Thomas Ryder (actor)

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Thomas Ryder (1735–1790) was a British actor and theatre manager, associated with the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. As a player, he was considered at his best in low comedy.

Smock Alley Theatre theatre in Dublin, Ireland

Since the 17th century there have been numerous theatres in Dublin with the name of Smock Alley.


Thomas Ryder Thomas Ryder Ford.jpg
Thomas Ryder

Early life

The son of the actor-manager Preswick Ryder (d. 1771) and his actress wife Sarah, he was perhaps born in Nottinghamshire. He had early stage experience in Scotland, at least. [1]

Nottinghamshire County of England

Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands region of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west. The traditional county town is Nottingham, though the county council is based in West Bridgford in the borough of Rushcliffe, at a site facing Nottingham over the River Trent.

The Dublin stage

Ryder appeared on 7 December 1757 at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, then under the management of Thomas Sheridan, playing Captain Plume in The Recruiting Officer to the Captain Brazen of Samuel Foote. He came to immediate favour. After the failure of Sheridan, Ryder remained under his successor, Brown, supporting Frances Abington as Sir Harry in High Life below Stairs (James Townley) and in other parts. Under Henry Mossop, he played at the same house [2] [3]

Thomas Sheridan (actor) Irish stage actor and educator

Thomas Sheridan was an Irish stage actor, an educator, and a major proponent of the elocution movement. He received his M.A. in 1743 from Trinity College in Dublin, and was the godson of Jonathan Swift. He also published a "respelled" dictionary of the English language (1780). He was married (1747) to Frances Chamberlaine. His son was the better known Richard Brinsley Sheridan, while his daughters were also writers - Alicia, a playwright, and Betsy Sheridan a diarist. His work is very noticeable in the writings of Hugh Blair.

The Recruiting Officer is a 1706 play by the Irish writer George Farquhar, which follows the social and sexual exploits of two officers, the womanising Plume and the cowardly Brazen, in the town of Shrewsbury to recruit soldiers. The characters of the play are generally stock, in keeping with the genre of Restoration comedy.

Samuel Foote British dramatist

Samuel Foote was a British dramatist, actor and theatre manager from Cornwall. He was known for his comedic acting and writing, and for turning the loss of a leg in a riding accident in 1766 to comedic opportunity.

For five years Ryder then ran a company, working his way around Ireland. He reopened at Smock Alley Theatre as Sir John Restless in All in the Wrong (Arthur Murphy), and temporarily brought back prosperity to the management. [4] During the slack season Ryder performed at Ranelagh Gardens (Dublin). [3]

Arthur Murphy (writer) Irish writer

Arthur Murphy, also known by the pseudonym Charles Ranger, was an Irish writer.

Manager at Smock Alley Theatre

In the autumn of 1772, Mossop having retired ruined, Ryder stepped into the management of Smock Alley Theatre, and opened in September with She would and she would not, in which he played for the first time Trappanti. He was then declared to be the most general actor living for tragedy, comedy, opera, and farce. [3]

Ryder remained in management in Dublin, helped by a lottery prize in the early days, with varying but diminishing success, until 1782. When the Fishamble Street Theatre started to take his business, he had the words of The Duenna taken down in shorthand, producing it as The Governess. A legal action ensued, but failed. He kept a carriage, and a country house known as "Ryder's Folly" which he sold unfinished. He also started as printer, editing plays in which he appeared, printing them and publishing a tri-weekly theatrical paper. [3]

<i>The Duenna</i> opera composed by Linley and Linley

The Duenna is a three-act comic opera, mostly composed by Thomas Linley the elder and his son, Thomas Linley the younger, to an English-language libretto by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. At the time, it was considered one of the most successful operas ever staged in England, and its admirers included Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt and Lord George Byron.

