Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jevon, Thomas

JEVON, THOMAS (1652–1688), actor and dramatist, born in 1652, was a dancing-master, but worked his way on to the stage, and played leading low-comedy parts in London between 1673 and 1688. He appeared as Sneak in D'Urfey's ‘Fond Husband’ in 1676, and made a brilliant success as Harlequin in Mountford's farcical ‘Dr. Faustus.’ His only published play, and probably, as a contemporary manuscript note on one of the British Museum copies says, ‘the only dramatick performance of Mr. Thos. Jevon,’ was ‘The Devil of a Wife; or a Comical Transformation,’ which was licensed by Roger L'Estrange on 30 March 1686, and was produced immediately afterwards at Dorset Garden, where Jevon usually acted. Jevon and George Powell [q. v.] played the two leading rôles, Jobson and Noddy, and the piece, in which it is possible, as Baker suggests, that the author had the assistance of his brother-in-law, Thomas Shadwell [q. v.], achieved a great success, passing through eight editions between the date of its appearance and 1735, and forming the groundwork of Coffey's opera, ‘The Devil to Pay,’ produced in 1731. The plot of the play is borrowed from the story of Mopsa in Sidney's ‘Arcadia’ (Langbaine, Lives and Characters of English Dramatick Poets, p. 76). Jevon wrote the prologue for and acted in Mrs. Behn's ‘Emperor of the Moon’ in 1687, and in 1688 he played Sir William Belford in Shadwell's ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ and Toby in D'Urfey's ‘Fool's Preferment.’ The latter was his last part. Jevon died in the same year, and was buried in Hampstead churchyard on 24 Dec. An infant named Thomas Jevon, probably Jevon's son, was buried near the same spot on 13 Sept. 1684 (Lysons, ii. 545).

Jevon seems to have been long remembered. Colley Cibber is made to say in ‘The Egotist’ (1743): ‘My modesty is like that of Jevon the comedian, who coming into a club of his acquaintance with dirty shoes, contentedly took a clean napkin from the table to wipe them, when the waiter desired him to stay till he could fetch him a coarse cloth. Jevon gently replied, “No! no! thank you, my good lad; this will serve me well enough.”’ Another anecdote is told of him in Downes's ‘Roscius Anglicanus,’ p. 45, which provoked the editor, Davies, to remark that Jevon must have been a contemptible buffoon. Langbaine describes him as a good actor, and specially notices his ‘activity.’

[Baker's Biog. Dram. i. 399; Genest, i. 450, 465; Doran's Annals, i. 143; Lowe's Betterton, p. 136; Nouvelle Biog. Générale.]

T. S.