Owen MacSwiney

Life
1675-1754; went to London as actor; wrote The Quacks, or Love the Physician (1705); became asst. mgr. of Drury Lane under Rich, 1706; leased Queen’s Th., Haymarket, 1707, and produced Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem [1707] with Anne Oldfield as Mrs Sullen, entering conflict with Lord Chamberlain inspired by animosity of Rich; reduced to playing operas; such as his own Camilla (1707); formed partnership with Colley Cibber and Thomas Doggett and hired Nicoliani to sing, making a ‘second son’s fortune’; mounted some plays incl. his own tragedy Pyrrhus and Demetrius (1709), but again reduced to opera Cibber’s leaving to take up the management of Drury Lane, 1709, bankrupt; travelled to Venice and then France; returned in 1735; reconciled with Cibber; received benefit performance; replaced Charles Coffey as friend of Peg Woffington and regularily acted as her escort; suffered failing health in 1755, and moved to Bath, where he died; left his estate to Peg Woffington; there is a portrait by Owen M’Swiney, by I. B. Van Loo, and another by by Peter Van Bleek (1737). ODNB PI DIW OCTH OCIL.

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Commentary
Jane Dunbar, Peg Woffington and Her World (1968), M’Swiny Irish, n. Wexford, asst. mgr. under Christopher Rich at DL; partnership with Wilks, [Colley] Cibber, and Doggett; in 1712 he went abroad after unwise speculation, making himself at home in several continental capitals; his friends found him unchanged [‘one the wrong side of three score, he has yet the open spirit of a hale young Fellow of five and twenty [...]. Time has not yet been able to make a visible Change in any Part of him, but the Colour of his hair, from a fierce coal black to that of a milder milk-white’]; renewed friendship with Cibber; formed friendship with Peg Woffington, taking the place of Charles Coffey; remained devoted, but forgotten in her involvement with Garrick [64-66]; involved in brawl with Clive’s brother Raftor [159]; sophisticated, fine grooming, perfect escort [193]; failing health, and waters at Bath, in 1755 [21]; legacy to Peg, 1756 [219].

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References
Dictionary of National Biography, lists ‘Swiney see Swinny’, Owen Mac; gives bio-data: d.1754, playwright, mgr. Queen’s Th., Haymarket, London, 1706, 1710, 1711; bankrupt after some successes; refuged abroad; returned 1735.

Oxford Companion to the Theatre (ed. Hartnoll), gives details: Irish actor and mgr at Drury Lane, right-hand man to Christopher Rich, c. 1700; joined Colley [Cibber], 1705, leasing Vanbrugh’s Haymarket, where he produced Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem [1707] with Anne Oldfield as Mrs Sullen; incurred conflict with licencing laws through it; forbidden to produced plays, he staved off ruin by putting on popular opera; went to Venice in 1710 after unsuccessful partnership with Wilks, Doggett, and Cibber; returned 1730, calling himself MacSwiney; friend and patron of Peg Woffington, to whom he imparted the tradition of Anne Oldfield; left Peg all his property. Note that these details and dates conflict versions given in the ODNB and Jane Dunbar (Peg Woffington, 1968), and also with the evidence from the dating of the plays.

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Notes
Owen M’Swiney, by IB Van Loo [seated with book; bearded and flowing hair], engraved by John Faber 1735 [ODNB], held in Harvard coll., ill. in Jane Dunbar, Peg Woffington and Her World (1968); also by Peter Van Bleek (1737), engraved from life [ODNB].

Swiney actually led Peg Woffington to London, and accompanied her later to Paris, acting as intermediary in some of her negotiations with David Garrick. See Jane Dunbar, Peg Woffington.

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