Kynaston, Edward (DNB00)


KYNASTON, EDWARD (1640?–1706), actor, son of Edward Kynaston or Kinaston, was born in London about 1640, and was apparently related to the Kynastons of Oteley in Shropshire. According to Downes and Gildon, he was Betterton's under-apprentice at the sign of the Bible, a bookseller's shop in Charing Cross. The shop was kept by one Rhodes, who had been a wardrobe-keeper to the king's company of comedians before the civil wars, and who in the year before the Restoration set up a company in the Cockpit in Drury Lane, where Kynaston first appeared in women's parts in 1659 [see Betterton, Thomas]. Kynaston probably left Rhodes's company when it migrated from the Cockpit to Salisbury Court. It is not known precisely when this occurred, but it is certain that Kynaston was acting with the more distinguished company known as ‘Old Actors’ at the Cockpit on 18 Aug. 1660, when Pepys saw him play a female part in the ‘Loyal Subject,’ and says ‘he made the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life,’ adding, ‘after the play Kinaston and another by Captain Ferrars' means came and drank with us.’ Some of the female parts played by Kynaston at this time were Arthiope in the ‘Unfortunate Lovers,’ the Princess in the ‘Mad Lover,’ Aglaura in Suckling's play of that name, and Ismenia in the ‘Maid of the Mill.’ Shortly after this he was engaged with other of the ‘Old Actors’ in Thomas Killigrew's famous company of ‘his majesty's servants,’ who from 8 Nov. 1660 played in the theatre at Vere Street. Here on 7 Jan. 1661 Kynaston appeared as Epicœne in the ‘Silent Woman,’ and somewhat later as Evadne in the ‘Maid's Tragedy.’ Pepys saw him double a male and female part in the same month, and declares that he made successively the handsomest man and the prettiest woman in the house. It is often asserted that Kynaston was the queen on the occasion when, in reply to the king's inquiry why the actors were not ready, the master of the company ‘fairly told his majesty that the queen was not shaved’ (see Beljame, Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres en Angleterre, p. 33). This is, it would appear, only an inference, from the fact that Cibber relates the anecdote when speaking of Kynaston, but it is certain that Kynaston was, with James Nokes or Noke [q. v.], the last male actor of female parts, as he was not improbably the best. His forte consisted in moving compassion and pity, ‘in which,’ says Downes, ‘it has since been disputable among the judicious whether any woman that succeeded him so sensibly touched the audience as he.’ At the same time ‘he was,’ says Cibber, ‘so beautiful a youth that the Ladies of Quality prided themselves in taking him with them in their Coaches to Hyde Park in the theatrical Habit after the Play’ (Apology, ed. Lowe, i. 119–21).

Kynaston's first important male part was Peregrine in the ‘Fox,’ which he played with the king's company at their new theatre in Covent Garden on 14 Jan. 1665. Other important parts played by him at the Theatre Royal between this date and 1682 were: Harcourt in the ‘Country Wife,’ 1673; Freeman in the ‘Plain Dealer,’ 1674; Morat in ‘Aurenge-Zebe,’ 1675; Scipio in ‘Sophonisba,’ 1676; Cassander in the ‘Rival Queens,’ 1677; and Cassio in ‘Othello,’ 1682. Although his personal beauty and imperious mien made him a general favourite, his conceit could hardly fail to make him some enemies. He was particularly vain of his personal resemblance to one of the chief wits and beaux of the time, Sir Charles Sedley, whose dress and demeanour he imitated as closely as possible. Sedley, to show his resentment of what he considered a gross insult, hired a bravo to chastise the actor in St. James's Park in the spring of 1668, under the pretext that he mistook him for the baronet. Some time later Sedley, for the further instruction of Kynaston, introduced the incident into his play, ‘The Mulberry Garden,’ acted on 18 May 1668. The actor, however, was so far from taking the hint that he proceeded to impersonate Sedley on the stage, with the result that on the night of 31 Jan. 1668–9 ‘he was exceedingly beaten with sticks by two or three men who saluted him, so that he is mightily bruised and forced to keep his bed’ (Pepys, v. 103). ‘They say,’ continues Pepys, ‘that the king is very angry with Sir Charles Sedley for his being beaten, but he do deny it.’ In spite of this severe treatment Kynaston was able to appear on 9 Feb., when Pepys saw him in the ‘Island Princess.’

