Honner, Robert William (DNB00)

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HONNER, ROBERT WILLIAM (1809–1852), actor and theatrical manager, youngest son of John Honner, solicitor, of the firm of Fletcher & Honner, of the parish of St. Anne, Soho, who died in 1817, was born at 24 Percy Street, Tottenham Court Road, London, on 18 Jan. 1809. He was educated at a private school at Pentonville, where Joseph Grimaldi the younger and Thomas Hamblin were his schoolfellows. His father gave up his profession to become proprietor of the Heathcock Tavern, Heathcock Court, close to the Sans Pareil Theatre (now the Adelphi) in the Strand. There Honner found opportunities for indulging his taste for theatricals. His father soon died, leaving his mother unprovided for. Robert in 1817 was articled for three years to Charles Leclercq, the ballet-master, and shortly after appeared for his master's benefit at the Sans Pareil in a ballet called ‘The Crown of Roses.’ In 1820 he went as a dancer with Mr. Kinloch to the Pantheon Theatre, Edinburgh; but the speculation was a failure, and he was left destitute. He visited the southern and western parts of England, then joined the corps de ballet at the Coburg Theatre, London, and in 1824 went to the Surrey. In 1825 Honner was again at the Coburg, and soon afterwards joined Andrew Ducrow, with whom he remained a long period, although he still went provincial tours, during which he played every character from leading business to harlequin, clown, and pantaloon. He acted subsequently at Sadler's Wells under Grimaldi (1827); at the Surrey first with Elliston, and then with Charles Elliston and D. W. Osbaldiston, and at the Old City Theatre in Milton Street under Benjamin Webster in 1829. At later dates he returned to the Coburg; was one of Davidge's company at Liverpool, was stage-manager for George Almar at Sadler's Wells (1833), and was lessee of Sadler's Wells, as well as acting-manager for Davidge at the Surrey, from 1835 to 1838. He also often appeared at the latter house at short notice for John Reeve, T. P. Cooke, and others who happened to be indisposed. As lessee of Sadler's Wells from 1838 to 1840 he tried to establish a taste for the legitimate drama. For Mrs. Davidge he managed the Surrey from 1842 to 1846, and after a short lease of the City of London Theatre in Norton Folgate he joined John Douglass as stage-manager of the Standard Theatre, where he remained till his death. He was a good actor, his chief rôles being Richmond, Laertes, Fag in ‘The Jew,’ Scrooge the Miser in the ‘Christmas Carol,’ and Jemmy Twitcher in the ‘Golden Farmer.’ He died at Nichols Square, Hackney Road, London, on 31 Dec. 1852. In the registration of his death he is called Robert Walter Honner.

His wife, Maria Honner (1812–1870), actress, born at Enniskillen, Ireland, 21 Dec. 1812, was daughter of Eugene Macarthy, actor and manager, who died in the Dramatic College at Maybury, Surrey, 14 May 1866, aged 78. Educated at Cork, she lost her mother at an early age, and being thrown on her own resources, with a younger brother to support, made a first appearance on the stage at a theatre in the south of Ireland. She afterwards played in Dublin, and as the hero of juvenile tragedy attracted the notice of Kean and Macready. Her first important character was Rosalie Somers, which she played to Edmund Kean. An engagement in Scotland followed, and she became a popular favourite. In 1831 she was engaged by John Farrell for the Pavilion Theatre, London, where for two seasons she was the leading attraction. In 1833 she transferred her services to the Coburg Theatre, and, on the retirement of G. B. Davidge the lessee, removed to Sadler's Wells, where Robert William Honner [q. v.] was the manager. After the successful termination of two seasons she went to the Surrey. In June 1835 she played with exceptional success Julia in the ‘Hunchback’ at Drury Lane for the benefit of ‘Jerry-Sneak Russell.’ On 21 May 1836 she married Honner. She continued acting with her husband at the Surrey until Whitsuntide 1838, when he became lessee of Sadler's Wells, where they played together for about five years with much success. At the request of Davidge she returned to the Surrey, where she remained until 17 Sept. 1845, and then went to the City of London Theatre. She was a good actress in pathetic rôles, and after the retirement of Mrs. Yates was for a time without a rival. She was excellent in many Shakespearean parts, as well as in Mary in ‘Paul the Pilot,’ Susan in the ‘Kohal Cave,’ Felix in the ‘French Revolution,’ and Clemency in Dickens's ‘Battle of Life.’ She died of paralysis at the residence of her second husband, Frederick Morton, stage-manager of Charing Cross Theatre, on 4 Jan. 1870.

[Theatrical Times, 27 March 1847, pp. 89–90, with portrait of R. W. Honner, and 10 Oct. 1846, pp. 137–8, with portrait of Mrs. Honner; Era, 2 Jan. 1853, p. 15, and 9 Jan. 1870, p. 5; Baker's London Stage (1889), ii. 211, 252; Cumberland's Minor Theatre, xv. 3–4, with portrait of Mrs. Honner; Actors by Gaslight, 4 Aug. 1838, pp. 121–2, with portrait of Mrs. Honner; Actors by Daylight, 24 Nov. 1838, pp. 305–6, with portrait of Mrs. Honner.]

G. C. B.