When his job as stable boy came to an end, he returned to assist his father, who had resumed his trade of shoemaker in London; but after marrying his cousin, the half-sister of Maj. Charles Marsack of Caversham Park, in 1765, he became a teacher in a small school in Liverpool. He failed in an attempt to set up a private school, and became prompter in a Dublin theatre. He acted in various strolling companies until 1778, when he produced The Crisis; or, Love and Famine, at Drury Lane. Duplicity followed in 1781.
Among his novels may be mentioned Alwyn (1780), an account, largely autobiographical, of a strolling comedian, Anna St. Ives (the first British Jacobin novel, published in 1792), and Hugh Trevor (1794-1797). He also was the author of Travels from Hamburg through Westphalia, Holland and the Netherlands to Paris, of some volumes of verse and of translations from the French and German. One of these was ''Letters Between Frederic II and M. DE Voltaire (1789).
His Memoirs written by Himself and continued down to the Time of his Death, from his Diary, Notes and other Papers, by William Hazlitt, appeared in 1816, and was reprinted, in a slightly abridged form, in 1852.
Sympathetic to the early ideals of the French Revolution, Holcroft assisted in the publication of the first part of Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man in 1791, and joined the Society for Constitutional Information (SCI) in 1792, and was appointed a member of a liaison committee to work with the LCS in early 1794. As a result of his activism, in the fall of 1794 Holcroft was indicted for high treason and held in Newgate Prison whilst three other treason trials proceeded. In early December 1794, Holcroft was discharged without trial after those cases, against London Corresponding Society secretary Thomas Hardy, and SCI figure John Horne Tooke, resulted in acquittals.
As one of what Secretary of War William Windham called "acquitted felons," Holcroft's post-arrest reputation meant that his plays achieved little success after 1795, although he was instrumental in bringing melodrama to Britain at the end of the decade with his Deaf and Dumb (1801) and A Tale of Mystery (1802). Despite a modicum of success with A Tale of Mystery, the remainder of the decade was marked by unsuccessful attempts to return to the public eye. He died in 1809, not long after a deathbed reconciliation with his closest friend from the 1790s (but lately estranged), William Godwin. His daughter Fanny Holcroft (1780-1844), wrote the noted Romantic anti-slavery poem, "The Negro" (1797).
'I Almost Dread to Tell You': Gothic Melodrama and the Aesthetic of Silence in Thomas Holcroft's A Tale of Mystery
May 01, 2012; On 25 April 1801, William Sotheby's Gothic tragedy Julian and Agnes opened at Drury Lane with an impressive cast: Sarah Siddons...