Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leveridge, Richard

LEVERIDGE, RICHARD (1670?–1758), vocalist, song-writer, and composer, was born in London about 1670. He sang in the celebration of St. Cecilia's day in 1695, and is said by Rimbault to have been a celebrity at Bartholomew Fair before the close of the century. Leveridge was also a member of the Drury Lane company, and took part in the ‘Island Princess,’ as altered by Motteux and revived in 1699, with music composed by Daniel Purcell, Jeremiah Clarke, and himself. Leveridge's ‘Enthusiastick Song’ was long a popular number. On 21 Nov. 1702 ‘Macbeth’ was revived at Drury Lane, ‘with vocal and instrumental music all new composed by Mr. Leveridge, and performed by him and others.’ This music has not been identified with certainty. It seems improbable that it was the music popularly associated with ‘Macbeth,’ which seems to have been first produced in 1672, and, although ascribed in error to Matthew Locke [q. v.], is with greater probability assigned to Henry Purcell [q. v.] Incidental music to ‘Macbeth’ was used for many seasons at Drury Lane, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and ‘probably by the same company’ at Covent Garden in 1735 and following years, being advertised as ‘the music proper to the play.’ In 1738 at Covent Garden ‘Macbeth’ was announced ‘with the original music,’ and Leveridge sang. He usually took the part of Hecate (cf. Walpole, Letters, vi. 339). Between 1703 and 1708 Leveridge sang at Drury Lane in the revivals of Purcell's operas and masques, ‘Fairy Queen,’ ‘Timon of Athens,’ ‘Amphitrion,’ ‘Libertine Destroyed,’ ‘Tempest,’ ‘King Arthur,’ ‘Indian Queen,’ ‘Œdipus;’ between 1705 and 1708 in Locke's ‘Psyche;’ and in ‘Arsinoe,’ ‘Camilla,’ ‘Rosamond,’ and ‘Thomyris.’ The opera company migrated to the Haymarket in 1708, where Leveridge took part in ‘Love's Triumph’ (Grove), in Handel's ‘Faithful Shepherd,’ 1712, and in ‘Theseus,’ 1713. From about 1715 to 1732 he sang at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, with an interval of retirement about 1719–20, when he kept a coffee-house in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden.

Subsequently Leveridge was chiefly employed in the vocal entertainment given between the acts of plays, singing his own ballads and songs by Purcell and others. He represented Merlin, Pluto, Morpheus, Silenus, and other heavy parts in Rich's pantomimes from 1728 to 1732 at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and from 1732 to 1751 at Covent Garden. His last benefit performance was advertised by him in verse to take place on 24 April 1751. He was then eighty-one. A subscription of one guinea per annum was opened in his behalf at Garraway's Coffee-house on 26 Oct. 1751 (Daily Advertiser, 26 Oct. 1751), and Leveridge was supported in his old age by his friends. He was a cheerful companion and a strictly honest man, and was in good spirits up to a few hours of his death on 22 March 1758. He had been nursed by an only daughter (London Chronicle), perhaps the Mrs. Parratt to whom he left all his effects, in a will proved a week after death, but signed in 1746.

There is an etched portrait of Leveridge by Dodd, after Frye; a mezzotint, oval, ‘O the Roast Beef of Old England,’ by A. Vandermyne, after F. Vandermyne; a mezzotint, square, holding music, by W. Pether, after T. Frye (Bromley), printed on a reduced scale for ‘European Magazine,’ October 1793, and a print representing Leveridge and Pinkethman on a stage in Bartholomew Fair.

Leveridge used his deep bass voice without much art. Hawkins records that in 1730 100l. was offered for a wager by Leveridge to ‘sing a bass song with any man in England.’ But in 1724 he was called ‘Old Leveridge’ by Mrs. Pendarves; and to Burney's ear his style in 1744 seemed antediluvian.

Leveridge composed, besides the works noticed: 1. ‘Brittain's Happiness,’ an entertainment performed in the manner of an opera, 7 March 1704, at the Little Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. 2. ‘Pyramus and Thisbe,’ a comic masque, composed ‘in the high style of Italy,’ and compiled from Shakespeare by Leveridge; Lincoln's Inn Fields, 21 Nov. 1716. Leveridge also published a collection of songs, with the music, in two small volumes 8vo, with frontispiece by Hogarth, 1727; and ‘A New Book of Songs,’ 1730. There is in the Music Catalogue of the British Museum Library a list of about one hundred of Leveridge's songs and dialogues, the best-known of which are ‘All in the Downs’ and ‘The Roast Beef of Old England.’

Oldys wrote in his notes to Langbaine's ‘Dramatick Poets’ (p. 277): ‘Dick Leveridge's History of the Stage and Actors in his own time, for these forty or fifty years past, as he told me he had composed it, is likely to prove, whenever it shall appear, a more perfect work’ (i.e. than Curll's). Of this history nothing further is known.

[Hawkins's Hist. of Music, p. 827; Burney's Hist. of Music, iv. 205; Husk's Celebrations, pp. 36, 61–3; Delany's Letters, i. 102, 125; Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 126; Waller's Imperial Dict. iii. 191; Bromley's Cat. of Portraits, p. 300; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 410, 3rd ser. vii. 31; London newspapers, 1702–58, passim; Mrs. Julian Marshall's Handel, p. 56; European Mag. xxiv. 243, 363; Registers of P. C. C., Hutton, fol. 80; Leveridge's Works.]

L. M. M.