James Sheridan Knowles, a British dramatist, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1784, died at Torquay, England, Nov. 30, 1862. He was the son of James Knowles, a teacher of elocution, and author of a " Pronouncing English Dictionary." In 1792 the family removed to London, and four years later young Knowles produced his first play, a juvenile performance in which he and a number of young amateurs took part. At the age of 22 he made his debut as an actor in the Crow street theatre, Dublin. For about ten years he led an unsettled life, sometimes as an actor, sometimes as a teacher of elocution, and with but moderate success in either occupation. He wrote nothing for the stage worthy of mention till 1815, when his "Caius Gracchus" was produced in Belfast with great success. His next play, "Virginius," in which Macready sustained the leading part at Drury Lane, first made him generally known to the dramatic public; and thenceforth for many years he was one of the leading playwrights in England. His "Beggar of Bethnal Green," "Hunchback," and "Wife" followed; and in the two latter, which are still popular on the stage, the author appeared in leading characters.
After engagements in various parts of the United Kingdom he made a successful tour in the United States. On his return to England he produced " The Love Chase," " Woman's Wit," "The Maid of Mariendorpt," "Love," " Old Maids," "John of Procida," "The Rose of Aragon," and " The Secretary," all of which enjoyed a fair degree of success, while some are still standard acting plays. His health began to fail after this, and in 1849 a pension of £200 was procured for him, it being represented that the profits of his dramatic writings had never equalled this sum per annum. In 1845 he abandoned the stage, and subsequently became known as an eloquent preacher of the Baptist denomination. Two polemical works, "The Rock of Rome" and "The Idol Demolished by its own Priest," testify to the energy with which he employed his pen in this new calling. He also wrote two novels, " George Lovel" and "Henry Fortescue." A collective edition of his plays was published in 1841-'3 (3 vols., London). He published a collection of his minor writings under the title of "The Elocutionist" (19th ed., 1853). His last years were spent in total retirement on account of sickness.