Wallack, James William (DNB00)
|←Wallace, William Vincent||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
Wallack, James William
|Wallensis, John (fl.1215)→|
WALLACK, JAMES WILLIAM (1791?–1864), actor, second son of William Wallack (d. 6 March 1850, at Clarendon Square, London, aged 90), a member of Philip Astley's company, and of his wife, Elizabeth Field Granger, also an actress, was born at Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, most probably in 1791 (other accounts have it that he was born on 17 or 20 Aug. 1794). His youngest sister, Elizabeth, was mother of Mrs. Alfred Wigan [see Wigan, Alfred].
His brother, Henry John Wallack (1790–1870), born in 1790, acted in America about 1821, and appeared at Drury Lane on 26 Oct. 1829 as Julius Cæsar to his brother's Mark Antony. Subsequently he was stage-manager at Covent Garden. He died in New York on 30 Aug. 1870. He played Pizarro, Lord Lovell in ‘A New Way to pay Old Debts,’ O'Donnell in ‘Henri Quatre,’ Buckingham in ‘Henry VIII,’ and other parts, and was on 28 Nov. 1829 the first Major O'Simper in ‘Follies of Fashion,’ by the Earl of Glengall. He married Miss Turpin, an actress at the Haymarket. In America he was received as Hamlet, Sir Peter Teazle, Sir Anthony Absolute, and many other parts. As a child James William was on the stage with other members of his father's family, at the Royal Circus, now the Surrey Theatre, in 1798, in the pantomime, and in 1804 he played as ‘a young Roscius’ at the German Theatre in Leicester Square, subsequently known as Dibdin's Sans Souci. Sheridan is said to have recommended him to Drury Lane, where his name as Master James Wallack appears in 1807 to Negro Boy in the pantomime of ‘Furibond, or Harlequin Negro.’ On 10 Nov. 1808 he was, as Master Wallack, the first Egbert in Hooks's ‘Siege of St. Quintin.’ He then went for three years to Dublin, and on 10 Oct. 1812 he was, at the newly erected buildings at Drury Lane, Laertes to Elliston's Hamlet. His name appears the following season to Charles Stanley in ‘A Cure for the Heartache,’ Cleveland in the ‘School for Authors,’ Sidney in ‘Man of the World,’ Dorewky, a chief of robbers, an original part in Brown's ‘Narensky, or the Road to Yaroslaf,’ and he was the first Kaunitz in Arnold's ‘Woodman's Hut.’ As Edward Lacey in ‘Riches,’ he supported Kean in his first engagement. He was the first Theodore in Arnold's ‘Jean de Paris’ on 1 Nov. 1814, and Alwyn in Mrs. Wilmot's ‘Ina’ on 22 April 1815, and played Malcolm in ‘Macbeth,’ Altamont in the ‘Fair Penitent,’ Plastic in ‘Town and Country,’ Aumerle in ‘Richard II,’ Captain Woodville in the ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ Frederick in the ‘Jew,’ and Bertrand in the ‘Foundling of the Forest,’ in many of these parts supporting Kean. He was on 20 May the original Maclean in Joanna Baillie's ‘Family Legend,’ and played other original parts of little interest. While remaining at Drury Lane he was seen as Colonel Lambert in the ‘Hypocrite,’ Anhalt in ‘Lovers' Vows,’ Axalla in ‘Tamerlane,’ Loveless in ‘Trip to Scarborough,’ Tiberio in the ‘Duke of Milan,’ Wellbred in ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ Joseph in ‘School for Scandal,’ Captain Absolute, Norfolk in ‘Richard III,’ Alcibiades in ‘Timon of Athens,’ Iago, Lovewell in ‘Clandestine Marriage,’ Rugantino, Young Clifford in ‘Richard, Duke of York, or the Contention between York and Lancaster,’ compiled from the three parts of ‘Henry VI,’ Don Lodowick in Penley's alteration of Marlowe's ‘Jew of Malta,’ Faulconbridge, Lysimachus in ‘Alexander the Great,’ and other parts. During his engagement, which seems to have finished in 1818, he played, among many other original characters, Sedgemore in Tobin's ‘Guardians,’ 5 Nov. 1816; Torrismond in Maturin's ‘Manuel,’ 8 March 1817; Richard in Soane's ‘Innkeeper's Daughter,’ founded on ‘Mary, the Maid of the Inn,’ 7 April, and Dougal in Soane's ‘Rob Roy the Gregarach,’ 23 March 1818. His chief success was as Wilford in the ‘Iron Chest.’ He also gave imitations.
