PHELPS, SAMUEL (1804-1878), English actor and manager, was born at Devonport on the 13th of February 1804. He was early thrown upon his own resources, and worked in various newspaper offices. Shortly after his marriage in 1826 to Sarah Cooper (d. 1867), he accepted a theatrical engagement in the York circuit at eighteen shillings a week, and afterwards appeared in south of England towns in prominent tragic r61es, attracting sufficient attention to be spoken of as a rival to Kean. He made his first London appearance on the 28th of August 1837 as Shylock at the Haymarket. After a short season there he was with Macready for about six years at Covent Garden, the Haymarket and Drury Lane successively. In 1844 he became co-lessee of Sadler's Wells Theatre with Thomas L. Greenwood and Mrs Mary Amelia Warner (1804- 1854). Greenwood supplied the business capacity, Phelps was the theatrical manager, and Mrs Warner leading lady. In this position Phelps remained for twenty years, during which time he raised the Sadler's Wells house to an important position, and himself appeared in a very extensive and varied repertory. Thirty-four of Shakespeare's plays were presented there under his direction, with great educational effect, both on public and players. In 1861 Greenwood retired from the partnership, and Phelps, unable to cope with the business of management, retired from it in the following year. For the next fifteen years he acted under various managements, achieving considerable success in some of Halliday's dramatic versions of Scott's novels, such as The Fortunes of Nigel and Ivanhoe. His last appearance was in 1878 as Wolsey in Henry VIII., and he died on the 6th of November 1878. He was a sound and capable actor, rather than one of any marked genius; and, in spite of his predilection for tragedy, was most successful in such characters of comedy as called for dry humour. Perhaps Sir Pertinax Macsycophant in Charles Macklin's The Man of the World was his finest impersonation. He published an annotated edition of Shakespeare's plays (2 vols., 1852-1854).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)