Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.
March 17 1789 to May 15 1833
In his time, Kean was regarded as the greatest actor ever.
Kean was probably the son of Edmund Kean and Anne Carey, which means there is a little uncertainty about his father. His mother being an actress, such was common. He first took the stage at age four. At around age 7 some benefactors paid for him to go to school, but then he shipped out of Portsmouth as a a cabin boy. He seemed to be able to fend for himself at an early age. Playing deaf and fooling the doctors, he was ably to return to England.
Now he sought out his uncle Moses Kean, who was a general entertainer who fought him Shakespeare. And Miss Charlotte Tidswell taught him acting. When Uncle Moses died Miss Tidswell took charge of him. The interpretations of Shakespeare that Kean now developed were different then those of John Phillip Kemble who was considered the greatest Shakespearean of the times. Kean was adopted for a short while by a Mrs. Clarke, but comments at her house caused him to leave and return to his old haunts.
At age 14 he played in York Theater for 20 nights including the role of Hamlet. He then went to Richardson’s Theater, a travelling company and the rumors of his skill reached King George III, who asked for a performance at Windsor Castle. After this he fell and broke both legs which from then on troubled him.
He continued to learn, dancing, music, and fencing. by 1807 he was performing in Belfast with Sarah Siddons who said he “played very, very well,” but that he was “a horrid little man.”
In 1808 he met and married Mary Chambers who bore him 2 sons.
Drury Lane beckoned in 1814 for they were on the brink of bankruptcy and wanted to try anything. He opened as Shylock on January 26th 1814 and roused the audience immediately. Then he played Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear. He was a triumph.
By 1817 Kean was such a power in the theatre that playwrights had to cater to him. The case of Charles Bucke and The Italians illustrates this that Kean, when in a contretemps with the playwright, could kill the play by his performance of it. A bad performance and a possibly good play was never to be seen again.
In 1820 Kean went to New York and gave his Richard III. In 1825 he was sued for adultery and the jury came in against Kean. His wife left him and now he was pelted with fruit on stage. He retired from performing in England.
He returned once more to America to perform, but here again, the audience received him poorly of this well publicized affair and the split with his wife. His return to England though saw that audience received him well, but he was addicted now to stimulants. He last performed Othello in 1833, his son Charles playing Iago. In act 3 scene iii, he was overcome and fell ill in the middle. He was dead in less than two months.
Previous Notables (Click to see the Blog):
There will be many other notables coming, a full and changing list can be found here on the blog as I keep adding to it. The list so far is:
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
John Phillip Kemble
Wellington (the Military man)
General Banastre Tarleton
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Sir Marc Brunel
Marquis of Stafford George Leveson-Gower
Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy
Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton
Henry Herbert Southey
Matthew Gregory Lewis
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley
Sir Walter Scott
Duke of Argyll, George William Campbell (1766-1839)
Lord Barrymore, Richard Barry (1769-1794)
Lord Bedford, Francis Russell (1765-1802)
Mr. G. Dawson Damer (1788-1856)
Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish (1748-1811)
Lord Foley, Thomas Foley (1780-1833)
Colonel George Hanger (c.1751-1824)
Lord Hertford, Francis Seymour-Ingram (1743-1822)
Lord Yarmouth, Francis Charles Seymour-Ingram (1777-1842)
Edward “Golden Ball” Hughes (1798-1863)
Earl of Jersey, George Bussey Villiers (1735-1805)
Sir John , John Lade (1759-1838)
Duke of Norfolk, Charles Howard (1746-1815)
Duke of York , Frederick Augustus Hanover (1763-1827)
Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1785 as Duc d’ Orleans (1747-1793)
Louis Philippe, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1793 as Duc d’ Orleans (1773-1850)
Captain John (Jack) Willett Payne (1752-1803)
Viscount Petersham, Charles Stanhope(1780-1851)
Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas (1724-1810)
Duke of Rutland, John Henry Manners(1778-1857)
Lord Sefton, William Philip Molyneux (1772-1838)
Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (1759-1801)
Sir Lumley St. George Skeffington Baronet (1771 – 1850)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1766-1835)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1792-1853)
Hon. Frederick Gerald aka “Poodle” Byng
Patronesses of Almacks
Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper
Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey
Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton
Mrs. Drummond Burrell
Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador Countess Esterhazy, wife of the Austrian Ambassador