Robert Jephson

Life
1736-1803; b. Ireland; half-pay officer, settled in London; associated with William Gerard Hamilton, Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, Garrick, and Burney; Master of [Lord Lieutenant’s] Horse from 1767, returning to Ireland; MP for Old Leighlin in Irish Parliament [n.d.]; defended Lord Townsend’s administration wittily in The Mercury, reprinted as The Bachelor, or Speculations of Jeoffrey Wagstaffe [1773]; plays Braganza (1775), with prologue by Arthur Murphy and epilogue by Horace Walpole; Conspiracy (1796), acted by Kemble; Count of Narbonne (1781), epilogue by Malone, afterwards played by John Philip Kemble in Dublin; Julia, or the Italian Lover, trag. (1787), with Kemble and Mrs. Siddons at Drury Lane. Also some poems and other works; a farce, The Hotel, or the Servant with Two Masters (Smock Alley, 1784); Two Strings to Your Bow, farce (1791); Roman Portraits, heroic verse poem, with engravings by Bartolozzi and others (1794), includes a diatribe against ‘ruthless fanatic Gauls’ at the killing of Louis XVI; Confessions of Jacques Baptiste Couteau, satire on French Revolution, 2 vols. (1794); poems incl. ‘Roman Portraits’, illustrated by Bartolozzi; d. paralysis, Blackrock; involvement with Charles O’Conor, infra. RR CAB ODNB PI DIW RAF OCIL

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Works
[Heroic] Epistle to Gorges Edmund Howard Esq, with Notes Explanatory, Critical and Historical. By George Faulkner Esq and Alderman (1771; 6th edn. 1762; 9 eds.)], Braganza (1775); The Count of Narbonne, stage-version of The Castle of Otranto by his friend Walpole (Covent Garden 1781); The Hotel, or the Servant with Two Masters, farce (Smock Alley, 1784); Roman Portraits, heroic verse poem, with engravings by Bartolozzi and others (1794), includes a diatribe against ‘ruthless fanatic Gauls’ at the killing of Louis XVI; Confessions of Jacques Baptiste Couteau, satire on French Rev., 2 vols. (1794); The Carmelite performed at the first night of Robert Owenson’s Irish National Theatre at Fishamble St. [1784]

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Commentary
Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (1946), An attempt was made by George Colman and the Irish dram. Robert Jephson to get a bill passed [in 1779] ‘for ... the exclusive right of one theatre only in Dublin’ [282]; also, The Carmelite by Jephson, played at Owenson’s Fishamble St. National Theatre opening night; and also Jephson’s wife sported ‘gold ground silk, ornamented with artificial and silver flowers and with diamonds to the amount of 100,000 pounds’ playing Lady Macbeth in private theatre erected by Luke Gardiner as Master of Revels in the Phoenix Park, see Hibernian Magazine, Jan. 1778.

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), Among the numerous publications of minor writers a typical example is Robert Jephson’s Roman Portraits (1794), a fine quarto volume of effete poems with 20 engravings from antique sources. Cf. Jephson’s lively letter to Edmund Malone in J Prior’s Life of Edmund Malone (London 1860), p.190-91, claiming that ‘the book will at least have the outside of a gentleman.’ [Stanford, 110]

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References
British Library holds Martin S. Peterson, Robert Jephson (Nebraksa UP 1930); Braganza, 5 acts trag. in verse (London: T. Evans 1775), 8o, & eds.; Braganza (Dublin 1775), 12o; also in Inchbald (1811), London Sage (1824), Dicks’ Standard Plays, No.195 (London 18765), 16pp.; Confessions of JB Counteau, citizen of France, written by himself and translated from the original French by Robert Jephson [i.e. written by RJ], ill. 1 engaving (2 vols. 1794), 12o; Conspiracy, 5 act trag. in verse from Metastasio’s Clemenza di Tito (Dublin 1796), 8o; Count of Narbonne, 5 act trag. in verse (London 1781); do., ... Narbonne (Dublin 1782), 12o; 2nd Dublin ed. 1788), also in London Stage (1826), Dibden’s London Theatre (1815), British Drama (1864), Dicks’ Standard Plays, No.277 (?1877), and French translation Count de Narbonne (1781); The Hotel &c. (Dublin: W. Wilson 1784), 48pp.; Julia or the Italian Lover, a 5 act trag. in verse (London: C Dilly 1787), 8o; The Law of Lombardy, 5 act trag. in verse (London 1779; Dublin 1779), also in Inchbald (1811), hLondon Stage (1824), Brit. Drama (1864), and Dicks’ Standard Plays, No.283 (?1877); Roman Portraits, a poem in heroic verse with historical remarks and illustrations (London 1794); Select Essays from the Bachelor. Wagstaffe (1773 [n.loc.]); Songs, Chorusses in the Campaign, or Love in the East Indias, a comic opera (London 1785); The Speech delivered by R[obert] J[ephson] in the debate on the committing head of a bill for the better encouragement of Persons professing the Popish Religion to become Protestants, &c, with a preface by C[harles] O’Conor (Dublin 1774), 8o; Two Strings to your Bow, a farce in [2] acts in prose (London 1791), also in Cawthorn, Minor British Drama (1806); Inchbald (1815); British Drama (1864), Dicks’ Standard Plays, No.144 (1875).

