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Incledon, Benjamin Charles

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Christened Benjamin Incledon but later naming himself Charles, our subject was baptized on 5 February 1763, the son of the surgeon and apothecary Bartholomew Incledon of St Keverne, Cornwall. At eight he was singing in the Exeter Cathedral choir and receiving musical training; then he served in the Navy from 1779 to 1783 and was called ‘Singer to the British Fleet.’ After some appearances as a singer at Southampton and tuition under Rauzzini at Bath, he made his London debut at Vauxhall Gardens on 29 May 1786. Incledon established himself as a singer, especially of ballads and most particularly of such songs as ‘Rule Brittannia,’ ‘The Storm’ (G0315, 947 is now known to be an engraving and is catalogued as P0308) and ‘Black-Eyed Susan.’ He sang solos regularly at pleasure gardens like Vauxhall in the summers, but his main career was in the winters in musicals, chiefly at Covent Garden Theatre, where he made his debut on 17 September 1790 as Dermot in “The Poor Soldier”. That season he also played the title role in “Cymon”, Sandy in “The Highland Reel”, Carlos in “The Duenna”, Wilfred in “The Woodman”, Young Meadows in “Love in a Village” and other characters in light works. In addition, he participated in the oratorios at Covent Garden in the spring of 1791. Then as now, good singers were forgiven and well paid despite not displaying much ability as actors, and Incledon at Covent Garden rose to £12 weekly by 1793-94, the third highest in the troupe. In 1795 Francis Waldron described Incledon’s voice: ‘Clear, mellow, and extensive in its tones, it is capable of executing almost any piece of vocal music. His forte is evidently in the plain English ballads; and the sea songs, which have always been peculiarly grateful to a British ear, were never better sung than by this gentleman. The less we say of his acting powers the less cause he will have to blame our freedom of observation.’ Incledon also appeared at provincial theatres, especially at Southampton (where he got his start), Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, York, Dublin, Bristol, Bath and many others, one of his favourite roles with audiences being Macheath in “The Beggar’s Opera” (G0316). Further, he developed showcase entertainments, such as in 1802, when he concocted a potpourri of songs and recitations aptly called “Variety”. In 1817 and 1818 he tried America, was called ‘The Wandering Melodist,’ and brought back £5000. He found time in his peregrinations to have three wives and at least eight children. He continued his career even after his vocal powers waned. Incledon retired first on 19 April 1822 at the English Opera House and again at Southampton in October 1824. He died on 11 February 1826 at Worcester. (BDA) [EAL]
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