Richard Cumberland

Richard Cumberland (1732-1811) was a playwright and novelist. His father was master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was educated at Bury St. Edmunds, Westminster School, and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his BS in 1751 and an MA in 1754. He performed various offices for important people for a number of years, each allowing him considerable time to read and write. He wrote his first play in 1759, but he was known for his prose writings as well, including his first novel, Arundel (1789), followed by Henry (1795), and John de Lancaster (1809). His prose writings also include Anecdotes of Eminent Painters in Spain during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. He worked many years for the Board of Trade, and retired to Tunbridge Wells in the early 1780s and continued to write, including the periodical paper The Observer, which appeared in five volumes between 1786 and 1790 (152 essays), and later his Memoirs (1806 and 1807). He also wrote a considerable amount of poetry, much of it religious in nature but not particularly good, such as Calvary, or, The Death of Christ (1792) and Retrospection(1811). He is best known today for his plays, which he composed between 1759 and mid-1790s. His play, The West Indian (1771) was among his earliest successes, which was joined by Timon of Athens (1771), The Battle of Hastings (1778), The Jew (1794), and The Wheel of Fortune (1795), bringing him enough wealth to live comfortably in retirement at Tunbridge Wells. Not long before his death he edited one more periodical, the London Review (1809). He died in May 1811 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.