Rare Theatrical English Enamel patch box, ‘The Young Roscius’, c. 1805
English enamel patch box, the oval form printed with a portrait of a youth in profile, titled ‘THE YOUNG ROSCIUS’, a pale blue ground to the base, an original mirror in the lid interior.
Condition: top good, base showing signs of re-touching to enamel, mirror has exfoliated.
This fascinating image is taken from a print by G. Thompson, Southfield, 1805. It is titled ‘Mafter Betty ftuding his part – this aftonijing youth was only Thirteen Years of Age last September / 1804’, and depicts the child prodigy, William Henry West Betty (1791-1874).
He debuted on stage in Ireland in 1803, aged 11; over the next few years he was incredibly popular and well-recieved as a child star. For a while, he was the highest ever paid actor, earing 75 Guineas per night while at Drury Lane.
His fame led to Royal introductions, and George III even presented him to the Queen.
After a whirl-wind few years of multiple roles in many venues, he retired the stage in 1808 to study at Christ’s College, Cambridge. After graduating, he did retry theatre, but his lustre was worn – the critics were savage, and he failed to impress. The usual child-star descent followed, ending with a failed suicide; he gave up acting altogether in 1824, although he was always active in some form with theatrical charities.