Dictionary of National Biography lists George Townshend, 4th Earl; created earl Viscount Townsend, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1767; resided in Dublin and attempted to break down the government by ‘undertakers’ [i.e. Beresford & Co]; promised restriction of pension list, habeas corpus, and other boons, but met with great opposition, 1768; granted new peerages, places, and pensions; obtained prorogation of parliament, 1769; obtained majority by flagrant corruption and lowered his office; took to dissipated habits, recalled, 1772. Cf. notice on Robert Jephson, also Master of Horse from 1767, ergo, a dependent of Townshend.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); fives birthdate 1713; Heroic [sic] Epistle to George Edmund (1771), Braganza (1775); Count of Narbonne, trag. (1781), other trags., farces and musical pieces; satire on French Rev. called Confessions of Jean Baptiste Couteau.;

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. I; Jephson [here called novelist], Confessions of J.B. Couteau (1794), offer[s] a very slanted view of the Terror [15]; Robert Jephson dramatised The Castle of Otranto by his friend Walpole as The Count of Narbonne (1781).

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2; lists Braganza, Trag.; also Count of Narbonne, based on Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto; also Law of Lombardy, trag. [Burton, Brit. Theatre, 1930, pp. 241, App.]

Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), p.92, William Jephson (c.1615-c.1659), sat in Long Parliament, inherited Irish estates in Mallow, dispersed insurgents there, 1641; deserted Parliament with Inchiquin whom he was sent to dissuade; proposed Cromwell for King, 1656, at 2nd Protectorate Parliament as MP for Cork.

R. R. Madden Papers in the Sir John Gilbert Collection of Pearse St. Public Library holds copies of Ireland’s Mirror (1804-1807) [var. Irish Mirror], in which is included a printed memoir of Jephson, the dramatist (in Irish Mirror, Vol 2), with printed appreciation of Oliver Goldsmith (Vol 2, April 1805), et al. [Gilbert MS 263].

Belfast Public Library holds Braganza; see Arnott.

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Notes
Sundry facts: 1] Burke’s pension transfered to Robert Jephson in 1756, when the differences arose between him and Hamilton; [C. Cruise O’Brien, the Great Melody, 1992, pp.19-20]; 2] Satire on Faulkner, imitating his manner of literary composition, Epistle to Gorges Edmund Howard Esq, with Notes Explanatory, Critical and Historical. By George Faulkner Esq and Alderman (1771; 6th ed. 1762; 9 eds.), actually by Robert Jephson against him, after quarrel with solicitor and friend Howard; 3] Gilbert’s account of Faulkner (in ‘Prince of Dublin Printers’, in History of Dublin) includes anecdote of Jephson; copied in JMC under Gilbert; 4] G[e]orges Edmund Howard satirised by Robert Jephson; 5] Note name of Norreys Jephson Connor 6] NOTE, Robert Jephson’s lively letter to Malone in J Prior’s Life of Edmund Malone (London 1860), pp.190-91, claiming that ‘the book will at least have the outside of a gentleman.’ (W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition, 1984, p.110.) 6] Murphy, in his prologue to Jephson’s Braganza, claims that the latter ‘comes from Shakespeare’s school’ (DL 1775); 7] Lady Morgan on her father’s Irish National Theatre at Fishamble Street, ‘The first performance was to be altogether national, that is Irish, and very Irish it was. The play chosen was The Carmelite by Captain Jephson, with an interlude from Macklin’s farce of The Brave Irishman, and a farce of O’Keeffe’s, The Poor Soldier; 8] Thomas Shadwell left the same ring to William Jephson and others. (Compiled by BS from this website.)

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912) erroneously transposes word ‘heroic’ from Roman Portraits to Epistle.]

Charles O’Conor mentions Jephson to Charles Ryan in a letter of (10 Sept. 1777), requesting that his Reflexions be put in Jephson’s hands; the editors seem to infer that O’Conor met Jephson in consequence of the latter’s pamphlet, The Speech Delivered ... on the Heads of a Bill for the better encouragement of persons profession the Popish Religion to Become protestants (Dublin, n.pub. 1777), remarking that O’Conor ‘obviously ...ust have felt that he could count on Jephson to pass the pamphlets to MPs friendly to the Catholic cause’, and making no mention of the Preface by O’conor cited in the BML catalogue. (Letters, ed. R. E. & C. Ward and Ward, 1988, p.349).

Horace Walpole (letter of Feb. 1775) addresses Robert Jephson as ‘a genuine poet’ and Braganza has an epilogue by Walpole, Drury Lane Feb. 1775. Later Jephson wrote a dram. version of Castle of Otranto, as Count of Narbonne (Covent Garden 1781).

Robert Owenson’s Irish National Theatre played The Carmelite by Jephson at the first night in Fishamble St.

Kith & Kin: Robert Ware’s history recounts that a certain Warren & Jephson were found guilty of treasonable entrance to Dublin Castle thorugh Sheep St. Gate; see James L. J. Hughes, ‘Dublin Castle in the Seventeenth Century: A Topographical Reconstruction’, in Dublin Historical Record [Journal of Old Dublin Society]; Vol. II, No.3 (1940), p.91.

Kith & Kin: A certain Mr. Jephson, ‘who lived with Lord Primate Boyle’s family’ [viz, Michael Boyle, archb. of Armagh, 1682-1702], was the object of persecution by sir Thomas Hackett for failing to make gifts to a friar, as recounted in Archbishop William King’s State of the Protestants of Ireland under .. James II. (See The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, p.869.).,

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