John O'Keefe

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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O'Keefe, John, a popular dramatic writer, was born in Dublin, 24th June 1747. In youth he studied art at the schools of the Dublin Society; but developing a decided taste for the stage, and writing a comedy displaying considerable taste, he obtained an engagement with Mossop in Dublin, and acted for twelve years with considerable success. When but twenty-three years of age an accident brought on weakness of the eyes, which after some years resulted in almost total blindness, and he removed to London, where he devoted himself entirely to composition. During the next twenty years he wrote upwards of fifty comedies and farces, a collection of which was published in four volumes in 1798. Reduced to a state of great embarrassment in 1800, he was accorded a benefit at Covent Garden, and after the performance was led on to the stage, and delivered a touching address. He published his Recollections in 1826, and died at Southampton, 4th February 1833, aged 85.

Some among his numerous pieces still keep their hold on the stage. A writer in Representative Actors says: "His inventive powers in the construction of odd phrases and quaint burdens for songs, his extraordinary combinations of strange fancies, and the contrivance of a sort of significant gibberish, without meaning in itself, but fashioned so as to convey the most accurate and vivid ideas of what he himself meant to express, are matters beyond the power of analysis; yet his fancies are obsolete, and, with the dramas of the King of Leinster,.. lost to the stage and the public."

Sources

3. Actors, Representative: W. Clark Russell. London,1875.

6. Annual Biography. London, 1817-'27.

42. Biographical Dictionary: Rev. Hugh J. Rose. 12 vols. London, 1850.

116. Dublin University Magazine (45). Dublin, 1833-'77.

125b. Encyclopaedia of Chronology: Woodward and Gates. London, 1871.

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