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: 22 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