Robert William Elliston, an English actor, born in London, April 7, 1774, died there, July 7, 1831. He was educated at St. Paul's school, but at the age of 17 ran away and joined a theatrical company at Bath, where he made his first appearance on the stage April 21, 1791. Five years later he made his debut in London, at the Haymarket theatre, and in 1803 became principal actor and acting manager of that house. In the succeeding year he was engaged at Drury Lane, but after the burning of the theatre, having quarrelled with Thomas Sheridan, he left the company, and opened the Surrey theatre. On the rebuilding of Drury Lane he was again engaged as a leading actor, and recited the address written by Lord Byron for the opening night. In 1819 he became the lessee of Drury Lane, but in 1826 retired a bankrupt. Subsequently he was again manager of the Surrey theatre, and continued occasionally to perform his principal characters until the close of his life. He was called the first comedian of his time. His chief merit perhaps was the facility with which he adapted himself to every variety of characters, from the humorous to the tragic.
He possessed inordinate self-esteem, and many anecdotes are told of his eccentricities.