Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Quick, John (1748-1831)

QUICK, JOHN (1748–1831), actor, the son of a brewer, was born in 1748 in Whitechapel, London. In his fourteenth year he left his home and joined a theatrical company at Fulham, where he played Altamont in the ‘Fair Penitent,’ receiving from his approving manager three shillings as a full single share in the profits. During some years, in Kent and Surrey, he played Romeo, George Barnewell, Hamlet, Jaffier, Tancred, and other tragic characters, and in 1767 was at the Haymarket under the management of Foote, one of the pupils in Foote's ‘Orators,’ his associates including Edward Shuter [q. v.], John Bannister [q. v.], and John Palmer (1742?–1798) [q. v.] His performance, for Shuter's benefit, of Mordecai in ‘Love à la Mode’ recommended him to Covent Garden, where, on 7 Nov. 1767, he was the original Postboy in Colman's ‘Oxonian in Town;’ on 14 Dec. the First Ferret in the ‘Royal Merchant,’ an operatic version of the ‘Beggar's Bush;’ and on 29 Jan. 1768 the original Postboy in Goldsmith's ‘Good-natured Man.’ At Covent Garden, with occasional visits to Liverpool, Portsmouth, and other towns, and to Bristol, where he was for a time manager of the King Street Theatre, Quick remained during most of his artistic career.

Quick's performances were at first confined as a rule to clowns, rustics, comic servants, and the like. He was seen as Peter in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Simon Pure in ‘A Bold Stroke for a Wife,’ Third Witch in ‘Macbeth,’ Gripe in the ‘Cheats of Scapin,’ the First Gravedigger in ‘Hamlet,’ the Tailor in ‘Katharine and Petruchio,’ Puritan in ‘Duke and No Duke,’ Vamp in the ‘Author,’ Mungo in the ‘Padlock,’ Canton in the ‘Clandestine Marriage,’ Zorobabel in the ‘Country Madcap,’ Clown in ‘Winter's Tale,’ Daniel in ‘Oroonoko,’ Scrub in the ‘Beaux' Stratagem,’ Pamphlet in the ‘Upholsterer,’ Rigdum Funnidos in ‘Chrononhotonthologos,’ Old Philpot in the ‘Citizen,’ and many similar characters. His original parts at this period included Ostler in Colman's ‘Man and Wife, or the Shakespeare Jubilee,’ Skiff in Cumberland's ‘Brothers’ on 2 Dec. 1769, and clown to the harlequin of Charles Lee Lewes [q. v.] in the pantomime of ‘Mother Shipton’ on 26 Dec. 1770. A patent for a theatre in Liverpool passed the great seal on 4 May 1771, and on 5 June 1772 Quick was playing there Prattle in ‘The Deuce is in him.’ Many other characters, including Lovel in ‘High Life below Stairs,’ Polonius, Peachum, Jerry Sneak, Shallow, Sir Tunbelly Clumsy in the ‘Man of Quality,’ were here in the next few years assigned him. At Covent Garden he was, on 8 Dec. 1772, the original Consol in O'Brien's ‘Cross Purposes,’ and on 6 Feb. 1773 the original Momus in O'Hara's ‘Golden Pippin.’ These performances prepared the way for his great triumph, on 14 March, as the original Tony Lumpkin in ‘She stoops to conquer.’ The character had been refused by Woodward, whose want of insight was fortunate for Quick. During the season Quick also played Sable in the ‘Funeral,’ Coupler in the ‘Man of Quality,’ Trapland in ‘Love for Love,’ Gentleman Usher in ‘King Lear,’ Lady Pentweazle (an original part) in an unnamed interlude of Foote, Old Mask in the ‘Musical Lady,’ and Honeycombe in ‘Polly Honeycombe.’ The following season (1773–4) saw him promoted to Mawworm in the ‘Hypocrite,’ Grumio, Varland in the ‘West Indian,’ and Autolycus Mufti in ‘Don Sebastian.’ On 31 Jan. 1774 he played Old Rents in the ‘Jovial Crew.’ Foresight and Town Clerk in ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ with other parts, followed; and on 17 Jan. 1775 he was the first Bob Acres in the ‘Rivals.’ Among some scores of comic characters subsequently assigned him are Launcelot Gobbo, Lord Sands, Don Pedro in the ‘Wonder,’ Trinculo, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Touchstone, Pistol, Dromio of Ephesus, Roderigo, Launce in ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona,’ Cloten, Silence, Major Oldfox in the ‘Plain Dealer,’ Vellum, Lucullus in ‘Timon of Athens,’ Old Mirabel in the ‘Inconstant,’ Fondlewife, Old Woman in ‘Rule a Wife and have a Wife,’ Lovegold in the ‘Miser,’ Dr. Caius, Lord Duberly in the ‘Heir-at-Law,’ and Crabtree. From the almost interminable list of his original parts—most of them assigned him after the deaths of Shuter in 1776 and Woodward in 1777—may be selected Isaac Mendoza in Sheridan's ‘Duenna,’ Druggett in Murphy's ‘Three Weeks after Marriage,’ Sancho in ‘Don Quixote in England,’ adapted from Fielding, Vulcan in Dibdin's ‘Poor Vulcan,’ Sir Wilfrid Wildman in Kenrick's ‘Lady of the Manor,’ Hardy in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Belle's Stratagem,’ King Arthur in ‘Tom Thumb,’ altered by O'Hara from Fielding, Bobby Pendragon in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Which is the Man?’ Sir Toby Tacit in O'Keeffe's ‘Positive Man,’ Sir Solomon Dangle in Cumberland's ‘Walloons,’ Spado in O'Keeffe's ‘Castle of Andalusia,’ Savil in the ‘Capricious Lady’ (altered by Cumberland from the ‘Scornful Lady’ of Beaumont and Fletcher), Don Cæsar in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Bold Stroke for a Husband,’ Hillario in the ‘Magic Picture’ (altered by the Rev. H. Bate from Massinger), Dr. Feelove in Mrs. Cowley's ‘More Ways than One,’ Lapoche in O'Keeffe's ‘Fontainebleau, or Our Way in France,’ Don Guzman in ‘Follies of a Day’ (Holcroft's adaptation of ‘Le Mariage de Figaro’), Walmsley in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Appearance is against them,’ Quiz in ‘Love in a Camp’ (O'Keeffe's sequel to the ‘Poor Soldier’), Sir Oliver Oldstock in Pilon's ‘He would be a Soldier,’ and Sir Luke Tremor in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Such Things are.’

