Robert Bensley - Encyclopedia


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ROBERT BENSLEY, an 18th-century English actor, of whom Charles Lamb in the Essays of Elia speaks with special praise. His early life is obscure, and he is said to have served in America as a lieutenant of marines; but he appeared at Drury Lane in 1765, and at that house and at Covent Garden, and later at the Haymarket, he played important parts up to 1796, when he retired from the stage. He appears then to have been given a small post under the government, a paymastership, which he resigned in 1798. He is stated in various quarters to have died in 1817, but Mr Joseph Knight shows in his article in the Dict. Nat. Biog. that this is due to a confusion with another man named William Bensley, who possibly belonged to the family of printers of whom Thomas Bensley (d. 1833) was the chief representative. On the stage he was simply "Mr Bensley," but though he is named William and even Richard in some accounts, Mr Knight shows that his name was certainly Robert. The actual date of his death is unknown, though it was probably later than 1809, when he is'said to have inherited a fortune. His great character was Malvolio, but Charles Lamb's fervent admiration of his acting seems to have outrun the general opinion.

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