On 14 Oct. 1681 a memorandum was signed by Hart and Kynaston of the king's company, with Davenant, Betterton, and Smith of the Duke's Theatre, by which the two former, for a consideration of 5s. each for every day on which there should be a play at Dorset Garden, undertook to do everything in their power to break up the king's company. The object of the intrigue was to counteract the declining support from which both the patent theatres were at the time suffering. In the result a union between the two houses was formed on 16 Nov. 1682, when at the Theatre Royal Kynaston played the King of France to Betterton's Duke in Dryden's ‘Duke of Guise.’ Between this date and 1695, when he followed Betterton to Lincoln's Inn Fields, his most important parts were Sir Philip Luckless in the ‘Northern Lass,’ and Mark Anthony in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ with Betterton, Mountfort, Jevon, Underhill, and Leigh in the cast, 1684; Lord Bellgard in Crowne's ‘Sir Courtly Nice,’ 1685; Belmour in ‘Lucky Chance,’ and King of Tidore in Tate's ‘Island Princess,’ 1690; Sir Thomas Delamore in ‘Edward III,’ and Duke of Guise in D'Urfey's ‘Bussy d'Ambois,’ 1691. In 1693 he was prevented by illness from playing Lord Touchwood in Congreve's ‘Double Dealer’ before Queen Mary, and was replaced by Colley Cibber [q. v.] (Strickland, Queens, vii. 405).

At fifty Kynaston's powers were in no way impaired, and he was, says Genest, ‘remarkable for a piercing eye and a quick impetuous vivacity in his voice, which painted the Tyrant truly terrible, particularly in Morat and Muley Moloch in “Don Sebastian,” while in “Henry IV,” when he whispered to Hotspur, “Send us your prisoners, or you'll hear of it,” he conveyed a more terrible menace than the loudest intemperance of voice could swell to.’ After 1695 he took less important parts, but ‘even at past sixty,’ says Cibber, ‘his teeth were all sound, white, and even as one could wish to see in a reigning toast of twenty.’ His chief fault as an actor seems to have been his strident voice, concerning which an anecdote more pertinent than pleasing is given by Davies, and repeated by Genest (ii. 174). That characteristic, as well as his stately step, has been attributed to his early experience in female parts. Cibber praises him highly, and when he took Syphax in ‘Cato,’ played it ‘as he thought Kynaston would have done.’

Kynaston appears to have retired in 1699, and to have died in January 1705–6. He was buried on 18 Jan. in St. Paul's, Covent Garden (Parish Reg. 1703–39, p. 199). Another Edward Kynaston, of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, was buried in the same church 30 July 1712 (ib.) The actor had made a considerable sum of money, with the help of which he set up his son of the same name as a mercer. The latter had a large shop in Bedford Street, Strand, where Kynaston spent the last years of his life. Davies, in his ‘Miscellanies,’ states that he met Kynaston's grandson, who was a clergyman, but he was not disposed to be communicative about his ancestry, though he mentioned his kinship with the Kynastons of Oteley.

[Colley Cibber's Apology, ed. Lowe, passim; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; Genest, i. 492, ii. 174; Malone's Historical Account, p. 130; Pepys's Diary, i. 128, 173; Gildon's Betterton, pp. 5, 9; Curll's English Stage, pp. 91, 116; Lowe's Betterton; Doran's English Stage, i. 71–4; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies, iii. 337; Dibdin's Hist. of the Stage, iv. 232; Russell's Representative Actors, pp. 9–11; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, i. 148–9.]

T. S.