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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), Songwriter and dramatist

Entertainer; b. Southampton; London debut 1760, becoming best known as a writer of sea songs (such as Tom Bowling); 'the spirited strains of Dibdin [were] no mean auxiliary to the English government [during the French wars]' (Herman Melville); he wrote A Complete History of the English Stage 1800, a Tour through Scotland and England 1808, and a rather cantankerous autobiography 1803.

‘he sang, and accompanied himself on an instrument, which was a concert in itself; he was, in fact, his own band. A few lines of speaking happily introduced his admirable songs, full of wit and character, and his peculiar mode of singing them surpassed all I ever heard’ (John O’Keeffe, 1826).

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.