Leigh, John (DNB00)

LEIGH, JOHN (1689–1726), dramatist and actor, was born in Ireland in 1689 (Chetwood, General History of the Stage). His name appears to Demetrius in Shadwell's adaptation of 'Timon of Athens,' produced at Smock Alley Theatre in 1714 (Hitchcock wrongly suggests 1715). Recruited by John Rich for the newly erected theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, he played there on the opening night, 18 Dec. 1714, Plume in the 'Recruiting Officer' of Farquhar. On 16 Feb. 1715 he was the original Octavio in the 'Perplexed Couple, or Mistake upon Mistake,' an adaptation from 'Le Cocu Imaginaire' of Molière, attributed to Charles Molloy. Carlos in Cibber's 'Love Makes a Man' followed, and 23 June he was the original Lord Gaylove in the 'Doating Lovers' of Newburgh Hamilton. Freeman in the 'Plain Dealer,' Heartfree in the 'Provoked Wife,' Galliard in the 'Feigned Courtezans,' Florez in the 'Royal Merchant,' and Sir Humphry Scattergood in the 'Woman Captain' were assigned him the following season, and he was the first Beaufort in the 'Perfidious Brother' of Theobald or Mestayer. Francis Leigh, son of Anthony Leigh [q. v.], was until 1719 a member of the same company, playing similar characters, and it is thus impossible to settle which is intended when the name Leigh stands against a part. On 26 Sept. 1718 John Leigh played Don Sebastian in Dryden's play of that name. He subsequently appeared as Moneses in 'Tamerlane,' Duke in the 'Traytor,' altered from Shirley by Christopher Bullock [q. v.], Juba in 'Cato,' Mellefont in the 'Double Dealer,' Macduff, Antony in 'Julius Cæsar,' and 7 Feb. 1719 as Bellair, sen., in the 'Younger Brother.' In a revival of 'Richard II' Leigh played Bolingbroke, and 7 Jan. 1720 he was Cymbeline in the 'Injured Princess, or the Fatal Wager,' D'Urfey's adaptation of Shakespeare's play. At Lincoln's Inn Leigh remained until his death. Other of his characters, which Genest has not collected, include Cassio, Edmund in 'Lear,' Achilles in 'Troilus and Cressida,' Heartfree in the 'Provoked Wife,' Saturnius and Emperor in 'Titus Andronicus,' the Prince in the 'First Part of King Henry IV,' Ruy Diaz in the 'Island Princess,' Richmond, Younger Worthy in 'Love's Last Shift,' Horatio, Julius Cæsar, Cassander in the 'Rival Queens,' Truman, jun., in the 'Cutler of Coleman Street,' Goswin in the 'Royal Merchant,' and Cardinal in 'Massaniello.' He played some original parts, among which may be counted Charles Heartfree in Griffin's 'Whig and Tory,' 26 Jan. 1720; Osmin in the 'Fair Captive' by Captain Hurst, altered by Mrs. Haywood, 4 March 1721; High Priest in Fenton's 'Mariamne,' 22 Feb. 1723, and a Christian Hermit in Hurst's 'Roman Maid.' The last part to which Leigh's name appears is Phorbas in 'Œdipus,' 14 April 1726.

On 26 Nov. 1719 Leigh enacted Lord George Belmour in his own comedy the 'Pretenders,' 8vo, 1720, originally called 'Kensington Garden, or the Pretenders.' This, a moderately entertaining piece, was acted about seven times, and is dedicated to Lord Brooke, on account, as Leigh states in the preface, of his 'being the first subscriber towards the support of our theatre.' On 11 Jan. 1720 a new farce by Leigh in two acts, 'Hob's Wedding,' 8vo, 1720, was acted for the first time. It was repeated six times, the author having benefits on the third and fifth nights. Leigh's share in this is small, the piece consisting only of the scenes of the 'Country Wake,' which Thomas Doggett [q. v.] excised when he converted that piece into 'Flora, or Hob in the Well,' It was, according to Genest, printed, with songs added by John Hippisley [q. v.], in 1732 as the 'Sequel to Flora,' and was revived in the same year. Genest calls it a 'good ballad farce,' Chetwood gives in his short life of Leigh a ballad written by him to the tune of 'Thomas, I cannot,' concerning some brother actors, which for the time was a capital specimen of humour and versification. Leigh died in 1726. A man of education with an excellent figure and pleasing address, distinguished from his namesakes as Handsome Leigh, he was received with favour, but did not maintain his position. After Ryan and Walker joined the company he fell into the background, and in the later years of his life was heard of at long intervals.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Hitchcock's Irish Stage. Anthony Leigh is confused with John Leigh in Mr. Clark Russell's Representative Actors.]

J. K.