Mossop, Henry (c.1728–1774), actor and theatre manager, was born in Dublin, son of the Rev. John Mossop. In 1737 his father was appointed prebend of Kilmeen, Tuam, Co. Galway, but Henry remained in Dublin, where he was raised by his uncle, a bookseller. Educated at a grammar school in Digges St., he entered TCD (1745) and became a scholar (1747). While at Trinity he decided against a religious career and there is no record of his graduation. Moving to London, he was rebuffed in his attempts to take to the stage, but was encouraged by his schoolfriend Francis Gentleman (qv) to persist. Returning to Dublin, he was engaged by Thomas Sheridan (qv) at the Smock Alley Theatre.
On 30 November 1749 he made his debut, as Zanga in Edward Young's ‘The revenge’, where he was advertised as ‘a gentleman of this country’. Other roles followed, including that of Othello and Macbeth; Lord Cork and Orrery (qv) described his style as ‘wild, ranting, irregular but still improving’ and predicted that he would make a good actor (Highfill et al., 336). After a quarrel with Sheridan he left Ireland in 1751 and was engaged at the Drury Lane Theatre, London. Making his debut as Richard III, he soon established the role of Zanga as his own. It seems Mossop was an average actor, but a brilliant speaker, and the range and tone of his voice compensated for his other limitations. In A general view of the stage (1753) he was praised for his interpretations and his delivery, while Tate Wilkinson in his Memoirs insisted that his was ‘the most melodious clear voice I ever heard’ (Highfill et al., 337). After the death of his father (1759) he returned to Ireland, where he performed at the Crow St. Theatre. Ambition got the better of him, however, and the following year he foolishly bought the lease for the Smock Alley and Aungier St. theatres. They opened in 1760 but were not successful, and their rivalry did lasting damage to the Irish stage. By 1763 Mossop's business was heavily in debt, which was not helped by his predilection for gambling. Though he struggled to carry on, the intense competition proved too much, and his health failed as his finances dwindled. In 1767 he purchased the lease for Crow St., but his problems continued. Unable to appear at his own benefit in April 1771, he retired from performing. Bankruptcy followed in 1772, and he attempted to restore his spirits with a recuperative trip to France the following year. This was not a success, and when he returned to London in 1774 his appearance was visibly altered; it seems his mind had also been affected and in his final days he attempted to starve himself. He died 27 December 1774 at the Strand, in great poverty, and was buried at Chelsea churchyard.
There is some uncertainty about his private life. He had a relationship with Sarah Ford that produced a daughter, Harriet Ann Ford, who became a child-actor; he does not appear to have married. The actress Elizabeth Mossop (c.1748–1808) was said to have been a sister, but this is unlikely. Acknowledged as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mossop was sometimes criticised for his mechanical gestures and his propensity to emphasise every single syllable. Nevertheless his voice was one of the finest of the age, and only his ill-judged foray into management blighted what had been a celebrated acting career.