After trying in vain to manage Crow Street Theatre as well Smock Alley, Ryder yielded up Crow Street to Richard Daly, resigning management in 1782, and becoming a member of Daly's company. [3]

The London stage

On 25 October 1787, at Covent Garden as Sir John Brute in The Provoked Wife , Ryder made his first appearance in England. His début was not a conspicuous success, and a rival, John Edwin the elder, was the sitting tenant of many of his best parts. During his first season he repeated, however, many favourite characters. [5] At Covent Garden, with one summer visit to the Haymarket, he remained until his death. [6] The main original parts he played at Covent Garden were: Carty in O'Keeffe's Tantarara Rogues All on 1 March 1768; Duke Murcia in Elizabeth Inchbald's Child of Nature on 28 November; and Hector in O'Keeffe's Pharo Table, on 4 April 1789. [3]


On 19 November 1790 Ryder played Old Groveby in the Maid of the Oaks. A week later (26 November 1790) he died at Sandymount, Dublin, and was buried in the churchyard of Drumcondra. [3]


Ryder was responsible for two plays: Like Master Like Man, a farce, Dublin, 1770; this was a reduction to two acts of John Vanbrugh's The Mistake, itself derived from Le Dépit Amoureux; Samuel Reddish, who played it at Drury Lane on 12 April 1768, and it was revived at Drury Lane on 30 March 1773. His second piece, Such Things have been, a two-act comedy taken from Isaac Jackman's Man of Parts, was played by Ryder for his benefit at Covent Garden on 31 March 1789, and was printed. [3]


Ryder married before the season of 1771–2, when Mrs. Ryder was seen as Clementina, Constance in King John , Lady Macbeth, and other characters. Two daughters were for a short time on the stage at Covent Garden, appearing respectively, Miss Ryder as Estifania and Miss R. Ryder as Leonora to their father's Leon in Rule a Wife and have a Wife , on 16 April 1790. Ryder's son, who was in the army, was killed in 1796 in a duel. [3]


  1. Scullion, Adrienne. "Ryder, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24403.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. In 1764 Tressel in King Richard III, Scapin, Lord Aimworth in Maid of the Mill (Isaac Bickerstaff), and Rimenes in the opera Artaxerxes .
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Ryder, Thomas (1735-1790)". Dictionary of National Biography . 50. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. Lionel in the opera so named, the title in Cymon, a dramatic romance attributed to David Garrick, and the Copper Captain in Rule a Wife and have a Wife , followed.
  5. He was seen as Sir John Restless, Scapin, Ben in Love for Love , Falstaff in First Part of Henry IV , and Merry Wives of Windsor , Crispin in The Anatomist (James Bridie), Lissardo in The Wonder (Susannah Centlivre), Colonel Feignwell in A Bold Stroke for a Wife (Centlivre), Hob in Hob in the Well (Colley Cibber), Trim in The Funeral (Richard Steele), Tom in The Conscious Lovers (Steele), Lady Pentweazle in Lady Pentweazle in Town (William Kenrick), General Savage in The School for Wives , Drunken Colonel in The Intriguing Chambermaid (Henry Fielding), Captain Ironside in The Brothers (Richard Cumberland), Sir Harry's Servant in High Life below Stairs, Lovegold in The Miser (Fielding), and played an original part, unnamed, in Bonds without Judgment, attributed to Edward Topham, and Sebastian in Elizabeth Inchbald's Midnight Hour, on 22 May 1787.
  6. He was seen as Iago, Duretête in The Inconstant (George Farquhar), Heartwell in The Old Bachelor (William Congreve), Bailiff in The Good-natured Man (Oliver Goldsmith), Shylock, Beau Clincher, Peachum, Don Jerome in The Duenna, Lopez in Lovers' Quarrels (adaptation to one act of The Mistake by Vanburgh, by Thomas King), Old Hardcastle, Major Benbow in The Flitch of Bacon (Henry Bate), Leon, Sir Tunbelly Clumsy in The Man of Quality (adaptation by John Lee from The Relapse by Vanburgh), Darby in The Poor Soldier (William Shield), with other characters; and at the Haymarket, where he made as Shylock his first appearance on 22 June 1790, as Sidney, an original character in a farce called Try Again, Don Lopez, an original part in John Scawen's two-act opera, New Spain, or Love in Mexico, and the Marquis de Champlain (also original) in O'Keeffe's Basket Maker.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Ryder, Thomas (1735-1790)". Dictionary of National Biography . 50. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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