Harley, George Davies (DNB00)

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HARLEY, GEORGE DAVIES, whose real name was Davies (d. 1811), actor and author, was, according to one account, a tailor ; according to a second, a banker's clerk, and afterwards a clerk in lottery offices. He received lessons from John Henderson [q. v.], and made his first appearance on the stage as Richard III on 20 April 1785 at Norwich. Becoming known as the Norwich Roscius, he was engaged by Harris for Covent Garden, where he appeared as Richard 25 Sept. 1789. In the course of this and two or three following seasons he played Shylock, Touchstone, King Lear, Macbeth, &c., and took original characters in ill-starred plays of Hayley and other writers. Finding that his salary did not increase, and that he was allowed to decline on a lower order of character, he withdrew into the country, but soon returned to Covent Garden, where he remained for four seasons. He then once more went into the country and played old men in comedy with success at Bristol in 1796-9, and afterwards at Birmingham, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, and elsewhere. In 1802 he supported Mrs. Siddons in her farewell visit to Dublin. According to Wewitzer, an untrustworthy authority, he died at Leicester, 28 Nov. 1811. He never rose above being a useful actor.

His writings consist of: 1. 'A Monody on the Death of Mr. John Henderson, late of Covent Garden Theatre,' Norwich, 4to, 1787. 2. 'Poems by George Davies Harley, of the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Printed for the author (by subscription),' 8vo, 1796. 3. 'Ballad Stories, Sonnets,' &c., vol. i. Bath, 1799, 12mo. 4. 'Holyhead Sonnets,' 12mo, Bath, 1800. 5. 'An Authentic Biographical Sketch of the Life, Education, and Personal Character of William Henry West Betty, the Celebrated Young Roscius,' London, 1802, 8vo. 6. 'The Fight off Trafalgar,' a descriptive poem, Sheffield and London, 4to, 1806. His poems have all the faults of the age ; the monody on Henderson imitates Gray's 'Elegy.' His sonnets are in fourteen lines, but have no other claim to the title. Among his poems the longest are 'To Night,' and 'A Legacy of Love,' to his son aged 4, whom he calls George the second, his predecessor being dead. With the exception of No. 3, 'Ballad Stories,' these works are in the British Museum. Portraits of Harley by De Wilde, as Caled in the 'Siege of Damascus' and as Lusignan in 'Zara,' are in the Mathews Collection at the Garrick Club.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage ; Thespian Diet. ; Grilliland's Dramatic Mirror ; Crosby's Pocket Companion to the Playhouse, 1796; Wewitzer's Dramatic Eeminiscences ; Dramatic Chronology.]

J. K.