Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ Richard Daly 1758 - 1813

1. Jordan
(Mrs Jordan was Daly's mistress while working at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.)

Richard Daly 1758 - 1813

1.   Mrs. Jordan as Priscilla Tomboy.    From an engraving by W. Angus after a drawing by T. Stothard, 1786.  Illustration in the publication Child of Nature by Philip W. Sergeant.   [Image in the public domain.]

Richard Daly, actor and theatrical manager, was the second son of an Irish gentleman in the county of Galway. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a fellow-commoner, and while there engaged actively in the violent contests which occasionally took place between students and citizens.

Daly is described as of tall stature and of elegant personal appearance, although squint-eyed. He was much addicted to gambling, and noted as a successful duellist, both with sword and pistol. The exhaustion of his patrimony led him to seek employment as an actor, and after having been instructed for the stage by his countryman, Macklin, he made his appearance at Covent Garden, London, in the character of Othello.

Daly was befriended by Spranger Barry's widow, Mrs. Crawford, and her husband, with whom he returned to Ireland. In their company at Cork he played Norval and other parts with success, and obtained an engagement from Thomas Ryder, then lessee of the Theatre Royal, Dublin. Daly first appeared on the Dublin stage as Lord Townley. He was well received, and subsequently attained to first-class parts in the Dublin theatre. His position was much improved by his marriage with Mrs. Lister, a popular actress and singer of high personal character, and possessed of considerable property.

The pecuniary embarrassments of Ryder enabled Daly to acquire the lease of Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, which he opened in 1781. Some of the most eminent actors of the time performed there under his management. Among them were John Philip Kemble, Macklin, Mrs. Jordan, Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Billington, and Mrs. Siddons. On the insolvency of Ryder and of Crawford, his successor at Crow Street Theatre, Daly became proprietor of that establishment, as well as of Smock Alley and of some Irish provincial theatres.

In November 1786 Daly obtained a patent from the crown for a theatre royal at Dublin, with important rights in relation to theatrical performances throughout Ireland. In 1788 the Theatre Royal, Crow Street, was opened by Daly after an expenditure of £12,000. on its rebuilding and decoration. The house had for a short time a profitable career; but its receipts were soon diminished by the establishment of Astley's Amphitheatre, and by frequent disturbances within the theatre itself.

Daly's theatrical revenue was much diminished by the establishment of a private theatre at Dublin in 1792 by some of the principal nobility and gentry, under the direction of Frederick E. Jones.  On the ground of the decay of the drama in Ireland under the management of Daly a memorial from persons of importance was in 1796 presented to the viceroy, Earl Camden, in favour of authorising the establishment of a new theatre royal in Dublin, under F. E. Jones. After considerable onvestigation and legal negotiations an agreement was effected in 1797 by which Daly, in consideration of annuities for himself and his children, transferred his interest in the Dublin theatres to Jones.

An annual pension of £100. was in 1798 granted by the crown to Daly. He died at Dublin in September 1813.

[Text based on the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 13 by John Thomas Gilbert, ‎all in the public domain]


2.  Macklin
Macklin revolutionised acting in the 18th century by introducing a natural style, being the first actor of his generation to break away from the old declamatory fashion that had been the norm for centuries.  Macklin instructed Daly in the art of acting.

Richard Daly 1758 - 1813

2.   Charles Macklin, 1699 - 1797.  [Image in public domain - details unknown.]

A Theatrical Career Beckons

Having decided to try his fortune as an actor, Daly went to his fellow-countryman Macklin for instruction.

Macklin can scarcely have been a pleasant teacher, for (according to the Memoirs of Holcroft who had some experience of him) 'blockhead,' 'fool,' and 'scoundrel' were familiar expressions in his mouth towards his pupils, and he commonly asked them why they did not think of becoming bricklayers rather than players. However, after a course of training with him, Daly succeeded in getting into the Covent Garden company during the winter season 1778-9.

We may identify Daly as one of the anonymous 'gentlemen' who figure in the Covent Garden bills this season. In the cast of Othello, on March 4th, 1779, the Moor's representative was 'Gentleman, his first appearance.'  On April 8th, The Provoked Husband was played, the Lord Townly (one of Daly's parts later) being 'Gentleman, his second appearance'; and twelve days later came Cymbeline, with Daly (now named) making his third appearance, in the character of lachimo.

Genest, in his Some Account of the English Stage, VI., 95, 96, 97: Lists April 20 as Daly's benefit: 'Cymbeline. Posthumus (for that night only) = Crawford, his 2nd appearance: Jachimo = Daly, his 3rd appearance: Imogen = Mrs. Crawford, a bad house.' It is not explained why Daly should have had a benefit at this early period of his connection with the stage, but it may have been a compensation for a small salary or perhaps none at all.

The Lady Townly in  The Provoked Husband was a clever comic actress, Mrs. Lyster, formerly Miss Barsanti, a musical pupil of Fanny Burney's father. She was at this time a widow, and when Daly proposed that they should carry into real life the relationship which they bore to one another on his first appearance on the stage together, she consented.

Possessed now of the assets of a favourable introduction to the Irish public and a wife of established reputation, Daly determined to make a start for himself, taking advantage of Ryder's situation with regard to the Smock Alley Theatre. Going privately to Dr. Wilson, he made an offer for the lease of the closed house.  Wilson got back the lease from the incautious Ryder in return for letting him off his debt; and so Smock Alley, under the name of the City Theatre, entered once more into rivalry with Crow Street.

[Text based on A short history of the British Stage, Mrs. Jordan: Child of Nature by Philip W. Sergeant and Genest, Some Account of the English Stage, VI., 95, 96, 97 .]



Daly Anecdotes

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