Joseph Ebsworth

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Joseph Ebsworth (1788–1868) was an English dramatist and musician.


Early life

The elder son of Joseph and Isabella Ebsworth, he was born at Islington, London, on 10 October 1788, and was early apprenticed to a watch-jeweller named Cornwall; he was later selected to reconstruct the watch of the Prince Regent. [1]

Islington Area of London

Islington is a district in Greater London, England, and part of the London Borough of Islington. It is a mainly residential district of Inner London, extending from Islington's High Street to Highbury Fields, encompassing the area around the busy High Street, Upper Street, Essex Road, and Southgate Road to the east.

In theatre

Having a rich baritone voice, he joined the operatic company at Covent Garden Theatre immediately after fulfilling his indentures, and early turned to dramatic authorship. He also acted in melodrama, and became secretary to David Edward Morris, of the Haymarket Theatre. [1]

Melodrama Dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions

A melodrama is a dramatic work wherein the plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal strongly to the emotions, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Melodramas typically concentrate on dialogue, which is often bombastic or excessively sentimental, rather than action. Characters are often simply drawn and may appear stereotyped. Melodramas are typically set in the private sphere of the home, and focus on morality and family issues, love, and marriage, often with challenges from an outside source, such as a "temptress", or an aristocratic villain. A melodrama on stage, film or television is usually accompanied by dramatic and suggestive music that offers cues to the audience of the drama being presented.

In 1822 Ebsworth made a first visit to Scotland. Soon after 1826 he moved from London to Edinburgh, where he held an engagement at the Theatre Royal, as actor and prompter, with his lifelong friend William Henry Murray. [1]

William Henry Murray British actor

William Henry Wood Murray (1790-1852) a Scottish actor, manager and theatre owner in Edinburgh, was a friend of Walter Scott particularly associated with dramatisations of Scott's Waverley Novels.

Later life

Ebsworth became established in Edinburgh as teacher of music and singing, and accepted the position of leader of the choir at St. Stephen's Church, which caused him to give up acting; but he continued to write and to translate dramas, which played in London and the provinces. In 1828 he opened an "English and foreign dramatic library and caricature repository" at 23 Elm Row, at the head of Leith Walk, Edinburgh, and for fifteen years maintained it successfully as the main bookseller's shop for periodical literature. Afterwards he resided at 4 Montgomery Street. [1]

St Stephens Church, Edinburgh church in Edinburgh, UK

Saint Stephen's Church is located in the New Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, at the bottom of Saint Vincent Street. It was built in 1827-1828, to a design by architect William Henry Playfair (1789–1857).

Leith Walk street in City of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Leith Walk is one of the longest streets in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the main road connecting the port area of Leith to the centre of the city. Forming the majority of the A900 road, it slopes upward from 'the Foot of the Walk' at the north-eastern end of the street, where Great Junction, Duke and Constitution streets meet, to the Picardy Place roundabout at the south-western end.

Ebsworth's vocal and instrumental concerts at the Hopetoun Rooms, Queen Street, were continued annually from 1830 until within a few weeks of his death. He had known Charles Dibdin, and his own entertainments were on the same model. He was for forty years teacher of music, to private pupils, and at the Merchant Maidens' Hospital, Watson's, and the Normal School. He was also a linguist, collector of astrological documents and amateur artist. He was librarian of the Harmonist Society of Edinburgh. [1]

Queen Street, Edinburgh

Queen Street is part of the Edinburgh New Town area, where the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery are located. It was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of George III of the United Kingdom.

Charles Dibdin British musician, songwriter, dramatist, novelist and actor

Charles Dibdin was a British composer, musician, dramatist, novelist and actor. With over 600 songs to his name, for many of which he wrote both the lyrics and the music and performed them himself, he was in his time the most prolific English singer-songwriter. He is best known as the composer of "Tom Bowling", one of his many sea songs, which often features at the Last Night of the Proms. He also wrote about 30 dramatic pieces, including the operas The Waterman (1774) and The Quaker (1775), and several novels, memoirs and histories.


Of Ebsworth's five children born in Scotland, all died young except two sons. News of the sudden death in Australia of his son Charles (born 24 October 1833) reached him close on midsummer 1868. He died of an apoplectic seizure, three weeks later, on the fifty-first anniversary of his marriage. He was buried at the Dean cemetery, Edinburgh, at the feet of David Scott F.S.A. On the following Sunday his own music was played and sung in churches of all denominations in Edinburgh. [1]


Many of Ebsworth's dramas were printed. They included: [1]

With A Short Introduction to Vocal Music, Ebsworth published church music, much of it composed for St. Stephen's Church, Edinburgh, and for his lifelong friend the Rev. Dr. William Muir. His legacy included a manuscript collection of his own songs. [1]


On 22 June 1817 Ebsworth married Mary Emma, eldest daughter of Robert Fairbrother, member of the Glovers' Company. He settled in Lambeth, 3 Gray's Walk, where five of his children were born. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1888). "Ebsworth, Joseph". Dictionary of National Biography . 16. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1888). "Ebsworth, Joseph". Dictionary of National Biography . 16. London: Smith, Elder & Co.