Thomas Walker (actor)

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Thomas Walker (1698–1744) was an English actor and dramatist.


Thomas Walker, 1728 engraving as Captain Macheath Thomas Walker Faber.jpg
Thomas Walker, 1728 engraving as Captain Macheath

Early life

He was the son of Francis Walker of Soho, London. At around the year 1714 he joined the Shepherd's company (perhaps the Shepherd who was at William Pinkethman's theatre in Greenwich in 1710). Barton Booth saw Walker in a droll, The Siege of Troy, and recommended him to the management of the Drury Lane Theatre. [1]

William Pinkethman British actor

William Pinkethman (c.1660–1725) was an English comic actor in the droll style. He was considered an imitator of Anthony Leigh.

Greenwich town in south-east London, England

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Barton Booth was one of the most famous dramatic actors of the first part of the 18th century.


In November 1715 Walker seems to have played Tyrrel in Colley Cibber's Richard III; on 12 December 1715 he was Young Fashion in a revival of The Relapse (John Vanburgh). [2] On 23 September 1721 he appeared at Lincoln's Inn Fields as Edmund in King Lear , and he remained there until 1733. [3] On 29 January 1728 Walker took on his major original part, Captain Macheath in the Beggar's Opera , and his reputation was established. [1] [4]

Colley Cibber English actor-manager, playwright, and poet laureate

Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber (1740) describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style. He wrote 25 plays for his own company at Drury Lane, half of which were adapted from various sources, which led Robert Lowe and Alexander Pope, among others, to criticise his "miserable mutilation" of "crucified Molière [and] hapless Shakespeare". He regarded himself as first and foremost an actor and had great popular success in comical fop parts, while as a tragic actor he was persistent but much ridiculed. Cibber's brash, extroverted personality did not sit well with his contemporaries, and he was frequently accused of tasteless theatrical productions, shady business methods, and a social and political opportunism that was thought to have gained him the laureateship over far better poets. He rose to ignominious fame when he became the chief target, the head Dunce, of Alexander Pope's satirical poem The Dunciad.

<i>King Lear</i> play by William Shakespeare

King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom by giving bequests to two of his three daughters egged on by their continual flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.

Captain Macheath

Captain Macheath is a fictional character who appears both in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), its sequel Polly (1777), and roughly 200 years later in Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera.

On 10 February 1733, at the new Covent Garden Theatre, Walker was the first Periphas in John Gay's Achilles. [5] The last part in which he is mentioned at Covent Garden is Ambrosio in Don Quixote, which he played on 17 May 1739. In 1739–40 he seems to have been resting, but he played, 17 May 1740, Macheath for his benefit at Drury Lane. In 1740–41 he was seen in many of his major parts at Goodman's Fields Theatre. But after David Garrick's arrival at Goodman's Fields in 1741, Walker's name was taken from the bills and did not reappear until 27 May 1742, when the Beggar's Opera and the Virgin Unmasked (Henry Fielding) were given for his benefit. He seems to have played in Dublin in 1742 as Kite in The Recruiting Officer , with Garrick as Plume. [1]

John Gay English poet and playwright

John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera (1728), a ballad opera. The characters, including Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum, became household names.

Two 18th century theatres bearing the name Goodman's Fields Theatre were located on Alie Street, Whitechapel, London. The first opened on 31 October 1727 in a small shop by Thomas Odell, deputy Licenser of Plays. The first play performed was George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer. Henry Fielding's second play The Temple Beau premièred here on 26 January 1730. Upon retirement, Odell passed the management on to Henry Giffard, after a sermon was preached against the theatre at St Botolph's, Aldgate. Giffard operated the theatre until 1732. After he left, the theatre was used for a variety of acrobatic performances.

David Garrick English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer

David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century, and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson. He appeared in a number of amateur theatricals, and with his appearance in the title role of Shakespeare's Richard III, audiences and managers began to take notice.

Walker's best serious parts were thought to be Bajazet, Hotspur, Edmund, and Falconbridge; in comedy he was best received as Worthy in the Recruiting Officer, Bellmour in the Old Bachelor, and Harcourt in The Country Girl (Garrick, after Wycherley). [1]


Walker's first dramatic effort was to compressing into one play the two parts of Thomas D'Urfey's Massaniello. This work was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 31 July 1724, with Walker as Massaniello. The Quaker's Opera, 1728, an imitation by Walker of the Beggar's Opera, was acted at Lee and Harper's booth in Bartholomew Fair. The Fate of Villainy, 1730, was given at Goodman's Fields Theatre on 24 February 1730 by Henry Giffard and Mrs. Giffard. [1]

Bartholomew Fair

The Bartholomew Fair was one of London's pre-eminent summer Charter fairs. A charter for the fair was granted to Rahere by Henry I to fund the Priory of St Bartholomew; and from 1133 to 1855 it took place each year on 24 August within the precincts of the Priory at West Smithfield, outside Aldersgate of the City of London. The fair continued, after the Dissolution within the Liberty of the parish of St Bartholomew-the-Great.


