- (c. 1733 - c. 1812) Irish dramatist; as awriter of light musical works Bickerstaffe was, in his day, consideredto be the equal of John Gay, author of The Beggar's Opera.
In 1760 Bickerstaffe's ballad opera Thomas and Sally;or, the Sailor's Return, with music by Thomas Arne, was stagedat Covent Garden. The two men collaborated again on Love in aVillage (1762), which is probably the earliest example of anEnglish comic opera. The Maid of the Mill (1765) and TheRoyal Garland (1768), both with music by Samuel Arnold, broughtBickerstaffe further success. He also wrote several works in collaborationwith Charles Dibdin, including Lionel and Clarissa.
Bickerstaffe's success was cut short in 1782, however, whenhe was forced to flee the country owing to allegations of sodomy,which at that time was punishable by hanging. Bickerstaffe fled toFrance, where it seems he lived in poverty and obscurity for a further30 years. The 1782 Biographia Dramatica stated that Bickerstaffewas "...living at some place abroad, to which a deed withoutname has banished him..."