lacy in Howard's 'Change of Crownes,' forbade the players acting again, Mohun obtained a reversal of the decision, except so far as that special play was concerned. On 2 March 1667 Mohun was the original Philocles in Dryden's 'Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen;' on 5 Oct. Alberto in Rhodes's 'Flora's Vagaries,' and, 19 Oct., Edward III in Lord Orrery's ' lack Prince.' On 22 June 1668 Mohun was the first Bellamy (to Hart's Wildblood) in Dryden's 'Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer.' The same year he played Cethegus in 'Catiline,' and in 1669 was Iago, Ruy Dias in Fletcher's 'Island Princess,' and on 9 Feb. the original Maximilian in Dryden's 'Tyrannick Love, or the Royal Martyr.' In 1670 he was the original Abdelmelech in the 'Conquest of Granada,' a play by Dryden in two parts, and in 1671 the original Valentius in Joyner's 'Roman Empress,' and Don Alvarez in Corey's 'Generous Enemies.' The Theatre Royal having been burnt in January 1671-2, the players opened in February at Lincoln's Inn Fields with 'Wit without Money,' in which Mohun was Valentine. He was the first Rhodophil in Dryden's 'Marriage a la Mode,' Dapperwit in Wycherley's ' Love in a Wood, or St. James's Park,' and Duke of Mantua in Dryden's 'Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery.'
At Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1673 he was the original Beamont in Dryden's 'Amboyna,' and Pinchwife in Wycherley's 'Country Wife.' On 26 March 1674 the new Theatre Royal, subsequently known as Drury Lane, was opened. In the following year Mohun was the original Britannicus in Lee's 'Nero,' Trivultio in Fane's ' Love in the Dark, or the Man of Business,' and Old Emperor in Dryden's ' Aurenge-Zebe, or the Great Mogul.' Augustus Caesar in Lee's ' Gloriana, or the Court of Augustus Cæsar,' and Hannibal in the same author's 'Sophonisba, or Hannibal's Overthrow,' followed in 1676, and Clytus in Lee's 'Rival Queens,' Edgar in Ravenscroft's 'King Edgar and Alfreda,' and Matthias in the two parts of Crowne's 'Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian' in 1677. In 1676 he was Mardonius in 'A King and No King,' a performance overlooked by Genest. In 1678 he was the original Ventidius in Dryden's 'All for Love, or the World well Lost,' Mithridates in Lee's ' Mithridates, King of Pontus,' Breakbond in the 'Man of Newmarket,' by the Hon. Edward Howard [q. v.], and Sir Wilding Frolick in D'Urfey's 'Trick for Trick, or the Debauched Hypocrite.' Mohun is then unheard of until, in 1682, he played Ismael in Southerne's 'Loyal Brother and the Persian Prince,' and he disappears with the part of Burleigh in Banks's 'Unhappy Favourite, or the Earl of Essex.' He is also known to have acted Cassius and Aubrey in 'Rollo,' and to have repeated his early character of Bellamente, which was assumed by Bellchambers to be a woman, and led him and some other stage chroniclers astray. Genest says that Mohun 'joined the Duke's company, but did not continue long on the stage after the union' of the two companies in 1682.
Pepys, 6 Feb. 1668-9, says of his Iago that it was inferior to that of Clun. Downes declares that he was eminent for Volpone, Face, Melantius, Mardonius, Cassius, Clytus, Mithridates, &c., and says: 'An eminent poet [Lee] seeing him act this last [Mithridates], vented suddenly this saying, Mohun, Mohun! Thou little man of mettle, if I should write a hundred plays, I'd write [always] a part for thy mouth.' Mohun generally played second to Hart, but was scarcely held an inferior actor. Powell, in his dedication of the 'Treacherous Brothers,' speaks of Mohun and Hart by their good acting getting authors their 'third nights,' and being consequently more substantial patrons than the greatest name in the frontispiece of a dedication. In the Epilogue to ' Love in the Dark ' Dryden says of Mohun that Nature 'bid him speak as she bid Shakespeare write,' and satirises the 'cripples in their art' who
Mimick his foot but not his speaking part.
Let them the Traytor or Volpone try!
Could they . . .
Rage like Cethegus, or like Cassius die?
From the allusion in the first line Genest supposes Mohun to have suffered from the gout. Rochester praises his dignity and elegance. Wright, in the 'Historia Histrionica,' 1699, speaks of Mohun, with Hart, Burt, and others, as much superior to the actors of subsequent days. In the Tatler (No. 99), 26 Nov. 1709, Steele says: 'My old friends, Hart and Mohun, the one by his natural and proper force, the other by his great skill and art, never failed to send me home full of such ideas as affected my behaviour, and made me insensibly more courteous and humane to my friends and acquaintances.' In 'A Comparison between two Stages' Gildon mentions that the plays were at this time so good and so well acted by Hart and Mohun that the audience would not be distracted to see the best dancing in Europe, and St. Andre, a French dancer brought over by the Duke of Monmouth, was consequently a failure.
Mohun lived in 1665 on the south side of Russell Street, Covent Garden, and was assessed at 10s., the highest rate levied in the street, and from 1671 to 1676 in a house on the east side of Bow Street. He died in Brownlow Street (now Betterton Street), Drury Lane, in October 1684, and was buried in the church of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields. Mohun was small and well-built.
An original picture of Mohun, engraved in 1793, is now at Knowle Park. It shows a young, pleasing-faced boy grasping a sword.
[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus ; Historia Histrionica ; A Comparison between two Stages ; Gib-
ber's Apology, ed. Lowe ; Doran's Their Majesties' Servants, ed. Lowe ; Pepys's Diary; Wheat- ley's London Past and Present.]