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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of John Brougham, Actor & Dramatist

john-broughamJohn Brougham, Irish American actor and dramatist, is born in Dublin on May 9, 1814.

Brougham’s father is an amateur painter, and dies young. His mother is the daughter of a Huguenot, whom political adversity has forced into exile. He is the eldest of three children. Both of his siblings die in youth, and, the father being dead and the widowed mother left penniless, he is reared in the family and home of an uncle.

Brougham is prepared for college at an academy at Trim, County Meath, twenty miles from Dublin, and subsequently is sent to the University of Dublin. There he acquires classical learning, and forms interesting and useful associations and acquaintances. He also becomes interested in private theatricals. He falls in with a crowd that puts on their own shows, cast by drawing parts out of a hat. Though he most always trades off larger roles so he can pay attention to his studies, he takes quite an interest in acting. He is a frequent attendant, moreover, at the Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street.

Brougham is educated with the intention of his becoming a surgeon and walks the Peth Street Hospital for eight months. However, misfortune comes upon his uncle so he is obliged to provide for himself. Before leaving the university he, by chance, becomes acquainted with the actress Lucia Elizabeth Vestris.

Brougham goes to London in 1830 and, after a brief experience of poverty, suddenly determines to become an actor. He is destitute of everything except fine apparel and he has actually taken the extreme step of offering himself as a cadet in the service of the East India Company. But, being dissuaded by the enrolling officer, who lends him a guinea and advises him to seek other employment, and happening to meet with a festive acquaintance, he seeks recreation at the Tottenham Theatre where Madame Vestris is acting.

Brougham’s acquaintance with Madame Vestris leads to him being engaged at the theatre, and he thus makes his first appearance on the London stage in July in Tom and Jerry, in which he plays six characters. In 1831 he is a member of Madame Vestris’s company and writes his first play, a burlesque. He remains with Madame Vestris as long as she and Charles Mathews retain Covent Garden Theatre, and he collaborates with Dion Boucicault in writing London Assurance, the role of Dazzle being one of those with which he becomes associated. His success at small or “low” comic roles such as Dazzle earn him the nickname “Little Johnny Brougham,” a moniker which he embraces and which boosts his popularity with working-class audiences.

In 1840 Brougham manages the Lyceum Theatre, for which he writes several light burlesques, but in 1842 he moves to the United States, where he becomes a member of William Evans Burton‘s company, for which he writes several comedies, including Met-a-mora; or, the Last of the Pollywogs, a parody of John A. Stone and Edwin Forrest’s Metamora; or The Last of the Wamponoags, and Irish Yankee; or, The Birthday of Freedom.

Later Brougham is the manager of Niblo’s Garden, and in 1850 opens Brougham’s Lyceum, which, like his next speculation, the lease of the Bowery Theatre, is not a financial success, despite the popularity of such works as Po-ca-hon-tas; or, The Gentle Savage. He is later connected with James William Wallack‘s and Augustin Daly‘s theatres, and writes plays for both.

In 1860 Brougham returns to London, where he adapts or writes several plays, including The Duke’s Motto for Charles Fechter. In November 1864 he appears at the Theatre Royal in his native Dublin in the first performance of Dion Boucicault’s Arrah-na-Pogue with Boucicault, Samuel Johnson and Samuel Anderson Emery in the cast.

After the American Civil War Brougham returns to New York City. Brougham’s Theatre is opened in 1869 with his comedies Better Late than Never and Much Ado About a Merchant of Venice, but this managerial experience is also a failure due to disagreements with his business partner, James Fisk. He then takes to playing the stock market. His last appearance onstage is in 1879 as “O’Reilly, the detective” in Boucicault’s Rescued.

John Brougham dies in Manhattan on June 7, 1880.

 

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Death of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Playwright & Satirist

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan, Irish satirist, playwright, poet, and long-term owner of London‘s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, dies on July 7, 1816, at 14 Savile Row, London.

Sheridan is born on October 30, 1751 in Dublin, where his family has a house on then fashionable Dorset Street. While in Dublin Sheridan attends the English Grammar School in Grafton Street. The family moves permanently to England in 1758 where he is a pupil at Harrow School from 1762 to 1768. After his period in Harrow School, his father employs a private tutor to directs his studies.

