Edward Knight as 'Hodge'

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Description:Actor and comedian Edward Knight (1774-1826) was born in Birmingham in 1774. He trained as an artist and worked as a sign-painter, but soon took to the stage. His first appearance was at Newcastle-under-Lyme but he suffered so badly from stage fright that he ran off the stage and left the town!

He recovered from this early setback and in 1799 he was engaged by Mr Nunns, manager of the Stafford theatre. He stayed with the Stafford company for some years and around 1801 married Sarah Clews, the daughter of a local wine merchant. Their son, the artist John Prescott Knight, was born in 1803, around the time Edward was recruited by the York company.

Sarah stayed in Stafford with her sons but died in 1806, aged only 24. Edward took his three boys to York and the family’s links with Stafford were cut. He married a second time in 1807 to Susan Smith, leading lady in the York company.

In 1809 Edward moved to London. He became hugely popular as an actor of low comedy at the Drury Lane Theatre. He was known as ‘Little Knight’ as he was only 5’2” tall. Off-stage he was a shy, retiring man, a famed collector of wigs, with a ‘rather shrill voice, but not unmusical’.

A lithograph by R. Cooper, after a painting by George Clint of Edward Knight as Hodge in Bickerstaff’s ‘Love in Village’, published by H. Berthoud, Junior, and printed by McQueen & Co., 8 April 1822. Courtesy of the Trustees of the William Salt Library.

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Source: Trustees of the William Salt Library

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