John Quick (actor)

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John Quick (1748 – 4 April 1831) was an English actor, known for comic parts.


The son of a brewer, he was born in Whitechapel, London. At age 13 he left his home and joined a theatrical company at Fulham, where he played Altamont in the Fair Penitent, receiving three shillings as a share in the profits. For some years, in Kent and Surrey, he played Romeo, George Barnewell, Hamlet, Jaffier, Tancred, and other tragic characters, and in 1767 was at the Haymarket Theatre under the management of Samuel Foote, with Edward Shuter, John Bannister, and John Palmer. His performance, for Shuter's benefit, of Mordecai in Love à la Mode commended him to Covent Garden, where, on 7 November 1767, he was the original Postboy in Colman's Oxonian in Town; on 14 December the First Ferret in the Royal Merchant, an operatic version of the Beggar's Bush; and on 29 January 1768 the original Postboy in Oliver Goldsmith's Good-natured Man. At Covent Garden, with occasional visits to Liverpool, Portsmouth, and other towns, and to Bristol, where he was for a time manager of the King Street Theatre, Quick remained during most of his career.

Quick's performances were at first as clowns, rustics, or comic servants. He was seen as Peter in Romeo and Juliet, Simon Pure in A Bold Stroke for a Wife, Third Witch in Macbeth, Gripe in the Cheats of Scapin, the First Gravedigger in Hamlet, and many similar characters. His original parts at this period included Ostler in Colman's Man and Wife, or the Shakespeare Jubilee, Skiff in Richard Cumberland's Brothers on 2 December 1769, and clown to the harlequin of Charles Lee Lewes in the pantomime of Mother Shipton on 26 December 1770. On 5 June 1772 Quick was playing a theatre in Liverpool as Prattle in The Deuce is in him. At Covent Garden he was, on 8 December 1772, the original Consol in O'Brien's Cross Purposes, and on 6 February 1773 the original Momus in O'Hara's Golden Pippin.

These performances paved the way for his triumph, on 14 March, as the original Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer. The character had been refused by Henry Woodward. The following season (1773–4) saw him promoted to Mawworm in the Hypocrite, Grumio, Varland in the West Indian, and Autolycus Mufti in Don Sebastian. On 31 January 1774 he played Old Rents in the Jovial Crew, Foresight and Town Clerk in Much Ado about Nothing; and on 17 January 1775 he was the first Bob Acres in The Rivals. Scores of comic characters were then assigned to him.

On 6 April 1790, for his benefit, Quick appeared as Richard III. He took the character seriously at the outset, until the laughter of the audience proved irresistible. On 14 March 1791 Quick created the part of Cockletop, an antiquary, in O'Keeffe's Modern Antiques, and on 16 April that of Sir George Thunder in his Wild Oats. On 18 February 1792 he was the first Silky in Holcroft's Road to Ruin, on 23 January 1793 the first Solus in Mrs. Inchbald's Every one has his Fault, on 5 February 1794. He created many further parts in the years that followed. On 11 April 1798, for his benefit, he gave a description of the Roman puppet show. On 13 April he played his last original part, probably Admiral Delroy, in Cumberland's Eccentric Lover.

Around this time, in declining health, he resigned his long engagement at Covent Garden. To his disappointment he was not engaged the following season. On 9 May 1799, for the benefit of Miss Leak, he appeared for the first time at Drury Lane, and played Hardy in the Belle's Stratagem, and Lovegold in the Miser. On 12 June 1800, for O'Keeffe's benefit, he played at Covent Garden Alibi in the Lie of the Day, and Drugget in Three Weeks after Marriage; and for another benefit appeared next day as Isaac in The Duenna.

In 1809 he took a tour in the north, appearing in Edinburgh, 25 January, as Sir Benjamin Dove in the Brothers. In 1809, in the same character, he made his first appearance at the Lyceum. On 24 May 1813 he came again out of retirement, taking part at the Haymarket Opera House in a benefit to Mrs. Mattocks, in which he played Don Felix in the Wonder.

Out of his earnings he saved £10,000, on the interest of which he lived, residing during his later years in Hornsey Row, subsequently Will's Row, Islington. He used to preside over a gathering held at the King's Head tavern, Islington. He died on 4 April 1831, and was buried beneath the old chapel-of-ease at Lower Holloway. In early life he married at Bristol the daughter of a clergyman named Parker, and had by her a son, William, and a daughter, Mrs. Mary Anne Davenport. He was so small in frame that Anthony Pasquin calls him "the smart tiny Quick". He was the favourite actor of George III.



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Quick, John (1748-1831)". Dictionary of National Biography. 47. London: Smith, Elder & Co.