Vandenhoff, John M. (DNB00)
|←Vandeleur, John Ormsby||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
Vandenhoff, John M.
VANDENHOFF, JOHN M. (1790–1861), actor, was born in Salisbury—where his family, of Dutch extraction, coming over, it is said, in the train of William of Orange, appear to have been dyers—on 31 March 1790, and was educated at the Jesuits' college, Stonyhurst, with a view to the priesthood. For a year he taught classics in a school. His first appearance on the stage was at Salisbury, on 11 May 1808, as Osmond in the ‘Castle Spectre.’ After playing at Exeter, Weymouth, and elsewhere, with Edmund Kean, and at Swansea with John Cooper, he made his first appearance at Bath on 9 Oct. 1813 as Jaffier in ‘Venice Preserved,’ to the Pierre of Young and the Belvidera of Mrs. Campbell [see Wallis, Miss]. During the season 1813–14 he played Alcanor in ‘Mahomet,’ Freehold in ‘Country Lasses,’ Malvogli in the ‘Doubtful Son,’ and King Henry in the ‘First Part of Henry IV,’ and was the first Fernando in ‘Zulieman, or Love and Penitence,’ a two-act musical drama, on 12 March 1814, and Prince Palatine in Reynolds's ‘Orphan of the Castle’ on 17 March. In 1814 he was a member of the company at the English Opera House (Lyceum) under Arnold, where, on 4 Aug., he was the original Count d'Herleim in ‘Frederick the Great.’ The same year he made, as Rolla, his first appearance in Liverpool, where he became a great favourite, playing also in Manchester, Dublin, and elsewhere. On 9 Dec. 1820, as Vandenhoff from Liverpool, he made as Lear his first appearance at Covent Garden. He had got rid of an awkwardness that before had afflicted him, and made a good impression. During the season he was seen as Sir Giles Overreach, Coriolanus, Pizarro, and Rolla. Rob Roy, Gambia in the ‘Slave,’ and Mirandola were played for Macready, who was ill. He was also the first Durard in ‘Henriette, or the Farm of Senange,’ on 23 Feb. 1821, and Leicester in ‘Kenilworth’ on 8 March. He retired in some disgust at the treatment he received from his manager, and his name does not appear the following season. On 6 Jan. 1822 he appeared in Edinburgh as Coriolanus, returning on 2 Jan. 1826 as Macbeth, and again in February 1830, when he played Cassius and Othello. He was a favourite in Edinburgh, where his Coriolanus inspired great enthusiasm. He appears to have played there many consecutive years between January and March, his characters including, in addition to those named, Brutus, Cato, Creon, Adrastus, and Macheath. In 1834 he was seen at the Haymarket in Hamlet. In 1835–6 he played at both Drury Lane and Covent Garden, alternate nights being given to opera. On the transference of Talfourd's ‘Ion’ from Covent Garden to the Haymarket, 8 Aug. 1836, he played Adrastus—on the whole, according to Macready, a ‘very tiresome’ performance. Among his original characters were Eleazer in the ‘Jewess’ in the season of 1835–6, Louis XIV in Bulwer's ‘Duchesse de la Vallière’ (Covent Garden, 4 Jan. 1837), and Pym in Browning's ‘Strafford’ on 1 May. Of his performance in the character last named John Forster in the ‘Examiner’ said that ‘he was positively nauseous with his whining, drawling, and slouching.’ The same critic said, however, of Vandenhoff's Creon in ‘Antigone’ that it was performed with ‘solid dignity and picturesque effect.’ Later in 1837 Vandenhoff fulfilled an engagement in America.
When Macready opened Covent Garden on 24 Sept. 1838, Vandenhoff was a member of the company. He played Penruddock, The Stranger, Virginius, Master Walter in the ‘Hunchback,’ Richelieu, Falconbridge, Cassius, Hotspur, and many other parts. After 1839, when Macready's management of Covent Garden closed, Vandenhoff played chiefly in the country, although he was seen occasionally at Drury Lane.
