Thomas Abthorpe Cooper

Father of the American Stage, 1775–1849

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About the Book

This is the biography of Thomas Abthorpe Cooper, the first star of the American stage. Cooper was the chief transitional figure between the British and American stage and contributed greatly to the development of American theatre. For the 30 years after 1797, Cooper performed in the major cities and toured to every state in the Union.
This work covers his entire life and career from his birth outside London in 1775, to his famed performance to celebrate the opening of the City of Washington in 1800, to his death in Bristol, Pennsylvania, in 1849. Much research is drawn from Mr. Cooper’s letters to his mentor, English radical philosopher William Godwin. Throughout, there are descriptions of his principal portrayals at different stages drawn from contemporary accounts and theatrical reviews. There are also 22 illustrations, from paintings and engravings to playbills and photographs of the sites associated with the actor.

About the Author(s)

Professor of theatre and English F. Arant Maginnes taught at Birmingham-Southern College, the University of Alabama, and George Washington University; and lives near Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic Details

F. Arant Maginnes
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1935-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0074-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

List of Illustrations      xiii

Preface      1

Introduction      5

Part I

The Rise to Fame, 1775–1803


1. “This Wild Immeasurably Spread”—1800      9

2. British-Born—1775–88      21

3. “Aut Caesar aut Nihil”—1788–92      25

4. “The Die Is Cast”—1792–93      34

5. “My Fortune Smiles”      42

An Irish Benefit—1793      42

“Wretched Set of Mummers—1794      48

6. “A Young Gentleman”      55

Mr. Holcroft—1795      55

First Appearance—1795–96      59

7. The Wheel of Fortune—1796–98      71

8. The New House      84

The Park Debu—1798      84

André—1799      87

New Successes—1799      89

9. “Fame Is My Deity”      92

New York City—1799–1800      92

Philadelphia—1800–01      98

10. Rising Returns—1801–03      102

Part II

The American Star, 1803–1849


11. An American Indeed      111

Drury Lane—1803      111

The Provinces—1803–04      116

12. The United States’ Star      122

New York and Philadelphia—1804-05      122

Boston—1805–06      125

The South—1806–07      131

13. Yankee Ingenuity      137

Itinerant Star—1807–10      137

“This Glorious Son of York”—1810      145

“A Hearty Welcome”—1811–12      150

14. The American Roscius—1812–19      156

15. A Rival      165

A New Vogue—1819–20      165

“A Triumph to Cooper”—1820–21      171

16. A New Venue—1820–25      175

17. Turning Tide      181

An American Tragedian—1825–28      181

Success and Sorrow—1828–33      189

18. “The Father of the American Stage”—1833–36      196

Epilogue 1835–49      203

Chapter Notes      207

Bibliography      221

Index      229

Book Reviews & Awards

“fascinating”—The Weathercock; “Maginnes has done…a great service in publishing these letters”—Enlightenment and Dissent.