1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas John Dibdin

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 17 (January 1842) 110.



Sept. 16. At his house in Myddelton Place, Pentonville, in his 70th year, Mr. Thomas Dibdin, the dramatic author.

His father was the celebrated Charles Dibdin, the naval song-writer, and author of The Padlock. Thomas Dibdin had for his godfather the illustrious David Garrick, and was introduced to the stage in the year 1775, being then only four years of age, in the pageant of Shakespeare's Jubilee, in the character of Cupid. Mrs. Siddons personated Venus on the occasion. He received the rudiments of a good classical education with Mr. Galland, in the North; and was, at the age of sixteen, placed as an apprentice to Mr. Rawlins (afterwards Sir William Rawlins), in Moorfields, to learn the trade of an upholsterer. But he inherited other predilections. After a servitude of four years he quitted his apprenticeship, and joined a small company of actors, under the management of Mr. Rickland, at Folkstone; this was in 1789. After six years spent in various theatres, during which time he had performed in every department of the drama, and written more than 1,000 songs, he returned to London in 1795, and after writing a number of dramas for the different minor theatres, all of which had met with success, he was engaged at Covent Garden, in the season of 1799, when his first production was acted, a piece founded on passing events, and called The Mouth of the Nile. For fourteen years he continued a member of that theatre; and amongst his numerous comedies, operas, farces, &c. were The Cabinet, The English Fleet, Birth-day, Mother Goose, Jew and the Doctor, Valentine and Orson, and Past Ten o'Clock, pieces that are expected to keep possession of the stage. The number of his various dramatic writings during a period of fifty-nine years would form a very long catalogue.

He lived in intimacy with the most eminent men of the theatrical circles; but passed the last few years of his life in comparative indigence. At the period of his death he was employed in arranging and compiling a complete edition of his father's Sea Songs, by order of the Lords of the Admiralty, under the patronage of Lord Minto, for which a weekly sum was paid to him, and shortly before his death he received the sum of 100 from the Royal Bounty Fund. He was married twice. One of his sons by his first wife holds a respectable employment in the Post Office. By the second wife (who is only thirty-five) he has left three children, the eldest not eleven years old, quite unprovided for; and it is hoped that some of the managers whose treasuries his writings have enriched, and the actors whose present popularity his patronage aided so materially, will not permit the widow and children to endure the winter's blast, now that "poor Tom's a-cold."

His body was interred on the 21st of Sept. in the burial-ground of St. James's, Pentonville, close by the grave of his old friend Grimaldi.