In 1775, Sheridan’s first play, The Rivals, is produced at London’s Covent Garden Theatre. It is a failure on its first night. He casts a more capable actor in the lead for its second performance, and it is a smash which immediately establishes the young playwright’s reputation and the favour of fashionable London. It has gone on to become a standard of English literature.

Shortly after the success of The Rivals, Sheridan and his father-in-law, Thomas Linley the Elder, a successful composer, produce the opera, The Duenna. This piece is accorded such a warm reception that it plays for seventy-five performances.

The following year, Sheridan, his father-in-law, and one other partner purchase a half-interest in the Drury Lane theatre and, two years later, buy out the other half. Sheridan is the manager of the theatre for many years, and later becomes sole owner with no managerial role.

His most famous play, The School for Scandal (Drury Lane, May 8, 1777), is considered one of the greatest comedies of manners in English. It is followed by The Critic (1779), an updating of the satirical Restoration comedy The Rehearsal. He has a rivalry with his fellow playwright Richard Cumberland and includes a parody of Cumberland in The Critic. In 1778, Sheridan writes The Camp, which comments on the ongoing threat of a French invasion of Britain.

In 1780, Sheridan entered Parliament as the ally of Charles James Fox on the side of the American Colonials in the political debate of that year. He remains in Parliament for 32 years.

On February 24, 1809, despite the much vaunted fire safety precautions of 1794, the theatre burns down. On being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan is famously reported to have said, “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”

When he fails to be re-elected to Parliament in 1812, his creditors close in on him and his last years are harassed by debt and disappointment. On hearing of his debts, the United States Congress offers Sheridan £20,000 in recognition of his efforts to prevent the American Revolutionary War. The offer is refused.

In December 1815 Sheridan becomes ill and is largely confined to bed. He dies in poverty on July 7, 1816, and is buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. His funeral is attended by dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.


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Birth of Sir Richard Steele, Writer & Politician

sir-richard-steeleSir Richard Steele, Irish writer and politician, remembered as co-founder, with his friend Joseph Addison, of the magazine Tatler, is born in Dublin on March 12, 1672.

Steele is born to Richard Steele, an attorney, and Elinor Symes (née Sheyles). He is largely raised by his uncle and aunt, Henry Gascoigne and Lady Katherine Mildmay. A member of the Protestant gentry, he is educated at Charterhouse School, where he first meets Addison. After starting at Christ Church, Oxford, he goes on to Merton College, Oxford, then joins the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry in order to support King William’s wars against France. He is commissioned in 1697, and rises to the rank of captain within two years. Steele leaves the army in 1705, perhaps due to the death of the 34th Foot’s commanding officer, Robert Lucas, which limits his opportunities of promotion.

Steele’s first published work, The Christian Hero (1701), attempts to point out the differences between perceived and actual masculinity. Written while he serves in the army, it expresses his idea of a pamphlet of moral instruction. The Christian Hero is ultimately ridiculed for what some thought was hypocrisy because Steele did not necessarily follow his own preaching.

Steele writes a comedy that same year entitled The Funeral. This play meets with wide success and is performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, bringing him to the attention of the King and the Whig party. Next, Steele writes The Lying Lover, one of the first sentimental comedies, but a failure on stage. In 1705, he writes The Tender Husband, and later that year writes the prologue to The Mistake, by John Vanbrugh.

In 1706 Steele is appointed to a position in the household of Prince George of Denmark, consort of Anne, Queen of Great Britain. He also gains the favour of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford.

The Tatler, Steele’s first journal, is first published on April 12, 1709, and appears three times a week. Steele writes this periodical under the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff and gives Bickerstaff an entire, fully developed personality. Steele describes his motive in writing Tatler as “to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior.”

The Tatler is closed down to avoid the complications of running a Whig publication that has come under Tory attack. Addison and Steele then found The Spectator in 1711 and also The Guardian in 1713.

Steele becomes a Whig Member of Parliament in 1713, for Stockbridge. He is soon expelled for issuing a pamphlet in favour of the Hanoverian succession. When George I of Great Britain comes to the throne in the following year, Steele is knighted and given responsibility for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. He returns to parliament in 1715, for Boroughbridge.

