George III’s favourite actor, John Quick, was born in Whitechapel, London, in 1748, the son of a brewer. He began his stage apprenticeship in Kent and Surrey by the age of 12 and played, according to early memoirs, Altamont in "The Fair Penitent" at Croydon when he was 14. In the summer of 1766 Samuel Foote hired Quick for the Haymarket, where he appeared first on 18 June as Folly in "The Minor" and Jasper in "Miss in Her Teens". There and at the King’s Theatre that summer he took such roles as Trippet in "The Lying Valet", Sir Charles in "The Beaux’ Stratagem", Burgundy in "King Lear" and Silvius in "As You Like It". Quick was probably in the provinces in 1766-67 and then at the Haymarket in the summer of 1767; on 14 September 1767 he made his Covent Garden debut as James in "The Mock Doctor". He acted there during the winter seasons for more than three decades, building a huge repertoire of chiefly comic roles suitable for the ‘little fellow’ image nature gave him. Among his characters were Peter in "Romeo and Juliet", Dr Caius and Slender in "The Merry Wives of Windsor", Mungo in "The Padlock", Tony Lumpkin – an excellent part for his whimsy and vitality – in the premiere of "She Stoops to Conquer", Isaac Mendoza in "The Duenna" (G0700, G0702, G0703) Foresight in "Love for Love" and Touchstone in "As You Like It". Remarkably, he tried Richard III and, said the "Public Advertiser" on 8 April 1790, ‘he was earnest in the attempt, and succeeded tolerably,’ but the audience, expecting buffoonery, were not satisfied. They wanted their amiable Quick.
For they loved him, especially in older characters, and he was popular for years, onstage and off, in London and provincial towns. Seldom was he criticized for overdoing facial expressions, though like almost all low comedians his grimaces were part of his stock in trade, and caricaturists delighted in making his Richard III look ridiculous. But an indication of his standing at Covent Garden was his salary: £14 weekly by 1793-94, the second highest in the troupe. Since he spent most of life being well-behaved – a churchgoer, healthy, not a heavy drinker, comfortably married with a family, pleasing almost everybody from the King on down – he received relatively little bad publicity. "The Children of Thespis" (1792) called him ‘smart tiny QUICK, giving grace to a joke.’ He reduced his workload around the turn of the century, cutting back on his touring to the provinces and ending his full-time engagement at Covent Garden. On 24 May 1813 he came out of retirement to make what may have been his last appearance: Don Felix in "The Wonder" at the Haymarket, for the benefit of Mrs Mattocks. The ‘prince of low comedians,’ as Thomas Bellamy called John Quick, died at Islington on 4 April 1831 at 84. (BDA) [EAL]