Morton, Thomas (1764-1838) (DNB00)

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MORTON, THOMAS (1764?–1838), dramatist, youngest son of John Morton of Whickham in the county of Durham, gentleman, was born in Durham about 1764. After the death of his father he was educated at Soho Square school at the charge of his uncle Maddison, a stockbroker. Here amateur acting was in vogue, and Morton, who played with Joseph George Holman [q. v.], acquired a taste for the theatre. He entered at Lincoln's Inn 2 July 1784, but was not called to the bar. His first drama, 'Columbus, or A World Discovered,' 8vo, 1792, an historical play in five acts, founded in part upon 'Les Incas' of Marmontel, was produced with success at Covent Garden, 1 Dec. 1792, Holman playing the part of Alonzo. 'Children in the Wood,' a two-act musical entertainment, Dublin, 12mo, 1794 (a pirated edition), followed at the Haymarket 1 Oct. 1793. It was well acted by Suett Bannister, jun., and Miss De Camp, and was more than once revived. Similar fortune attended 'Zorinski,' 8vo, 1795, a three-act play founded on the adventures of Stanislaus, re-christened Casimir, king of Poland, Haymarket, 20 June 1795. In the same year appeared an anonymous pamphlet, 'Mr, Morton's "Zorinski" and Brooke's "Gustavus Vasa" Compared.' 'The Way to get Married,' 8vo, 1796, a comedy in five acts, with serious situations, was produced at Covent Garden 23 Jan. 1796, acted forty-one times, and became a stock piece. It supplied Munden with his favourite character of Caustic. 'A Cure for the Heart-Ache,' a five-act comedy, 8vo, 1797, Covent Garden, 10 Jan. 1797, furnished two excellent characters in Old and Young Rapid, and became also, with few other claims on attention, a stock play. 'Secrets worth Knowing,' a five-act comedy, 8vo, 1798, Covent Garden 11 Jan. 1798, though a better play than the preceding, was less popular. 'Speed the Plough,' a five-act comedy, 8vo, 1798, Covent Garden, 8 Feb. 1798, was acted forty-one times, and often revived. 'The Blind Girl, or a Receipt for Beauty,' a comic opera in three acts (songs only printed), Covent Garden, 22 April 1801, was played eight times. 'Beggar my Neighbour, or a Rogue's a Fool,' a comedy in three acts (unprinted), Haymarket, 10 July 1802, was assigned to Morton but unclaimed by him, being damned the first night. It was afterwards converted into 'How to tease and how to please.' Covent Garden, 29 March 1810, experienced very little better fortune, and remained unprinted. Part of the plot of 'Beggar my Neighbour' is said to have been taken from Iffland. 'The School of Reform, or How to rule a Husband,' 8vo, 1805, a five-act comedy, was played with remarkable success at Covent Garden, 15 Jan. 1805, and was revived so late as 20 Nov. 1867 at the St. James's, with Mr. John S. Clarke as Tyke and Mr. Irving as Ferment. Tyke was the greatest part of John Emery [q. v.] 'Town and Country, or which is best?' 8vo, 1807, a comedy in five acts, was given at Covent Garden 10 March 1807, with John Kemble as Reuben Glenroy and Charles Kemble as Plastic. For this piece Harris is said to have paid 1,000l. whether it succeeded or failed. 'The Knight of Snowdoun,' London, 1811, a musical drama in three acts, founded on 'The Lady of the Lake,' saw the light at Covent Garden 5 Feb. 1811. 'Education,' 8vo, 1813, a five-act comedy, Covent Garden, 27 April 1813, is taken in part from Iffland. In The Slave,' 8vo, 1816, Covent Garden, 12 Nov. 1816, a musical drama in three acts, Macready played Gambia, the slave. 'A Roland for an Oliver,' 8vo, 1819, produced at Covent Garden 29 April 1819, was a two-act musical farce. In 'Henri Quatre, or Paris in the Olden Time,' 8vo, 1820, Covent Garden, 22 April 1820, a musical romance in three acts, Macready was Henri. At the same theatre appeared 'School for Grown Children ' (8vo, 1827), on 9 Jan. 1827, and 'The Invincibles,' 28 Feb. 1828, a musical farce in two acts, included in Cumberland's collection. With his second son, John Maddison Morton [q. v.], he was associated in the 'Writing on the Wall,' a three-act melodrama, produced at the Haymarket, and it is said in 'All that Glitters is not Gold,' a two act comic drama played at the Olympic 'Judith of Geneva,' a three-act melodrama, is assigned him in Buncombe's collection, and 'Sink or Swim,' a two-act comedy, in that of Lacy. In addition to these works the following plays in one act are assigned Morton in various collections: 'Angel of the Attic,' a serio-comic drama; 'Another Glass,' a one-act drama; 'Dance of the Shirt, or the Sempstress's Ball,' comic drama; 'Go to Bed, Tom,' a farce; 'Great Russian Bear, or Another Retreat from Moscow;' 'Pretty Piece of Business,' comedy; and 'Seeing Warren,' a farce. Morton died on 28 March 1838, leaving a widow and three children, his second son being the farce writer, John Maddison Morton. He was a man of reputable life and regular habits, who enjoyed, two years before his death, the rarely accorded honour of being elected (8 May 1837) an honorary member of the Garrick Club. He was very fond of cricket, and became the senior member of Lord's. For many years he resided at Pangbourne, on the Thames.

His portrait, painted by Sir Martin Archer Shee, originally placed in the Vernon Gallery, has been engraved by T. W. Hunt.

[Lincoln's Inn Registers (unprinted); Gent. Mag. 1838, pt. i.; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. iv. 432; Allibone's Dictionary; Baker, Reed, and Jones's Biographia Dramatica; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Georgian Era; Era Almanack, various years.]

J. K.