Samuel Foote was born into a wealthy Cornish family in 1720. He was educated at the collegiate school at Worcester, and at Oxford, where he managed to dissipate a fortune by extravagant living. This trait continued throughout his life. He did not complete his degree but became a law student at the Temple. During this period he served a brief imprisonment for debt.
Foote first appeared as an amateur actor at the Haymarket Theatre.
He was a talented mimic and this brought him some notoriety. Almost all his plays included satirical sketches of living people. Consequently, he was often in trouble and disliked in certain quarters. On one occasion this resulted in him being arrested on a trumped-up charge of homosexual rape. He was acquitted but was more subdued as a result of this experience.
In 1766, Samuel Foote obtained a patent for a theatre in Westminster in compensation for the loss of a leg, the result of a practical joke whilst riding. The following year he built the new Haymarket Theatre, which he ran for ten years. Foote was a contemporary of David Garrick and there was some friendly rivalry between the two actors.
He died at Dover in 1777 from unknown causes whilst on his way to stay in France for the sake of his health. Foote left behind several plays and a number of pithy sayings. His portrait by Reynolds hangs in London’s Garrick Club.