While at Drury Lane, Steele writes and directs the sentimental comedy The Conscious Lovers, which is an immediate hit. However, he falls out with Addison and with the administration over the Peerage Bill (1719), and in 1724 he retires to his wife’s homeland of Wales, where he spends the remainder of his life.

Steele remains in Carmarthen after his wife Mary’s death, and is buried there, at St. Peter’s Church. During restoration of the church in 2000, his skull is discovered in a lead casket, having previously been accidentally disinterred during the 1870s.


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Birth of Stage Actress Julia Betterton Glover

julia-betterton-gloverJulia Betterton Glover, Irish-born stage actress well known for her comic roles in the late 18th and 19th centuries, is born on January 8, 1779 in Newry, Northern Ireland.

“Betterton” is not her real name, despite her father`s promotion of the fiction. She is born Julianna Butterton, the daughter of the Newry`s theatre manager William Butterton. His venture fails and he decides there will be financial benefit to him if her name is changed to “Betterton,” claiming links to a famous actor and long dead Thomas Betterton. With this deception he and his family travel round the theatres and the young Julia is acclaimed as an infant acting prodigy in York, the West Country, Bath, and elsewhere.

In 1787, she joins the York Circuit under manager Tate Wilkinson and appears as the Page in Thomas Otway‘s The Orphan, as well as the Duke of York with George Frederick Cooke in Richard III. When Cooke is cast as Glumdalca, the Queen of the Giants, in Henry Fielding‘s burlesque play Tom Thumb, Cooke chooses Julia to play the title role.

In 1790, at age nine, she makes her debut in Scotland at the Dumfries Theatre Royal. In 1795 she goes to Bath and plays the parts of Juliet, Imogen, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, and Lydia Languish. She becomes well known, particularly praised for her comic role as Languish, and news of her success reaches London. A number of job offers are made, but they are declined by her father. He eventually accepts a lucrative offer, taking her salary for himself, for which she makes her London début in 1797 as Percy by Hannah More.

In 1800, her father sells her in marriage to Samuel Glover, the son of an industrial family from Birmingham, for £1, 000, although the money is never paid. Unhappily married, she has eight children, four of whom survive childhood. In 1820, she plays Hamlet at the Lyceum Theatre to critical acclaim. In 1822, she appears as Nurse in Romeo and Juliet at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Her daughter Phyllis plays Juliet. On February 8, 1837, her father, with whom she has had an unhappy relationship, dies.

One of her sons is Edmund Glover and another is William Howard Glover. In 1850, Glover announces her retirement from the stage. After two weeks confined to her bed, she appears at Drury Lane for her farewell benefit performance on July 12, 1850 as Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals. She is noticeably ill and weak during her performance and is unable to stand to receive her applause at the end of the play. Instead, the curtain rises to reveal Glover seated, surrounded by the rest of the cast. She dies in London four days later on July 16, 1850. She is buried in St. George’s Churchyard Gardens in London.


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Birth of Irish Actor Spranger Barry

spranger-barrySpranger Barry, actor, is born in Skinner’s Row, Dublin, on November 23, 1719. Barry is the son of a silversmith, to whose business he is brought up. He takes over the business but is not successful.

His first appearance on the stage is at the Theatre Royal, Smock Alley, Dublin, on the February 5, 1744, and this engagement at once increases its prosperity. His first London appearance is made in 1746 as Othello at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Here his talents are speedily recognized, and in Hamlet and Macbeth he alternates with David Garrick, arousing the latter’s jealousy by his success as Romeo. This results in his leaving Drury Lane for the Covent Garden Theatre in 1750, accompanied by Susannah Maria Cibber, his Juliet. Both houses simultaneously put on Romeo and Juliet for a series of rival performances, and Barry’s Romeo is preferred by the critics to Garrick’s.

In 1758, Barry opens the Crow Street theatre in Dublin, and later a new theatre in Cork. He stages many successful productions but seems to have lived beyond his means. In 1767 he returns to London to play at the Haymarket Theatre, then under the management of Samuel Foote. As his second wife, he marries in 1768 the actress Ann Street Dancer, and he and Mrs. Barry play under Garrick’s management, Barry appearing in 1767, after ten years absence from the London stage, in Othello, his greatest part. In 1774 they both move to Covent Garden, where Barry remains until his death on January 10, 1777.