In January 1857 Vandenhoff, with his daughter, paid a starring visit to Edinburgh, bidding it farewell on 26 Feb. as Wolsey in ‘Henry VIII,’ Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Irving playing Surrey. On 29 Oct. of the next year (1858), at Liverpool, he took farewell of the stage as Brutus and Wolsey, and died on 4 Oct. 1861 at North Bank of paralysis.
Upon Vandenhoff's first appearance in London the ‘New Monthly Magazine’ described him as possessor of a tall figure, intelligent but not strongly marked features, and a voice sufficiently powerful but rather of a coarse quality.’ His Overreach was said to be pitched in too low a key, but to display judgment. His Coriolanus and Rolla were praised highly; but he was declared to be an imitator of Kemble. The ‘Literary Gazette’ ‘damns with faint praise’ his Richard III. Westland Marston credits him with great dignity, and with thinking out happily his characters, praising highly his Coriolanus and Creon, but speaking of his Othello and Macbeth as deficient in pathos and passion. His Iago is said to have had a mask of impulsive light-heartedness and bonhomie, and a ‘sort of detestable gaiety in his soliloquies and asides.’ The portraits in theatrical papers of the first half of the century convey no idea of Vandenhoff's appearance. His face is said to have been fair and somewhat expressionless.
Vandenhoff left several children, most of whom appeared sooner or later upon the stage. A son George, born on 18 Feb. 1820, acted at Covent Garden (1839–40), and in 1853 he appeared for a short while as Hamlet at the Haymarket; but he soon migrated to America, and obtained a reputation in New York as an actor and teacher of elocution, and as the writer of a volume of theatrical anecdotes, ‘Dramatic Reminiscences’ (London, 1860; New York, 1860, with the title ‘Leaves from an Actor's Note Book’).
The only one of Vandenhoff's children to obtain celebrity upon the English stage was his daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth Vandenhoff (1818–1860), who made her first appearance at Drury Lane as Juliet on 11 April 1836. She went thence to Covent Garden and the Haymarket, and succeeded in establishing herself as a capable actress in parts in which delicacy and feeling rather than strength or passion were required. She won acceptance as Imogen, Cordelia, Pauline in the ‘Lady of Lyons,’ Julia in the ‘Hunchback,’ and Margaret Elmar in ‘Love's Sacrifice;’ was in 1837 at the Haymarket the first Lydia in Knowles's ‘Love Chase,’ had an original part in Henry Spicer's ‘Honesty,’ and was in 1851 the original Parthenia in Mrs. Lovell's ‘Ingomar.’ Her chief triumph was as Antigone in a translation from Sophocles at Covent Garden on 2 Jan. 1845, in which her father played Creon. She was taxed with being stilted in the early scenes, but in the later made a creditable display of pathos. On 15 Jan. 1855 she was at the St. James's Alcestis in a translation by Spicer from Euripides. She was fair in hair and complexion, symmetrical, with gentle mobile features, and was taxed, perhaps unjustly, with imitating Helen Faucit. Miss Vandenhoff retained her maiden name to the last, though she married, on 7 July 1856 by license at St. Mary's Church, Hull, Thomas Swinbourne, an actor well known in the country, and not unknown in London. This marriage she sought within a month to repudiate. She was taken ill in Birmingham, and died on 26 July 1860. She was the author of ‘Woman's Heart,’ produced in 1852 at the Haymarket, a comedy in which she herself played the heroine.[Tallis's Dramatic Mag.; Vandenhoff's Dramatic Reminiscences: Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Macready's Reminiscences; Mrs. Baron Wilson's Our Actresses; Actors by Daylight; Archer's Macready; Westland Marston's Our Recent Actors; Stirling's Old Drury Lane; Era Newspaper, 13 Oct. 1861, 5 Aug. 1860; Dramatical and Musical Review, various years; Era Almanack, various years; Clark Russell's Representative Actors; Forster and Lewis's Dramatic Essays; New Monthly Mag. 1820; Men of the Reign; Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage; The Players, 1860; Gent. Mag. 1861, pt. ii. p. 376; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. xii. 147, 210, 270.]