John Leigh (18th-century actor)

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John Leigh (1689–1726) was an Irish actor and dramatist.[1]

Stage career[edit]

Leigh appeared as Demetrius in Thomas Shadwell's adaptation of Timon of Athens, produced at Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre in 1714. Recruited by John Rich for London's newly erected theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, he played there on the opening night, 18 December 1714, as Captain Plume in The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar.[2] Leigh remained at Lincoln's Inn until his death,[3] and played some original parts.[4] The last part to which Leigh's name appears is Phorbas in Œdipus, 14 April 1726.[1]

On 26 November 1719 Leigh acted Lord George Belmour in his own comedy The Pretenders (published 1720), original title Kensington Garden, or the Pretenders. This was acted about seven times, and is dedicated to Lord Brooke, an original supporter of the theatre. On 11 January 1720 a new farce by Leigh in two acts, Hob's Wedding, (published 1720), was acted for the first time. It was repeated six times, the author having benefits on the third and fifth nights. Leigh's share in this was minor, the piece consisting only of the scenes of the Country Wake, which Thomas Doggett cut when he converted it into Flora, or Hob in the Well, It was, according to John Genest, printed, with songs added by John Hippisley, in 1732 as the Sequel to Flora, and was revived in the same year. William Rufus Chetwood gave in his short life of Leigh a ballad written by him to the tune of Thomas, I cannot, a humorous song about other actors.[1]

Leigh died in 1726. Nicknamed Handsome Leigh, he was initially popular, but did not sustain his position. After Lacy Ryan and Thomas Walker joined the company, he fell into the background.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Leigh, John". Dictionary of National Biography. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ Francis Leigh, son of Anthony Leigh, was until 1719 a member of the same company, playing similar characters, causing issues of correct identification. On 16 February 1715 John Leigh was the original Octavio in the Perplexed Couple, or Mistake upon Mistake, an adaptation from Le Cocu Imaginaire of Molière, attributed to Charles Molloy. Carlos in Colley Cibber's Love Makes a Man followed, and 23 June he was the original Lord Gaylove in the Doating Lovers of Newburgh Hamilton. Freeman in The Plain Dealer, Heartfree in The Provoked Wife, Galliard in the Feigned Courtezans, Florez in The Royal Merchant, and Sir Humphry Scattergood in The Woman Captain (Thomas Shadwell) were assigned him the following season, and he was the first Beaufort in The Perfidious Brother (Lewis Theobald's authorship was disputed by Henry Mestayer). On 26 September 1718 Leigh played Don Sebastian in John Dryden's play of that name. He subsequently appeared as Moneses in Tamerlane, Duke in the Traytor altered from James Shirley by Christopher Bullock, Juba in Cato, Mellefont in The Double Dealer, Macduff, Antony in Julius Caesar, and 7 February 1719 as Bellair, sen., in The Younger Brother, or the Sham Marquis (anonymous). In a revival of Richard II Leigh played Bolingbroke, and 7 January 1720 he was Cymbeline in the Injured Princess, or the Fatal Wager, Thomas D'Urfey's adaptation of Shakespeare's play.
  3. ^ Other characters included Cassio, Edmund in King Lear, Achilles in Troilus and Cressida, Heartfree in the Provoked Wife, Saturnius and Emperor in Titus Andronicus, the Prince in the First Part of King Henry IV, Ruy Diaz in the Island Princess (John Fletcher), Richmond, Younger Worthy in Love's Last Shift, Horatio, Julius Caesar, Cassander in The Rival Queens (Nat Lee), Truman, jun., in the Cutler of Coleman Street (Abraham Cowley), Goswin in the Royal Merchant, and Cardinal in Massaniello (Thomas D'Urfey).
  4. ^ Among those were Charles Heartfree in Benjamin Griffin's Whig and Tory, 26 January 1720; Osmin in the Fair Captive by Robert Hurst, adapted by Eliza Haywood, 4 March 1721; High Priest in Elijah Fenton's Mariamne, 22 February 1723, and a Christian Hermit in Hurst's Roman Maid.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Leigh, John". Dictionary of National Biography. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.