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Fleet Prison - front piece for William Paget's "The Humours of the Fleet"[1]

William Paget (died 1752) was an English actor and author in the 18th century who played alongside David Garrick and was a member of John Rich’s company, playing in the first season of Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (1732).[2] Toward the end of his life he served time in Fleet Prison before agreeing to participate in the establishment of Halifax, Nova Scotia, dying there in 1752.[3][4]



In 1730 Paget was cast as Mirza in the first Masonic opera, the libretto written by William Rufus Chetwood entitled The Generous Freemason; or, The Constant Lady. With Humours of Squire Noodle and his Man Doodle. The opera was performed at Oates and Henry Fielding’s Great Theatrical Booth at the George Inn Yard in Smithfield, during the time of Bartholomew Fair.[5] He also played at Southwark Fair.

In the same year, 27 June 1730, Paget played Othello at Haymarket, having arrived from the theatre of Dublin.[6]

In the 1730-31 season, he joined the Drury Lane company, when he played Peachum in John Gay's Beggar's Opera. He played in John Rich's company for the 1731-1733 seasons at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and later Covent Garden.

In 1733-34 he returned to Drury Lane.

Henry Giffard's Company, Goodman's Fields TheatreEdit

After that he played Covent Garden, the Haymarket, Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, Goodman's Fields Theatre, and at Richmond and Dublin. At Goodman's he played Longman in Henry Giffard's (1694-1772) play Pamela: A comedy, etc..[7][8][9]

In 1736-37, Paget played Duke of Albany in King Lear at Covent Garden.[10]

In June 1741, Henry Giffard took a small group of actors to present a summer season at Tunkard Street Theatre, Ipswich. Both Paget and Garrick (the latter just joined the company at age 24) were part of the company. Paget wrote A Voyage to Ipswich to open the plays, which includes a commemoration of Admiral Edward Vernon and his victory at Battle of Porto Bello.[11]

Facsimile of Playbill (c.1800) from Garrick's debut as Richard III, Paget playing Lord Stanley

In October 1741, Paget played Lord Stanley in Richard III, which marked the rise to fame of David Garrick in the lead role.

In November 1741, Paget played Judge Guttle in David Garrick's own play The Lying Valet.[12][13]

In 1742, Paget played Gripe the miser in John Hippisley and Thomas Chapman's play Scaramouch scapin, or the Old Miser Caught in a Sack. With the Comical Tricks, Shifts and Chests of Scapin’s Three Companions.[14][15]

In 1742 and returning to the role in 1746, Paget also played Earl of Kent in King Lear, with Garrick playing King Lear.[16]

John Rich's Company, Covent GardenEdit

Under John Rich's management, in June 1746 at Covent Garden Paget played Polonius in Hamlet opposite Garrick who played Hamlet and Edward Shuter who played the grave digger.[17][18]

In October 1746, Paget played Alonzo in Henry Giffard's production of Revenge, he also played again in The Lying Valet and Henry IV, where Paget played Falstaff.[19]

In November 1748, at Covent Garden, Paget played Shallow in a production of Merry Wives of Windsor.[20]

In March 1749, at Covent Garden Paget played in Henry 4th, as Mowbray.[21]


Paget eventually was imprisoned in a Sponging-house because of debt. He then was sent to Fleet Prison in London and later released because of the Insolvent Debtors Relief, etc. Act 1747 c. 33.[22] The following year he published The Humours of the Fleet, the title being a play on both The Rules of the Fleet and James Miller's popular play The Humours of Oxford.[23] Along with many other English immigrants, Paget then moved to Halifax to escape his debt. Paget died soon after he arrived (1752), leaving his wife and four children.



  1. ^ Catalogue of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: pt. I., p.757
  2. ^ The Plays of David Garrick: Garrick's own plays, 1767-1775, p. 374
  3. ^ Halifax Gazette. 1752.
  4. ^ Governor Edward Cornwallis reported the initial English settlers were "poor, idle, worthless vagabonds that embrace the opportunity to get provisions for one year without labour.... Many are without shirts, shoes or stockings." (Cornwallis to Board of Trade 24 July 1949).
  5. ^ Encyclopedia Of Freemasonry
  6. ^ A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers ...
  7. ^ Pamela: A comedy, etc.
  8. ^ Henry Giffard
  9. ^ p. 115
  10. ^
  11. ^ For Commemoration to Vernon see pp. 42-47
  12. ^ p. 35
  13. ^ The Lying Valet
  14. ^ The Theatre of the London Fairs in the 18th Century, p. 50
  15. ^ 'Pamela' in the Marketplace: Literary Controversy and Print Culture in By Thomas Keymer, Peter Sabor, p. 114
  16. ^
  17. ^ p. 195
  18. ^ p.13
  19. ^ p. 223
  20. ^ p. 276
  21. ^ p. 280
  22. ^ p. 96
  23. ^ The Fleet: Its River, Prison, and Marriages By John Ashton, p. 279