Open main menu

Stayley, George (DNB00)


STAYLEY, GEORGE (1727–1779?), actor and playwright, was born at Burton-on-Trent on 1 March 1727. In 1745 he was adopted by his mother's brother, an attorney named Monk, who wished him to study law; but after five years his kinsman, perceiving he had no aptitude in that direction, left him to his own devices. After two years of idleness he landed in Ireland on 29 May 1752, and obtained employment at the theatre in Smock Alley as an actor. In 1760 Henry Mossop [q. v.] discharged him for giving political toasts while acting the part of Lovel in the farce of ‘High Life.’ The remainder of his life was spent in broils with theatrical managers and fellow-actors. Though a good actor he was inordinately vain, and had an unfortunate knack of irritating those with whom he came in contact. In the beginning of 1766 he proceeded to Edinburgh and appeared at the Canongate Music Hall, afterwards the Canongate Theatre Royal. Next year he was not re-engaged, but he was more appreciated by the public than by the management. A riot ensued in consequence on 24 Jan., and the theatre was wrecked. Stayley afterwards taught elocution, and died in obscurity before 1780.

Stayley published: 1. ‘The Court of Nassau,’ a comedy, Dublin, 1753, 4to. 2. ‘The Rival Theatres,’ a farce, Dublin, 1759, 12mo, a skit on the rivalry between Sheridan at Smock Alley and Barry and Woodward at Crow Street. 3. ‘The Chocolate Makers, or Mimickry Exposed,’ printed with the preceding. 4. ‘The Life and Opinions of an Actor,’ Dublin, 1762, 12mo, which contains also a number of short pieces in prose and verse. 5. ‘An Enquiry into the Natural Worth and Dignity of Man,’ Edinburgh, 1766, 12mo.

[Stayley's Life and Opinions of an Actor; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica, i. 683; Lowe's English Theatrical Literature, p. 321; Dibdin's Annals of the Edinburgh Stage, 1888, pp. 135–43; Hitchcock's History of the Irish Stage, 1788–94, passim; Jackson's History of the Scottish Stage, 1793, pp. 60–6.]

E. I. C.