English dramatist; born in the Master's Lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge, Feb. 19, 1732; died at Tunbridge Wells May 7, 1811. He was educated at Bury St. Edmunds and Westminster, and at Trinity College, where he was entered when but fourteen years old.
About 1750 Cumberland was appointed private secretary to Lord Halifax, and finding the position a sinecure, he devoted his leisure to play-writing. Among his most successful plays were "A Summer's Tale," 1765, and "The West Indian," produced by Garrick in 1770.
Cumberland's most important work, from a Jewish standpoint, was his drama "The Jew," written in 1777, in which he depicted the antithesis of Shakespeare's Shylock and Marlowe's Barabas in Sheva, the benevolent, grateful Jew. Sheva is rescued at Cadiz from an auto da fé by Don Carlos, and, later, from a mob in London by the son of Don Carlos, Charles Ratcliffe. In gratitude, Sheva gives £10,000 to Ratcliffe's sister as a marriage portion, and the balance of his fortune to Ratcliffe.
Incidentally it may be stated that "The Jew" appeared two years before "Nathan der Weise," which, however, had been written earlier.
- Davies, Life of Garrick, 1808, ii. 289-304;
- Memoirs of Richard, Cumberland, 1807;
- Notes and Queries, 5th series, xi. 504;
- Dict. of National Biography, xiii. 291-293.