On 6 April 1790, for his benefit, Quick appeared as Richard III. He was always under the delusion that he could play tragedy, and took the character seriously at the outset, until the laughter of the audience proved irresistible. On 14 March 1791 Quick created the part of Cockletop, an antiquary, in O'Keeffe's ‘Modern Antiques,’ and on 16 April that of Sir George Thunder in the ‘Wild Oats’ of the same dramatist. On 18 Feb. 1792 he was the first Silky in Holcroft's ‘Road to Ruin,’ on 23 Jan. 1793 the first Solus in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Every one has his Fault,’ on 5 Feb. 1794 the first Sir Gregory Oldwort in Holcroft's ‘Love's Frailties, or Precept against Practice,’ on 23 Oct. the first Sir Paul Perpetual in Reynolds's ‘Rage,’ and 6 Dec. the first Sir Robert Flayer in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Town before you.’ In Holcroft's ‘Deserted Daughter,’ 2 May 1795, Quick was the original Item, and on 23 Jan. 1796 the original Toby Allspice in Morton's ‘Way to get married.’ In ‘Abroad and at Home,’ by Holman, he was (19 Nov.) the first Sir Simon Flourish, on 10 Jan. 1797 the first Vortex in Morton's ‘Cure for the Heartache,’ and on 4 March Lord Priory in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Wives as they were and Men as they are.’ In his last season he was, 23 Nov. 1797, the first Scud in Cumberland's ‘False Impressions,’ 11 Jan. 1798 the first Nicholas in Morton's ‘Secrets worth Knowing,’ and 13 Feb. the first Lord Vibrate in Holcroft's or Fenwick's ‘He's much to blame.’ On 11 April, for his benefit, he gave a description of the Roman puppet show. On 13 April he played his last original part, probably Admiral Delroy, in Cumberland's ‘Eccentric Lover.’ About this time, on the score of declining health, he resigned his long engagement at Covent Garden. His object was to obtain the option of playing less frequently, but much to his disappointment he was not engaged the following season. On 9 May 1799, for the benefit of Miss Leak, he appeared for the first time at Drury Lane, and played Hardy in the ‘Belle's Stratagem,’ and Lovegold in the ‘Miser.’ On 12 June 1800, for O'Keeffe's benefit, he played at Covent Garden Alibi in the ‘Lie of the Day,’ and Drugget in ‘Three Weeks after Marriage;’ and for another benefit appeared next day as Isaac in the ‘Duenna.’ For this part he was engaged at Drury Lane in 1801–2, but he seems to have played no other. In 1809 he took a tour in the north, appearing in Edinburgh, 25 Jan., as Sir Benjamin Dove in the ‘Brothers.’ In 1809—probably on 5 Sept.—still in the same character, he made his first appearance at the Lyceum. On 24 May 1813 he came again from his retirement, taking part at the Haymarket Opera House in a benefit to Mrs. Mattocks, in which he played Don Felix in the ‘Wonder.’ This seems to have been his last appearance. Out of his earnings he saved 10,000l., on the interest of which he lived, residing during his later years in Hornsey Row, subsequently Will's Row, Islington. He was in the habit, up to the last day of his life, of presiding over a ‘social gathering’ held at the King's Head tavern, Islington. He died on 4 April 1831, and was buried beneath the old chapel-of-ease at Lower Holloway. In early life he married at Bristol the daughter of a clergyman named Parker, and had by her a son, William, and a daughter, Mrs. Mary Anne Davenport (Gent. Mag. 1831, i. 74).

