The Young Roscius, Aged 13.Willm. Henry West Betty, Born at Shrewsbury. September 15, 1791.
Publish'd by J. Bisset. Museum, Birmingham, Feby. 12th 1803. Sold in London by Mr. Ackerman, Strand _ Messrs. Colnaghi & Co. Cockspur St. & Mr. Thompson, Gt. Newport St. Printseller to his Majesty, &c.&c.
Stipple and engraving, scarce, sheet 225 x 175mm. 8¾ x 7". Trimmed within plate.
William Henry West Betty (1791-1874) was a child actor billed as the 'Young Roscius' for his performances in adult roles like Hamlet and Romeo, 1804-1806, at Covent Garden. His bust is enclosed in a floral circular frame decorated with theatrical and musical motifs, on an inscribed pediment. Eight lines of text below, three lines of poetry above. Betty's first appearance on the stage at was at Belfast before he was twelve years old, as Osman in Aaron Hill's Zara, an English version of Voltaire's Zaire. His success was immediate, and he shortly afterwards appeared in Dublin, where it is said that in three hours of study he committed the part of Hamlet to memory. His precocious talents aroused great enthusiasm in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and he was favourably compared with some of the greatest tragedians. In 1801, he first appeared at Covent Garden, when the troops had to be called out to preserve order, so great was the crush to obtain admittance. At Drury Lane, the house was similarly packed. He was a great success socially; George III himself presenting him to the queen, and Pitt upon one occasion adjourning the House of Commons so that members might be in time for his performance. But this enthusiasm gradually subsided, and in 1808, he made his final appearance as a boy actor, and entered Christ's College, Cambridge. He re-appeared four years later, but the public would have none of him, and he retired to the enjoyment of the large fortune that he had amassed as a prodigy. His son Henry Thomas Betty (1819-1897) was also an actor. Engraved by Birmingham printmaker Francis Eginton (1737 - 1805), published for the Birmingham Museum.
Harvard Theatre Collection: pg.103, 10.
[Ref: 13321] £140.00