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This popular English tenor was born, June 15th, 1817. His success is entirely due to his own exertions, and the fine voice with which nature has endowed him. Having devoted three years to close study at the Royal Academy of Music, he made his first appearance on the stage at Covent Garden, on Thursday, May 2nd, 1839, in Rooke's opera of
Henrique; or, the Love Pilgrim," and played the hero with a success, that was at once acknowledged by the journals of the day. The dramatic force with which he rendered his ballads, distinguished him as an actor as well as a singer, and his popularity with the public is mainly due to this circumstance As the original Thaddeus in the “ Bohemian Girl,” he largely contributed to the opera's success; and as Adolf in Balfe's opera of the “ Daughter of St. Mark,” Bonnemour in Benedict's “ Crusaders,” and Don Cæsar de Bazan, in “Wallace's Maritana,” he firmly secured his position. In 1849, for upwards of forty nights, he played at the Princess's Don Giovanni ; and during the same season, acquired an increase of reputation by his able performance in Macfarren's brilliant
of “Charles II.” In 1851, he had a long engagement at the Haymarket; after which he returned to Drury Lane, and then on the 21st of August, 1854, he sailed from Liverpool to the United States, accompanied by Miss Louisa Pyne. This tour of an operatic company continued for three years, and attained the greatest success, and ended by the subject of this biographical sketch, returning to London and establishing at the Lyceum, and afterwards at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, or the Royal English opera, as it is now termed; a highly successful series of operatic performances, that have already effected much, to place our national proficiency in musical art on a level with that, 80 long believed to be of only foreign extraction.
MR. CHARLES KEAN.
MR. CHARLES John Kean, the son of that great but erratic genius, Edmund Kean, was born at Waterford, on the 18th of January, 1811. His first appearance on any stage was at Drury Lane Theatre, on the opening night of the season, October 1st, 1827, as Norval, in the tragedy of “Douglas.” His success was not encouraging; but when provincial practice had ripened his powers, he returned to the London stage, and steadily gained his present high position. After a profitable visit to America in 1830, he came to England again in 1833, and played once upon the stage of Covent Garden Theatre, with his father. Five years afterwards he was the recognised leading tragedian at Drury Lane. Paying another visit to America in 1839, he returned in June, 1840, to the Haymarket, and found his fame established. On the 29th of January, 1842, he was united in marriage to that amiable and accomplished actress, Miss Ellen Tree, and then for the third time made an American tour. In 1847 Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean returned to England, and in 1849 Mr. Kean was selected by Her Majesty to conduct a series of private performances at Windsor Castle. In 1850 Mr. Kean became lessee of the Princess's Theatre, and from that period till his farewell season of 1858, he has rendered this establishment one of the most agreeable and instructive places of resort in the metropolis, and his management the most triumphant vindication of the honours due to the dramatic art.
MR. CHARLES MATHEWS.
This admirable comedian, whose style of acting is peculiarly his own; and who, for buoyancy of spirit, gentlemanly ease, cool assurance, and rattling volubility, has no rival, was born December 26th, 1803. He was educated like a scholar and artist, having been originally destined by his father, who made his own name so distinguished in the dramatic world, for an architect; and pursuing his studies abroad, he acquired the continental languages thoroughly, and at the same time, enjoyed the advantages of mixing in the best society. His first appearance as an actor in public, was at the English Opera House, for the benefit of his friend, R. B. Peake, when he was only eighteen years of age; but his regular metropolitan debut was made at the Olympic Theatre, on the 7th of December, 1835, in the characters of George Rattleton in his own farce of the "Humpbacked Lover," and Tim Topple in Lemon Rede's “Old and Young Stager;" and on Wednesday, the 18th of July, 1838, Mr. Charles Mathews was married to Madam Vestris, at Kensington Church, and on the following Saturday they sailed for the United States. In the following December, Mr. Charles Mathews returned to England, reappeared at the Olympic; and the 30th of September, 1839, saw him lessee of Covent Garden Theatre. The speculation proved very disastrous in a pecuniary sense, and after fulfilling various engagements in town and country he again tried his fortunes as manager of the Lyceum which he opened in October, 1847. After struggling against the heavy expenses
of management, till 1853, he again found himself embarrassed, and accepted engagements at Drury Lane, and in the provinces. When the death of Madam Vestris occurred in 1856, he went to the Haymarket, and thence to America in the following year, returning with a new wife in October, 1858. Whenever he appears he is recognised as a popular favourite ; and the incessant difficulties with which he has had to contend, seem in no way to have checked a flow of animal spirits that he more abundantly displays than any other actor on the stage.