In 1744 Walker went to Dublin, taking with him the Fate of Villainy, which was acted there under the title of Love and Loyalty. The second night was to have been for his benefit. Not being able to furnish security for the expenses of the house, he could not induce the managers to reproduce it. He died three days later, 5 June 1744. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Walker, Thomas (1698-1744)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. On 3 February 1716 he was the first Squire Jolly in the Cobbler of Preston, an alteration by Charles Johnson of the induction to the Taming of the Shrew. On 21 May Cato, A Tragedy was given for his benefit. On 17 December he was the first Cardono in Susannah Centlivre's Cruel Gift. He also played during the season Axalla in Tamerlane and Portius in Cato. Beaupré, in the Little French Lawyer (Francis Beaumont), was given next season, and on 6 December 1717 he was the first Charles in Cibber's Nonjuror. Pisander in The Bondman (Philip Massinger), Rameses—an original part—in Edward Young's Busiris (7 March 1719), and Laertes followed, and he was (11 November) the first Brutus in John Dennis's Invader of his Country, an adaptation of Coriolanus , and (17 February 1720) the first Daran in John Hughes's Siege of Damascus. Cassio and Vernon in the First Part of King Henry IV, Alcibiades in Timon of Athens, Pharnaces in Mithridates , Octavius in Julius Cæsar, Aaron in Titus Andronicus, were also among the parts he played at Drury Lane.
  3. Playing during his first season Carlos in Love makes a Man (Colley Cibber), Polydore in The Orphan (Thomas Otway), Bassanio, Hotspur, Don Sebastian, Oroonoko, Aimwell in The Beaux' Stratagem , Young Worthy in Love's Last Shift , Bellmour in The Old Bachelor (William Congreve), Paris in Philip Massinger's Roman Actor, Lorenzo in The Spanish Friar (John Dryden), and other parts in tragedy and comedy. Over time he played Antony in Julius Cæsar, Adrastus in Œdipus, Constant in The Provoked Wife , Leandro in The Spanish Curate (Beaumont and Fletcher), Hephestion in The Rival Queens (Nat Lee), Alexander the Great, Captain Plume, King in Hamlet, Phocias—an original part—in The Fatal Legacy (translated from Racine's Thebais ) (23 April 1723), Roebuck in George Farquhar's Love and a Bottle, Massaniello, Lovemore in The Amorous Widow (Thomas Betterton), Wellbred in Every Man in his Humour , Harcourt in The Country Wife , Younger Belford in the Squire of Alsatia (Thomas Shadwell), Dick in The Confederacy (John Vanburgh), Cromwell in Henry VIII, Massinissa in Sophonisba (John Marston), Marsan—an original part—in Thomas Southerne's Money the Mistress (19 February 1726), Don Lorenzo in The Mistake (Vanburgh), Pierre in Venice Preserved , and Young Valère in The Gamester (Susannah Centlivre).
  4. On 10 February 1729 he was the first Xerxes in Samuel Madden's Themistocles, and on 4 March the first Frederick in Eliza Haywood's Frederick, Duke of Brunswick. Lysippus in a revival of the Maid's Tragedy and Juba in Cato followed. On 4 December 1730 he was the original Ramble in Henry Fielding's Coffee-house Politician. He also played Myrtle in The Conscious Lovers , Cosroe in The Prophetess , Corvino in Volpone , and Lord Wronglove in the Lady's Last Stake (Colley Cibber); and was, in the season 1730–1, the first Cassander in Philip Frowde's Philotas, Adrastus in George Jeffreys's Merope, Pylades in Lewis Theobald's Orestes, and Hypsenor in John Tracy's Periander.
  5. At this house he played Lothario, Banquo, Hector in Dryden's Troilus and Cressida, Angelo in Measure for Measure , Sempronius in Cato, Lord Morelove in The Careless Husband (Colley Cibber), Timon, Carlos in The Fatal Marriage (Thomas Southerne), the King in The Mourning Bride , Ghost in Hamlet, Fainall in The Way of the World , Colonel Briton, Bajazet, Henry VI in Richard III, Young Rakish in The School Boy (Colley Cibber), Falconbridge, Dolabella in All for Love , Horatio in The Fair Penitent , Norfolk in Richard II, Marcian in Theodosius (Nat Lee), Kite in The Recruiting Officer, and Scandal in Love for Love .

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Walker, Thomas (1698-1744)". Dictionary of National Biography . 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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