Quick, ‘the retired Dioclesian of Islington,’ as Mathews called him, ‘with his squeak like a Bart'lemew fiddle,’ was, on the same authority, a ‘pleasant little fellow,’ without ‘an atom of improper consequence in his composition.’ He was so small in frame that Anthony Pasquin calls him ‘the smart tiny Quick.’ He was held an honest man, and generous without being extravagant. He was the favourite actor of George III, who continually insisted upon his appearance, and is said to have more than once addressed him, and even to have promised, according to a very improbable story, to make his daughter a maid of honour. Quick was unsurpassed in old men. Isaac Mendoza, in the ‘Duenna,’ appears to have been his great part. He was also one of the best of First Gravediggers. Other parts in which he ranked very high were Beau Mordecai, Tony Lumpkin, Poor Vulcan, Little French Lawyer, Dromio of Ephesus, King Arthur in ‘Tom Thumb,’ Bobby Pendragon, Spado, Launce, and Sir John Tremor. Edwin was more popular than Quick, but was not, holds Genest, so good an actor. Edwin had to be fitted with new parts, while on the revival of an old comedy Quick was generally included in the cast. The author of ‘Candid and Impartial Strictures on the Performers,’ &c., 1795, says: ‘His comic talents are purely original, and, though not richly fraught with a mellowness of humour, still possess a certain quaintness and whimsicality that prove such incentives to laughter that the most cynical disposition cannot withstand their influence’ (p. 53). Some want of variety is imputed to him. Davies classes him with Parsons as ‘born to relax the muscles and set mankind a tittering.’

A portrait of Quick as Alderman Arable in ‘Speculation,’ with Munden as Project and Lewis as Tanjore, painted by Zoffany at the express desire of George III, is now in the Garrick Club. In this the portrait of Quick is repeated in a picture behind him. Other portraits of him, also in the Garrick Club, are by Dewilde, as Old Doiley in ‘Who's the Dupe?’ by Dupont as Spado in the ‘Castle of Andalusia,’ and by Dighton as Isaac in the ‘Duenna.’ In 1775 Thomas Parkinson painted a scene from ‘She stoops to conquer,’ in which Quick appears as Tony Lumpkin, to the Hardcastle of Shuter and the Mrs. Hardcastle of Mrs. Green. This was engraved by R. Laurie. Somewhat later William Score painted a portrait, which was engraved. An engraving by Charteris of a portrait in the possession of Quick appears in Gilliland's ‘Dramatic Mirror,’ and shows a pleasant and somewhat chubby face (cf. Bromley, Catalogue).

[Works cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Richard Jenkins's Memoirs of the Bristol Stage; Wheatley and Cunningham's London Past and Present; Smith's Catalogue of Portraits; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies; Clark Russell's Representative Actors; Thespian Dictionary; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe.]

J. K.