Arthur Murphy (writer)

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A 1777 portrait of Arthur Murphy by Nathaniel Dance

Arthur Murphy (27 December 1727 – 18 June 1805), also known by the pseudonym Charles Ranger, was an Irish writer.


Murphy was born at Cloonyquin, County Roscommon, Ireland, the son of Richard Murphy and Jane French.

He studied at the Jesuit-run College of Saint-Omer, France, and was a gifted student of the Latin and Greek classics.

He worked as an actor in the theatre, became a barrister, a journalist and finally a (not very original) playwright. He edited Gray's Inn Journal between 1752 and 1754. As Henry Thrale's oldest and dearest friend, he introduced Samuel Johnson to the Thrales in January 1765. He was appointed Commissioner of Bankruptcy in 1803.

Murphy is known for his translations of Tacitus in 1753. They were reprinted in the Family Classical Library (A. J. Valpy, 1830-1834) and were still published in 1922.

He wrote also three biographies: his 1792 An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, his 1762 Fielding's Works and his 1801 Life of David Garrick.

Murphy is thought to have coined the legal term "wilful misconstruction" whilst representing the Donaldson v. Becket appeal to the House of Lords in 1774 against the perpetual possession of copyright. He died at Knightsbridge, London, and was buried at Hammersmith, London.

A biography was written in 1811 by Dr. Jesse Foot. Nathaniel Dance painted his portrait which is thought to now be in the Irish National Portrait Collection[1].

His elder brother used his mother's surname and was known as James Murphy French (1725–59). He lived in London with his brother.

Arthur Murphy was devoted to Ann Elliot and he missed her after her early death. After Arthur Murphy's death this relationship was written about by Fanny Burney who found Murphy's devotion to Elliot fascinating.[2]

Murphy's drama[edit]

Title page and scene from 1823 printing of The Citizen, produced in 1761

An example of Murphy's theatrical writings is The Citizen, a farce, first produced at Drury Lane in 1761. The play included Ann Elliot as Maria. Ann was Murphy's protege and mistress.[3][4]

Philpot, a wealthy skinflint, has bargained with Sir Jasper Wilding, a fox hunter, for his son Young Philpot, a buck and wastrel, to marry Maria Wilding, and for his daughter Sally to marry Wilding's son, for settlements and twenty thousand pounds paid to Sir Jasper. Young Philpot has lost a fortune, but borrows money from his father and embarks on an insurance fraud involving shipwrecked goods. Maria plans to marry Beaufort, who loves her. As Young Philpot tries to propose, she convinces him she is half-witted, and he spurns her. In the second act, Philpot senior is visiting Corinna, a lady of loose virtue, but hides under the table when his son calls upon her. He overhears as Young Philpot tells her how he has cajoled the money out of his father. Maria's brother surprises them, and old Philpot is also discovered, to their mutual shame. In the final scene Sir Jasper with a lawyer obtains Philpot's signature to the agreements, but meanwhile Maria, an educated girl, shows her strong character to Young Philpot and he again refuses to propose. Having signed away his rights old Philpot offers to marry her, but the lawyer reveals himself as Beaufort, and explains that he has swapped the deeds, so that Philpot has unwittingly signed his agreement for Maria to marry Beaufort.



All dates refer to the play's first production, except where otherwise stated.[5]



  1. ^ Dance-Holland, Nathaniel. "Portrait of Arthur Murphy". National Gallery of Ireland. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  2. ^ D. Cook; A. Culley (13 April 2016). Women's Life Writing, 1700-1850: Gender, Genre and Authorship. Springer. pp. 81–85. ISBN 978-1-137-03077-1.
  3. ^ "Elliot, Ann (1743–1769), courtesan and actress | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/64332. ISBN 9780198614111. Retrieved 12 April 2019. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Margaret Doody (14 April 2015). Jane Austen's Names: Riddles, Persons, Places. University of Chicago Press. pp. 195–. ISBN 978-0-226-15783-2.
  5. ^ Titles and dates of first productions taken from "A List of the Several Pieces Contained in This Edition", which appears at the start of volume one of The Works of Arthur Murphy (Murphy 1786).


  • Emery, John Pike. 1946. Arthur Murphy: An Eminent English Dramatist of the Eighteenth Century. University of Pennsylvania Press. ASIN B0006AQYEA.
  • Murphy, Arthur. 1786. The Works of Arthur Murphy, Esq. in Seven Volumes. London: Cadell. (Volume One is available to download on Google books.)
  • Spector, Robert Donald. 1979. Arthur Murphy. Twain. ISBN 0-8057-6751-7.

External links[edit]