Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Arnold, Samuel James

ARNOLD, SAMUEL JAMES (1774–1852), dramatist, son of Samuel Arnold, Mus. Doc, was educated for an artist. He produced, however, at the Haymarket, in 1794, 'Auld Robin Gray,' a musical play in two acts; and this was followed by other works of the same class: 'Who pays the Reckoning?' produced at the Haymarket in 1795; the 'Shipwreck,' produced at Drury Lane in 1796; the 'Irish Legacy,' produced at the Haymarket in 1797; and the 'Veteran Tar,' produced at Drury Lane in 1801. 'Foul Deeds will rise,' first played at the Haymarket in 1804, is described by Genest as 'an unnatural mixture of tragedy and farce.' The ' Prior Claim,' produced at Drury Lane in 1805, was a comedy written in conjunction with Henry James Pye, the poet laureate, whose daughter Arnold had married in 1803. 'Man and Wife, or More Secrets than One,' a comedy produced at Drury Lane in 1809, enjoyed some thirty representations. In this year Arnold obtained from the Lord Chamberlain a license to open as an English opera house the Lyceum in the Strand, a building previously devoted to subscription concerts, picture exhibitions, feats of horsemanship, conjuring, &c. Upon the destruction of Drury Lane by fire in the same year, the company moved to the English Opera House, and remained there three seasons. The license had been originally granted in the belief that the house would be open only for four months in the summer, and would become a nursery of singers for the winter theatres. 'Up all Night, or the Smuggler's Cave,' ' Britain's Jubilee,' the 'Maniac, or Swiss Banditti,' 'Plots, or the North Tower,' are the titles of musical plays by Arnold presented by the Drury Lane company during their occupancy of the English Opera House. The theatre was afterwards open under his own management, when his operas of the 'King's Proxy,' the 'Devil's Bridge,' the ' Americans,' 'Frederick the Great,' 'Baron Trenck,' 'Broken Promises,' and dramas entitled 'Two Words,' 'Free and Easy,' &c., &c., were produced in succession. Hazlitt wrote in 1816 of Arnold's 'King's Proxy,' that it was 'the essence of four hundred rejected pieces … with all that is threadbare in plot, lifeless in wit, and sickly in sentiment. … Mr. Arnold writes with the fewest ideas possible; his meaning is more nicely balanced between sense and nonsense than that of any of his competitors; he succeeds from the perfect insignificance of his pretensions, and fails to offend through downright imbecility.' Arnold's 'Two Words,' however, Hazlitt pronounced 'a delightful little piece. It is a scene with robbers and midnight murder in it; and all such scenes are delightful to the reader or spectator. We can conceive nothing better managed than the plot of this.' In 1812 Arnold had been invited to undertake the direction of Drury Lane Theatre; he resigned his office on the death of Mr. Whitbread by his own hand in 1815. In 1816 the English Opera was reopened by Arnold, having been rebuilt upon an enlarged scale by Samuel Beazley, the architect, at a cost of 80,000l. In 1824 Arnold produced for the first time in England a version of Weber's 'Der Freischiitz,' which had been previously refused by the two patent theatres. Other foreign operas of note, the 'Tartare' of Salieri, the 'Freebooters' of Paer, the 'Robber's Bride' of Ferdinand Ries, and Marschner's 'Der Vampyr,' were afterwards produced at the English opera house for the first time in England. In 1880 the theatre was destroyed by fire. In 1833 the present Lyceum, also rebuilt by Samuel Beazley, was opened to the public. The English operas of 'Nourjahad' by Edward Loder, and the 'Mountain Sylph' by John Barnett, were produced under Arnold's management. Arnold was a magistrate and a fellow of the Royal Society.

[Genest's History of the Stage, 1832; The Georgian Era, 1834; Phillip's Musical and Personal Recollections, 1864.]

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