Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 39.djvu/218

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Hunters,' in 1690 King Charles IX in Lee's ' Massacre of Paris,' Don Antonio in Dryden's ' Don Sebastian, King of Portugal,' Ricardo in Joseph Harris's ' Mistakes, or the False Report,' and Silvio in his own ' Successful Strangers,' announced as a tragi-comedy, but in fact a comedy with serious interest, 4to, 1690, founded on a novel by Scarron. It is an improvement on his previous plays, and was well received. The preface to this is quasi-autobiographical, Mountfort saying that he is no scholar, and consequently incapable of stealing from Greek and Latin authors. He complained that the town was as unwilling to encourage a young author as the playhouse a young actor.

The year 1691, the busiest apparently of Mountfort's life, saw him as the original Menaphon in Powell's 'Treacherous Brothers,' Hormidas in Settle's 'Distressed Innocence,' Valentine in Southerne's 'Sir Anthony Love,' Sir William Rant in Shadwell's 'Scowrers,' Bussy d'Ambois in ' Bussy d' Ambois,' altered from Chapman by D'Urfey, Cesario in Powell's 'Alphonso, King of Naples,' and Jack Amorous in D'Urfey 's ' Love for Money, or the Boarding School.' He was also the first Lord Montacute in his own ' King Edward the Third, with the Fall of Mortimer,' 4to, 1691, and Young Reveller in his ' Greenwich Park,' 4to, 1691. Both plays are included in his collected works. The latter, a clever and passably licentious comedy, obtained a great success. The former, revived in 1731, and republished by Wilkes in 1763, with a sarcastic dedication to Bute, is in part historical. Coxeter says that it was written by John Bancroft [q. v.], and given by him to Mountfort. Of this piece, and of 'Henry the Second, King of England, with the Death of Rosamond,' which also, though the dedication is signed William Mountfort, is assigned to Bancroft, the editor or publisher of 'Six Plays written by Mr. Mountfort,' London, 8vo, 1720, says that though ' not wholly composed by him, it is presumed he had at least a share in fitting them for the stage.' In 1692 Mountfort was the original Sir Philip Freewit in D'Urfey's ' Marriage-maker Hatcht,' Asdrubal in Crowne's ' Regulus,' Friendall in Southerne's 'Wives Excuse,' Cleanthes in Dryden's 'Cleomenes.' Mountfort was also seen as Raymond Mountchensey in the 'Merry Devil of Edmonton,' Macduff, Alexander, Castalio, Sparkish, and was excellent in Mrs. Behn's ' Rover.'

Mountfort was on intimate terms with Judge Jeffreys, with whom he was in the habit of staying. At an entertainment of the lord mayor and court of aldermen in 1685 Jeffreys called for Mountfort, an excellent mimic, to plead a feigned cause, in which he imitated well-known lawyers. Mountfort is said in the year previous to the fall of Jefreys to have abandoned the stage for a while to live with the judge. There is only one year, however, 1686, subsequent to 1684, in which he did not take some original character in London. On 9 Dec. 1692 Mountfort was stabbed in Howard Street, Strand, before his own door, in the back by Captain Richard Hill, a known ruffler and cutthroat, and died on the following day. Hill had pestered Mrs. Bracegirdle [q. v.], and had attributed her coldness to her affection for Mountfort. Attended by his friend Lord Mohun [see Mohun, Charles, fifth Baron], he accordingly laid wait for the actor. A warning sent from Mrs. Bracegirdle through Mrs. Mountfort failed to reach Mountfort, who returning home was held in conversation by Mohun, while Hill, coming behind, struck him a heavy blow on the head with his left hand and, before time was given him to draw, ran him through with the right. Hill escaped, and Lord Mohun was tried, 31 Jan. 1692-3, and acquitted, fourteen lords finding him guilty and sixty-nine innocent. Mountfort was buried in St. Clement. Danes. Bellchambers, in his edition of Colley Cibber's 'Apology,' maintains that Mountfort was slain in a fair duel with Hill.

Cibber bestows on Mountfort warm praise, says that he was tall, well-made, fair, and of agreeable aspect ; that his voice was clear, full, and melodious, adding that in tragedy he was the most affecting lover within his (Gibber's) memory. Mountfort filled the stage by surpassing those near him in true masterly touches, had particular talent in the delivery of repartee, and was credited with remarkable variety, being, it is said, especially distinguished in fine gentlemen. Among the parts singled out for highest praise are Alexander, in which 'we saw the great, the tender, the penitent, the despairing, the transported, and the amiable in the highest perfection,' Sparkish, and Sir Courtly Nice. Of the last two parts, which descended to him, Cibber says : ; If I myself had any success in either of these characters, I must pay the debt I owe to his memory in confessing the advantages I received . . . from his acting them.' Wilks also owned to Chetwood that Mountfort was the only actor on whom he modelled himself. Mountfort wrote many prologues and epilogues (cf. Poems on Affairs of State, 1703, i. 238).