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Swinny, Owen Mac (DNB00)

SWINNY, OWEN MAC, otherwise known as Owen MacSwinny (d. 1754), playwright, was born in Ireland, and came to London in 1706 to manage the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, which he leased from Sir John Vanbrugh [q. v.] The theatre opened under his management on 15 Oct. (Genest, Hist. of Drama and Stage, ii. 357). He had been promised assistance by Christopher Rich [q. v.], patentee of Drury Lane, but in the following year a quarrel broke off the connection. Swinny desired to obtain the services of Colley Cibber, whom Rich wished to retain in his own company. The affair was terminated by Cibber deciding to throw in his lot with Swinny, and, owing to his assistance, the season of 1707 proved extremely successful. On 31 Dec. the lord chamberlain, in the interest of Rich, ordered that the Haymarket should be used for opera only. In May 1709 Swinny engaged Nicolini, the singer, for a period of three years, and at first was so fortunate that in one winter, according to Cibber, he gained ‘a moderate younger brother's fortune.’ On Rich's eviction from Drury Lane by William Collier in 1709, Swinny was permitted to engage most of the Drury Lane actors and to perform plays as well as operas at the Haymarket. But Collier in 1710, finding that this interfered with his own success, employed his influence at court to bring about a renewal of the former arrangement, by which the Haymarket Theatre was reserved for opera. He took over the management of that theatre himself, and transferred Swinny, now in partnership with Cibber, Wilkes, and Doggett, to Drury Lane (ib. ii. 441, 469). In the next year Collier, having failed at the opera, brought his court influence into play once more, and transferred Swinny back to the Haymarket (ib. ii. 485). He found the opera there in a sinking condition, and by the end of the season he was bankrupt and compelled to take refuge abroad. After some twenty years' residence in France and Italy he returned to England, where he obtained a place in the custom-house, and was appointed storekeeper at the king's mews. On 26 Feb. 1735 he had a benefit at Drury Lane, at which Cibber played for his old friend (ib. iii. 448). Swinny died on 2 Oct. 1754, considerably over seventy years of age, and left his fortune to Mrs. Woffington.

His portrait was engraved from life in 1737 by Peter Van Bleeck, and in 1752 another, after Van Loo, was executed by John Faber, jun., in mezzotint. He was the author of: 1. ‘The Quacks, a Comedy,’ London, 1705, 4to, a translation of Moliére's ‘L'Amour Médecin;’ it was altered and brought out as a farce in 1745 for Mrs. Woffington's benefit. 2. ‘Camilla, an Opera,’ London, 1706, 4to. 3. ‘Pyrrhus and Demetrius,’ London, 1709, 4to; translated from the Italian of Scarlatti.

[Cibber's Apology, ed. Lowe, passim; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica, i. 699, ii. 78, iii. 187, 188; Grove's Dict. of Music, iv. 9; Tatler, No. 99; Gent. Mag. 1754, p. 483; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies, i. 232; Bromley's Cat. of Engr. Portraits, p. 303.]

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