Samuel Johnson (dramatist)

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Samuel Johnson (1691–1773) was an English dancing-master and dramatist, known for his work Hurlothrumbo.


Johnson was a native of Cheshire. In 1722 he gave a ball at Manchester, noted by John Byrom, and in 1724 he was in London with his fiddle. He worked to have staged his Hurlothrumbo, which he had shown to Byrom and other friends in Manchester in the previous year.[1]

Hurlothrumbo was produced at the "little theatre in the Haymarket" early in April 1729, an epilogue by Byrom being added on the second night, while a prologue was contributed by Amos Meredith, another of the north-country wits in town. The whole circle attended and pledged themselves to applaud it from beginning to end. The piece ran for more than 30 nights, attracting crowded and fashionable audiences. They included the Duke of Montagu, who was credited with "the idea" of the piece. The most striking figure in the performance was the author himself, who played the part of Lord Flame, fiddling, dancing, and sometimes walking on stilts. The piece was satirised in Henry Fielding's Author's Farce (1729). "Hurlothrumbo, or the Supernatural", was published with a dedication to Lady Delves, signed Lord Flame. A second edition, with a dedication to Lord Walpole (who had subscribed for thirty copies) and signed with the author's name, followed in the same year (1729).[1]

In 1730 Johnson, who had declined to produce Hurlothrumbo at Manchester, brought out, at Sir John Vanbrugh's opera-house in the Haymarket, The Chester Comics, with alterations by Colley Cibber. There followed a production called The Mad Lovers, or the Beauties of the Poets, acted at the Haymarket, and printed in 1732 with a frontispiece representing the author in the part of Lord Wildfire. The name of a play by him performed—not to his satisfaction—in April 1735 is unknown. In 1737 was acted his comedy All Alive and Merry; it was received with applause on the second night, and ran five or six more. There are also attributed to him a comic opera, A Fool made Wise, and a farce, Sir John Falstaff in Masquerade, both acted in 1741, as well as a tragedy, Pompey the Great (all unprinted). Besides these plays Johnson composed A Vision of Heaven, published in 1738. In the preface the author professes to have acted part of it before the Duke of Wharton and Bishop Francis Gastrell. He is also said to have written Harmony in Uproar, and a dialogue (published) entitled Court and Country.[1]

For some years after the production of Hurlothrumbo Johnson remained active in London, but also carried on his profession as dancing-master at Manchester. During the last thirty years of his life, he lived in retirement at the village of Gawsworth, near Macclesfield, known under the names of Maggoty or Fiddler Johnson. He died in 1773 at a house called the New Hall, and was buried in a small wood in the neighbourhood.[1] The wood is known as Maggotty Wood, and is reputedly haunted by his ghost.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Ward 1892.
  2. ^ Coates, Neil (23 November 2011). "Gawsworth, Cheshire - North West -". BBC Countryfile Magazine. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWard, Adolphus William (1892). "Johnson, Samuel (1691-1773)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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