Portal, Abraham (DNB00)

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PORTAL, ABRAHAM (fl. 1790), dramatist, was the son of a clergyman, who may be identified with Andrew Portal, a member of an ancient family of Huguenot origin, which migrated to England in 1686 (cf. Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1888; Gent. Mag. 1768, p. 447). Andrew Portal matriculated at Oxford from Exeter College in 1748, became vicar of St. Helen's, Abingdon, in 1759, proceeded M.A. in 1761, and died on 13 Sept. 1768. The dramatist started in life as a goldsmith and jeweller on Ludgate Hill, but lost money both in this trade and that of bookselling, and finished his career as a box-keeper at Drury Lane Theatre. It appears from his ‘Poems’ that Portal was a close friend of Dr. John Langhorne [q. v.], the translator of Plutarch. Portal's writings include: 1. ‘Olindo and Sophronia: a Tragedy,’ the story taken from Tasso, two editions, 1758, London, 8vo. 2. ‘The Indiscreet Lover: a Comedy,’ performed at the Haymarket for the benefit of the British Lying-in Hospital in Brownlow Street; dedicated to the Duke of Portland; two editions, London, 1768, 8vo. Baker remarks of this piece that ‘charity covereth a multitude of failings.’ Genest, however, finds two of the characters, Old and Young Reynard, ‘excellent.’ To the printed copies is appended a list of ‘errata,’ in which the reader is requested to substitute polite periphrases for coarse expressions in the text. 3. ‘Songs, Duets, and Finale,’ from Portal's comic opera ‘The Cady of Bagdad,’ London, 1778, 8vo. The opera, which was given at Drury Lane on 19 Feb. 1778, was not printed. 4. ‘Poems,’ 1781, 8vo. The volume includes dedicatory verses to R. B. Sheridan, and two bombastic poems, ‘War: an Ode,’ and ‘Innocence: a Poetical Essay,’ which had previously been issued separately. 5. ‘Vortimer, or the True Patriot: a Tragedy,’ London, 1796, 8vo. Among the dramatis personæ are Vortimer's father, Vortigern, his mother Rowena, Hengist, and Horsa. Ireland's ‘Vortigern’ had appeared in March 1795. Neither ‘Vortimer’ nor ‘Olindo and Sophronia’ was acted. In the spring of 1796 Portal seems to have been living in Castle Street, Holborn, but the date of his death is not known.

[Baker's Biogr. Dramatica, 1812, i. 577; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, v. 212; Portal's Works in Brit. Mus. Library.]

T. S.