He was born in Chelsea, London, and made his first appearance on the stage at Bath in 1806, and his first London appearance in 1808. At Covent Garden in 1813, in light comedy and melodrama, he made his first decided success. He was Pylades to William Charles Macready's Orestes in Ambrose Philips's Distressed Mother when Macready made his first appearance at that theatre (1816). He created the parts of Appius Claudius in Sheridan Knowles's Virginius (1820) and of Modus in his Hunchback (1832).
In 1827 he organized the company, including Macready and Harriet Smithson, which acted Shakespeare in Paris. On his return to London he played Romeo to Fanny Kemble's Juliet (1830). Two of Abbot's melodramas, The Youthful Days of Frederick the Great (1817) and Swedish Patriotism (1819), were produced at Covent Garden.
He died in poverty in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Katharine Cockin: Abbot, William. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 1 (2004), p. 36.