1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Betty, William Henry West
BETTY, WILLIAM HENRY WEST (1791–1874), English actor, known as “the young Roscius,” was born on the 13th of September 1791 at Shrewsbury. He first appeared on the stage at Belfast before he was twelve years old, as Osman in Aaron Hill’s Zara, an English version of Voltaire’s Zaire. His success was immediate, and he shortly afterwards appeared in Dublin, where it is said that in three hours of study he committed the part of Hamlet to memory. His precocious talents aroused great enthusiasm in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and he was favourably compared with some of the greatest tragedians. In 1804 he first appeared at Covent Garden, when the troops had to be called out to preserve order, so great was the crush to obtain admittance. At Drury Lane the house was similarly packed, and he played for the then unprecedented salary of over 75 guineas a night. He was a great success socially, George III. himself presenting him to the queen, and Pitt upon one occasion adjourning the House of Commons that members might be in time for his performance. But this enthusiasm gradually subsided, and in 1808 he made his final appearance as a boy actor, and entered Christ’s College, Cambridge. He re-appeared four years later, but the public would have none of him, and he retired to the enjoyment of the large fortune which he had amassed as a prodigy. He died on the 24th of August 1874. His son Henry Betty (1819–1897) was also an actor.