Atkinson, Joseph (c.1743–1818), army officer, poet, and dramatist, was born in Dublin and served in the English army, reaching the rank of captain. He wrote a comedy and two comic operas, all of which were produced in Dublin. His first play, ‘The mutual deception’, performed in Smock Alley, Dublin, on 2 March 1785, was a comedy heavily indebted to Pierre de Marivaux's play ‘Le jeu de l'amour et du hasard’ and Thomas Vaughan's farce ‘Love's metamorphoses’. After some alterations by the English playwright and theatre-manager George Colman (1721–94), it was staged the following year under the name ‘Tit for tat’ at the Haymarket, London. Atkinson also wrote two popular comic operas: ‘A match for a widow, or The frolicks of fancy’ (Smock Alley, 17 Apr. 1786) and ‘Love in a blaze’ (Crow Street, 29 May 1799), with music composed by Charles Dibdin and Sir John Stephenson respectively. Both works were reliant on English and French original pieces.
Atkinson's poetry includes Congratulatory ode to General William Howe, on his return from America (1778), Killarney, a poem (1798), Mount Merrion (Dublin, 1816), addressed to Earl Fitzwilliam (qv) (and afterwards dedicated to the earl of Pembroke), and A poetic excursion (1818). He also wrote numerous prologues for the Crow Street theatre, notably for the 1807 comic opera ‘The first attempt, or The whim of a moment’, by Sydney Owenson (qv), in which he attacked Owenson's vociferous critic John Wilson Croker (qv). Atkinson died in England in October 1818 and was buried in Cheadle churchyard, Staffordshire; his epitaph was composed by his close friend Thomas Moore (qv). There is a memorial tablet to him in Monkstown church, Co. Dublin.