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Suett, Richard

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Born about 1758 in Chelsea, Richard Suett was the son of John Suett, a butcher. Young Suett seems to have been given training in church choirs and performance experience at pleasure gardens and at the Haymarket Theatre, but the earliest certain note of him as a professional was on 22 June 1771, as Master Suett, at the Grotto Gardens in a musical piece called "The Gamester". Then he joined Tate Wilkinson’s troupe at York as a singer, and in 1773-74 his name appeared on the bills as Mr Suett. Word reached London of Suett’s talent as singer and actor, and Drury Lane hired him to appear on 7 October 1780 as Ralph in "The Maid of the Mill" and then Squire Richard in "The Provok’d Husband", Mungo in "The Padlock", Moll Flagon in "The Lord of the Manor" and other parts. Drury Lane became Suett’s home base for the rest of his career, and he amassed dozens of roles there, including Filch in "The Beggar’s Opera", Dick in "The Lying Valet", Waitwell in "The Way of the World", Lord Plausible in "The Plain Dealer", Feste in "Twelfth Night", Touchstone in "As You Like It", Hardcastle in "She Stoops to Conquer" and many more. He was also a popular comedian at the Haymarket in the summers. By his last season with the Drury Lane troupe, 1804-5, he was earning £12 weekly. Dicky Suett, as he was called in his day, was a sociable, heavy-drinking man with a ‘tall, thin, ungainly figure’ that was ideal for the kind of low comedy he liked to play, but he seems to have lacked the skill – or understanding – to give his comic creations much depth, as William Parsons of the previous generation had been able to do on occasion. But audiences loved Dicky for his mugging (another Parson trait), his ad-libbing and his interpolated ‘O La!’ that could trap a clap. Charles Lamb told the story that on his deathbed (on 6 July 1805) Dicky’s last words, to his actor-friend Robert Palmer, who was at his bedside, were just that: ‘O La! O La! Bobby!’ (BDA) [EAL]
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