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Leigh, Anthony

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The player Charles II called ‘his actor,’ Anthony Leigh (sometimes Lee), was from a good Lancashire family, but his birth date is not known. He was first mentioned in the Lord Chamberlain’s accounts on 27 December 1671, when he and several other actors were arrested for performing in and about London without a license. Though he joined the Duke’s players sometime during the 1671-72 season at their new theatre in Dorset Garden, Leigh was not mentioned in the bills until 10 January 1676, when he acted Rash in “The Country Wit”. He was then named regularly in Duke’s Company productions through 1682, when the patent troupes united. Among his roles were a few still remembered today: Old Bellair in “The Man of Mode”, Aelius in “Timon of Athens”, the title role in “Sir Patient Fancy”, Fryar Dominic in Dryden’s “The Spanish Fryar” (G0417) and Antonio in “Venice Preserv’d”. His specialty was fops, and he seems from comments of the time to have been one of the best in the business. He was also a popular speaker of prologues and epilogues. Tony Leigh during the 1680s at Drury Lane Theatre or, occasionally, the larger Dorset Garden, was seen in such roles as Oldfox in “The Plain Dealer”, Harlequin in Mountfort’s “Doctor Faustus”, Scaramouch in “The Emperor of the Moon” and Falstaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – the characters’ names indicate his comic preferences. Colley Cibber in 1740 remembered Leigh’s ‘mercurial’ talent and how skillful the actor was in controlling it. He died on 21 December 1692. The Index of Sitters in “Pictures in the Garrick Club” gives flourishing dates for Leigh that suggest that he may have lived beyond 1692; he did not. A later portrait of John Dunstall as Dominic engraved by Walker, after Dodd, is strikingly similar to Kneller’s portrait of Leigh (G0417). (BDA) [EAL]
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