The Whig pamphleteer Dennis O’Bryen is one of a number of Irish playwrights in eighteenth-century London whose cultural and political contribution to the city has been overlooked. This essay offers the early career of O’Bryen as a case study in how the theater might be used to gain political patronage in the 1780s. O’Bryen, a bankrupt Irish immigrant in 1780, became a close confidante and trusted political adviser to Charles James Fox after the Haymarket performance of O-Bryen’s play, A Friend in Need Is a Friend Indeed (1783). Drawing on both Goldsmith’s The Good Natur’d Man (1768) and a scandalous episode in Fox’s life, the play was a creative attack on Fox’s political opponents Lord Shelburne and the moneylender John “Jew” King.
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