Benjamin Victor - Poet-laureate of Ireland

Benjamin Victor

Born ca. 1704
Died Dec 03, 1778 in Charles Street, Covent Garden, London

Alias: 

Old Victor

Biography: 

Poet and friend of Thomas Sheridan. Deputy manager of Dublin Theatre (1746-1759). Drury Lane treasurer (1760-1778). Named poet-laureate of Ireland in 1755.

In 1755 he published The Widow of the Wood,1 and in 1761 came his magnum opus The History of the Theatres in London and Dublin. In 1776 he published the three volume Original Letters, Dramatic Pieces, and Poems, which contained both anecdotes, plays, etc. 

Oman (1958) gives his former trades as barber and linen trader.2

  • 1. A description of a first ed. of The Widow in the Wood on a used books search engine went as follow: "A scandalous book which brought such dishonor upon the name of the Staffordshire Wolseleys, that one descendant of orthey's fourth husband bought up and burned as many copies as he could. The "widow in the wood" was Ann Northey, whose dalliances and serial marriages are chronicled by the theatre manager, literary dabbler, and poet-laureate of Ireland Benjamin Victor",
  • 2. In Oman, Carola. (1958) David Garrick., p. 79, 89.

Life with Boswell: 

Boswell met Victor at Thomas Sheridan's in London on November 30, 1762, and described him as "an honest, indolent, conversable man [who] has a great many anecdotes". They met again at Sheridan's on March 25, 1763, where they discussed systems of government. According to Boswell "Sheridan stood up for monarchy, and Victor mumbled some stuff in favour of a republic."  Boswell, who was by far the most junior of the company, afterwards noted in his journal that "Surely a regular limited royal government is the best and the most conducive to the happiness of mankind."1

  • 1. Journal entry: March 25, 1763

Literature: 

Among Victor's more popular writings:

  • The Widow of the Wood (1755)
  • The History of the Theatres in London and Dublin (volumes 1 & 2 published in 1761, and a 3rd volume in 1771)
  • Original Letters, Dramatic Pieces, and Poems (1776)

There has been written no full biography of Benjamin Victor, and so the best sources for the details about his life are biographies and volumes about his contemporaries, especially Thomas Sheridan and David Garrick, and about the literary and theatrical life of London and Dublin in the mid-18th century.