An 1804 William Henry West Betty "The Young Roscius" Medal
An 1804 William Henry West Betty "The Young Roscius" Medal - Silvered white metal, obverse illustrating the right-facing bust of William Henry West Betty, wearing a lace collar and jabot, his hair short, inscribed "THE YOUNG ROSCIUS" and engraver marked "T.WEBB.P." (Thomas Webb), reverse illustrating a sword, goblet, trumpet and manuscript decorated with a wreath in the centre, surrounded by the inscription "NOT YET MATURE, YET MATCHLESS MCCCIV" (1804) and a ribbon banner below inscribed "BORN, SEPTr 13th 1791.", 42.7 mm, extensive silvering loss, contact marks and surface wear, fine.Footnote: William Henry West Betty was born on September 13, 1791 in Shrewsbury, England. He was a Shakespearean actor known as the "Young Roscius" and found great acclaim at a remarkably early age, first appearing on stage at the age of eleven in Belfast, as Osman in Aaron Hill's Zara, and English version of Voltaire's Zaire. His success was immediate, and shortly thereafter appeared in Dublin, where it is said that in three hours of study he committed the part of Hamlet to memory. His precocious talents aroused great enthusiasm in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and he was favourably compared with some of the greatest tragedians. In 1804, he first appeared at Covent Garden, when the troops had to be called out to preserve order, so great was the crush to obtain admittance. At Drury Lane, the house was similarly packed, and he played for the then unprecedented salary of over 75 guineas a night. Indeed, such was the impression made by him as an actor of only thirteen, that a further six other medals were also struck in 1804. He usually played Shakespearean parts and was seen in London for the first time on December 1, 1804. The noted water color artist and diarist Joseph Farington made numerous entries about Betty; it would have been surprising if he had not given the dominance of the theater on public and private life. Among many other comments, Farrington described one performance and the reaction of the older actors in the audience: "He was greeted warmly, but the applause was quite temperate till in the third act. He excited such feelings as produced a thundering crack of applause such as I thought I never before heard. A second time He did the same His performance appeared to me to be very extraordinary considering His Youth, some parts excellent, but in parts there was something feeble from want of more physical power. His action remarkably easy. — Lawrence said to me that Pope [the actor] would have played many parts better, but there were strokes of originality above Him. — Kemble came occasionally to us but made no remark abt. the young actor. — I noticed to Mrs. Kemble His great power, considering His youth, in several difficult parts. She said it was nothing to an experienced actor. I made no further remark to Her. She had a great deal at stake & allowance was to me made." Betty's London debut was the evening of December 1, 1804. In typical English fashion, Farrington had no comment about the fact that Napoleon was to be crowned Emperor the following day! He was a great success socially, King George III himself presenting him to the queen, and Pitt upon one occasion adjourning the House of Commons that members might be in time for his performance. But this enthusiasm gradually subsided, and in 1808 he made his final appearance as a boy actor, and entered Christ's College, Cambridge. He re-appeared four years later, but the public would have none of him, and he retired to the enjoyment of the large fortune which he had amassed as a prodigy. William Henry West Betty died on August 24, 1874, at the age of 82. His son Henry Betty (1819-1897) was also an actor.