![[Header#^header-embed]] > [!SUMMARY] > Arthur Murphy (1727-1805) was a barrister, journalist, actor, biographer, translator and playwright of Irish origin, raised and lived in London. Arthur Murphy was one of the most popular comic dramatists of the second half of the eighteenth century, from which he made his fortune. He occasionally used the pseudonym, _Charles Ranger_. > > Murphy was a favourite of society, a guest at noble houses, a man much respected and courted. As [[Henry Thrale|Henry Thrale's]] oldest and dearest friend, it was he who introduced [[Dr. Samuel Johnson|Samuel Johnson]] to the Thrales in January 1765 and was well-liked by [[Hester Thrale née Salusbury|Hester Thrale]]. > > ![[arthur-murphy-by-nathaniel_dance-1805.jpg]] > <div class="caption">Arthur Murphy by Nathaniel Dance 1805. Commissioned by Hester Thrale's daughters.</div> Murphy was also friends with: - actor [Samuel Foote](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Foote), - [Lord Loughborough](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Wedderburn%2C_1st_Earl_of_Rosslyn) and - [David Garrick](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Garrick) with whom he had a long-standing - but professionally argumentative - artistic partnership. ## Birth, childhood and education Murphy was born at Clooniquin, [County Roscommon](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_Roscommon), Ireland on 27 December 1727, the son of Richard Murphy and Jane French. Before he was two years old his father died at sea, and he then lived at George’s Quay, Dublin. His mother became dependent on her brother, who moved the family to London in 1735. In 1736, aged 9, Arthur was sent to [Boulogne](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulogne-sur-Mer), in France, to stay with his maternal aunt, Mrs Arthur Plunkett. When her health failed in 1738, he remained in France and was sent by his mother to the [Jesuit College for English Catholics at St. Omer](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_of_St._Omer), under the name of Arthur French since English law prohibited the education of English children at foreign Catholic schools. There he studied for six years, including Greek and Latin classics, the latter of which he later used in his plays and translations of [Sallust](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallust) and [Tacitus](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus), among others. When he returned to London, his uncle Jeffrey French intended to employ him in trade, but upon discovering that he knew no arithmetic in spite of his education he sent him to Webster's Academy to learn mathematics, accounting, and bookkeeping. ## Domestic life About this time he also seems to have become engaged to marry a lady whose name remains undiscovered; this lady died early in 1754, and although his name was later linked on long-term bases with several prominent actresses, Murphy never married. He lived with his mistress, Miss Ann Elliot, an uneducated girl of natural abilities whom he brought on the stage; he wrote her biography (1769); and transferred her money to relatives at her death. ## Career In 1747 Murphy was sent to Cork, Ireland, to serve as an apprentice to the merchant Edmund Harrold. At first, he was unhappy with both the people and the country, but he was introduced into society and eventually became reconciled to both. In spite of his having received the majority of his formal education in France, it was during his time in Cork that he developed a mastery of the French language. In April 1749 he returned to London, having refused to sail to Jamaica on his uncle Jeffrey French's orders, and as a result, was disowned and disinherited by his uncle. From then until the end of 1751, he worked as a bookkeeper in a London banking house, Ironside & Belchier[^1], hoping to reconcile his uncle with him through his diligence, but the hoped-for reconciliation did not come, and he left the bank, apparently intending to make his living as a writer. ### Acting Aged 27, Murphy began his connection with the stage, being engaged to act at [Covent Garden](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covent_Garden_Theatre) for the 1754-1755 season. His first role was [Othello](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Othello) to [Lacy Ryan’s](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacy_Ryan) [Iago](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iago) and [George Ann Bellamy’s](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Anne_Bellamy) [Desdemona](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desdemona_%28Othello%29) on 18 October 1784. Apparently successful, he performed eight other roles there during that season. During the 1755-1756 season Murphy acted with the company at [Drury Lane](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_Royal%2C_Drury_Lane), his second and final year upon the stage. Throughout his life, he appears to have regretted having ever been an actor. ### Literary By 1752 Murphy was writing a regular essay for _The Craftsman_ called _The Gray's Inn Journal,_ which after nearly a year he brought out for a second year as a separate publication in opposition to the Spectator, contributing as ‘Charles Ranger’.[^3] Early in 1754, he submitted his first dramatic work, a two-act farce entitled _The Young Apprentice_, to David Garrick for production at Drury Lane. This play initiated the first of many disagreements between Murphy and Garrick concerning both the content and the scheduling for the performance of Murphy's plays, Murphy usually wanted a performance date earlier than suited Garrick and Garrick procrastinated on the date by requesting changes in the next of the play. As a result, Murphy withdrew his play from Garrick's consideration, an action he would take several times during his career as a playwright, and the play was not performed until 2 January 1756 under the title _The Apprentice_. During this period Murphy also began a series of articles for The Chronicle called _The Theatre,_ in which he offered criticism of contemporary theatre and acting; these essays continued intermittently for a period of two years, and many modern critics agree with John P. Emery's estimations[^4] that… > These essays constitute the best journalistic dramatic criticism of the eighteenth century. His plays were mostly farces; the most well-known being _Grecian Daughter_ which was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 February 1772, and his most critically acclaimed being _Know your own mind,_ which was written in 1760 and first performed at Covent Garden on 22 February 1777. Modern critics generally agree that in Know Your Own Mind he wrote a play that it equals or betters any other written by his contemporaries. His plays (year first performed) included: - _The Apprentice,_ 1756. - _The Englishman from Paris,_ 1756. - _The Upholsterer: or What News,_ 1758. - _The Orphan of China,_ 1759. - _The Desert Island_: 1760. - _The Way to Keep Him,_ 1760. - _All in the Wrong,_ 1761. - _The Old Maid,_ 1761. - _The Citizen,_ 1761. - _No One's Enemy But His Own,_ 1764. - _What We Must All Come To,_ 1764; also known as _Marriage à-la-Mode,_ _Conjugal Douceurs,_ or _Three Weeks after Marriage_. - _The Choice,_ 23 March 1765. - _The School for Guardians,_ 1767; abridged by Thomas Hull as the comic opera _Love Finds the Way,_ 1777. - _Zenobia,_ London, 1768. - _The Grecian Daughter,_ 1772. - _Alzuma,_ London, 1773. - _News From Parnassus: a Prelude,_ 1776. - K_now Your Own Mind,_ 1777. - _The Rival Sisters,_ 1793. Early in 1762, he completed _Henry Fielding's Works,_ for which he wrote an essay on the life of the author. This was almost universally praised by contemporaries and was reprinted for nearly a century. Murphy is also renowned for two other later biographies: - 1792 _Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson_ and - 1801 _Life of David Garrick_. Late in life, he translated the works of _Tacitus,_ an edition that has been reprinted through the twentieth century. It is notable for its close mimicry of Tacitus' Latin style, which is usually lost in English translations. ### Political journalism Murphy took an action that was to have a substantial negative effect on both the public and the critical reception of his subsequent plays: he began to write a political paper called _The Auditor,_ which supported the unpopular administration of Prime Minister [John Stuart, third Earl of Bute](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart,_3rd_Earl_of_Bute). Murphy issued a paper called _The Test_[^2], which supported [Henry Fox](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Fox) against the government of [William Pitt](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Pitt%2C_1st_Earl_of_Chatham). Fox seems to have criticised each issue prior to publication, and when Fox received his sought-after office of [Paymaster of the Forces](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paymaster_of_the_Forces) in 1757, publication of the paper was suspended without its ever having become widely known that Murphy was its author. During the period of its publication _The Test_ and its opposing paper _The Con-Test_ were the centre of much political discussion. ### Law Murphy's service for Henry Fox rewarded him with acceptance into [Lincoln's Inn](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln%27s_Inn) in 1757 through Fox's influence, after he had been refused entrance by both the [Middle Temple](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Temple) and [Gray's Inn](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray%27s_Inn) presumably on the grounds that he was an actor. From this time on his legal and dramatic careers competed for his time. He was [called to the bar](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_to_the_bar) on 21 June 1762, although he did not practice law for another two years. In 1765, Murphy applied himself to the practice of the law, pleading his first case in [Trinity Term](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Term). He later acted as principal pleading barrister with Dalrymple. In 1774, most famously, he successfully represented the _Donaldson v. Becket_ appeal to the House of Lords 1774 against the [perpetual possession of copyright](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_copyright) held by book dealers on famous works such as [Paradise Lost](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Lost) for "a Bottle and a fowl". The subsequent principle of non-perpetuity became known as "Murphy's Law" before the same [adage](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adage) came to the contemporary meaning of personal misfortune. In the same case, he is thought to have coined the legal term _wilful misconstruction_. Murphy retired from bar, through deafness in 1788, was granted pension under [George III](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_III_of_the_United_Kingdom) and was made [Commissioner of Bankruptcy](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commissioner_of_Bankruptcy_(England_and_Wales)) in 1803. ## Portraits The known portraits of Arthur Murphy, include a portrait by: 1. [Nathaniel Dance](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Dance), and [this portrait](http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?LinkID=mp03226&rNo=0&role=sit) is in the National Portrait Gallery; and 2. Sir Joshua Reynolds 1770s oil painting, which is one of a set of paintings known as the [[The library and Streatham Worthies|Streatham Worthies]] - commissioned by [[Henry Thrale|Henry]] and [[Hester Thrale née Salusbury|Hester Thrale]] for their [[The library and Streatham Worthies|library]] at [[Streatham Park]] and was bought by Sidney Green of London for £305,000 in 2005. The National Portrait Gallery also has a further [two drawings](http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person.php?LinkID=mp03226) of Murphy. ## Death He died at Knightsbridge, London on 18 June 1805, and was buried at Hammersmith, London. His executor, Dr. Jesse Foote, also wrote his biography in 1811. ## See also - [Electronic Irish Records dataset](http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/m/Murphy,Arthur/life.htm) - [Arthur Murphy on Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Murphy) ![[henry-thrale-1724-1781🔎#^henry-thrale-infoblock]] #history/person/MURPHY/arthur-born-1727 ![[Footer#^footer-embed]] [^1]: Goldsmiths, Lombard Street 1739-1756. Source: Handbook of London Bankers by Frederick George Hilton Price 1876. [^2]: _The Test,_ nos. 1-35 (London: S. Hooper, 6 November 1756-9 July 1757). [^3]: First issue 21 Oct 1752. [^4]: _Arthur Murphy: An Eminent English Dramatist of the Eighteenth Century,_ John P. Emery, 1946.