Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilon, Frederick

PILON, FREDERICK (1750–1788), actor and dramatist, was born in Cork in 1750. After receiving a fairly good education in his native city, he was sent to Edinburgh University to study medicine, but he took to the stage instead. He first appeared at the Edinburgh Theatre as Oroonoko, but with small success, and consequently joined an inferior strolling company, with which he remained for some years. He finally drifted to London, where Griffin the bookseller employed him on the ‘Morning Post.’ After Griffin's death had deprived him of this position, he seems to have worked as an obscure literary hack until he began to write for the stage. He was soon employed with some regularity at Covent Garden Theatre. There, on 4 Nov. 1778, ‘The Invasion, or a Trip to Brighthelmstone’—‘a moderate farce,’ according to Genest—was performed, with Lee Lewis in the chief part (Cameleon) on 4 Nov. 1778. It was repeated twenty-four times during the season, and was several times revived. ‘The Liverpool Prize’ followed at the same theatre on 22 Feb. 1779, with Quick in the chief part. ‘Illumination, or the Glazier's Conspiracy,’ a prelude, suggested by the illuminations on Admiral Keppel's acquittal, was acted on 12 April 1779 for Lee Lewis's benefit. ‘The Device, or the Deaf Doctor,’ when first produced on 27 Sept. 1779, met with great opposition, but, revived with alteration as ‘The Deaf Lover,’ on 2 Feb. 1780, it achieved some success; ‘The Siege of Gibraltar,’ a musical farce (25 April 1780), celebrated Rodney's victory; ‘The Humours of an Election,’ a farce (19 Oct. 1780), satirised electoral corruption; ‘Thelyphthora, or more Wives than One,’ a farce, satirising the work of the name by Martin Madan [q. v.], was produced on 8 March 1781, and was damned the second night; ‘Aerostation, or the Templar's Stratagem’ (29 Oct. 1784), dealt with the rage of the day for balloons; ‘Barataria, or Sancho turned Governor’ (29 March 1785), was adapted from D'Urfey. Meanwhile Pilon deserted Covent Garden for Drury Lane, where he produced, on 18 May 1782, ‘The Fair American,’ a comic opera, which was not very skilfully plagiarised from the ‘Adventures of Five Hours.’ Pilon's last piece, a comedy, ‘He would be a Soldier,’ after being rejected by Colman, was performed at Covent Garden on 18 Nov. 1786, and achieved considerable success. In 1787 Pilon married a Miss Drury of Kingston, Surrey; he died at Lambeth on 17 Jan. 1788. His pieces were clever, if of ephemeral interest.

Besides the plays mentioned, all of which he published, Pilon issued ‘The Drama,’ an anonymous poem, 1775, and ‘An Essay on the Character of Hamlet as performed by Mr. Henderson’ (anonymous), 8vo, London, 1785? An edition of G. A. Stevens's ‘Essay on Heads’ appeared in 1785, with additions by Pilon.

[Thespian Dict.; Gifford's Mæviad; Baker's Biogr. Dram.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Genest's Account of the Stage.]

D. J. O'D.