Wallack's début on the American stage was made on 7 Sept. 1818 at the Park Theatre, New York, as Macbeth. He was seen in many important parts, and returned to London, reopening at Drury Lane on 20 Nov. 1820 as Hamlet. He played Brutus in Payne's ‘Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin,’ and in ‘Julius Cæsar;’ Rolla in ‘Pizarro,’ in which he established his reputation; Coriolanus Montalto, an original part in ‘Montalto,’ 8 Jan. 1821; Richard III; Israel Bertuccio at the first production of Byron's ‘Marino Faliero,’ 25 April; Artaxerxes, and Shylock ‘after the manner of Kean’ in the trial scene from the ‘Merchant of Venice.’ He was seen also in one or two original parts. In June 1821 he incurred some resentment on the part of the audience on account of alleged disrespect to Queen Caroline. His reception, except as Rolla, was cold, and he returned to America. Through an accident to a stage-coach he sustained a compound fracture of the leg, which laid him up for eighteen months and impaired his figure. Reappearing in New York in 1822, he played on crutches Captain Bertram, an old sailor, in Dibdin's ‘Birthday,’ then, as Dick Dashall, dispensed with their aid. On 14 July 1823 he was, at the English Opera House (Lyceum), Roderick Dhu in the ‘Knight of Snowdon;’ on the 28th he was the Student in ‘Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein.’ As Falkland in the ‘Rivals’ he reappeared at Drury Lane in the autumn of 1823 with the added duties of stage-manager, a post he retained for many years. He supported Macready and Kean in many parts, and played others, including Icilius, Ghost in ‘Hamlet,’ Macduff, Florizel, Hastings in ‘Jane Shore,’ Ford, Edgar, Charalois in Massinger's ‘Fatal Dowry,’ Henri Quatre, Valentine in ‘Love for Love,’ Romeo, Charles Surface, Rob Roy, Mortimer, Don Felix in the ‘Wonder,’ Young Norval, Petruchio, and Doricourt. He was the original Earl of Leicester in ‘Kenilworth,’ 5 Jan. 1824; Count Manfred in ‘Massaniello,’ 17 Feb. 1825; Richard Cœur de Lion in ‘Knights of the Cross,’ an adaptation of the ‘Talisman,’ Alessandro Massaroni in the ‘Brigand,’ adapted by Planché from ‘Scribe,’ 18 Nov. 1829; and Martin Heywood in Jerrold's ‘Rent Day,’ 25 Jan. 1832.
In 1832 Wallack went once more to America, and in 1837 was manager of the National Theatre, New York. On 31 Aug. 1840 he reappeared in London at the Haymarket, where he seems to have been stage-manager, as Don Felix in the ‘Wonder,’ and on 11 Sept. played Young Dornton in the ‘Road to Ruin’ to the Dornton of Phelps. He then went to Dublin, which place he had previously visited in or near 1826, and played Martin Heywood. In 1841 he was again at the Haymarket, then for the fifth time crossed to America, having suffered severe loss by the burning of the National Theatre. On 8 Oct. 1844, in Don Cæsar de Bazan, adapted by Gilbert à Beckett and Mark Lemon, he rose at the Princess's in London to the height of his popularity. In September 1845 he was back at the Park Theatre, New York. From this time he remained in America, acting in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and elsewhere, and spending much time at ‘the Hut,’ a prettily situated seat at Long Branch, where he exercised a liberal hospitality. In September 1852 he assumed control of Brougham's Lyceum on Broadway, which he renamed Wallack's Theatre, and in 1861 built the second Wallack's Theatre on Broadway at Thirteenth Street. He suffered severely from gout, and died on 25 Dec. 1864. He eloped with and married in 1817 a daughter of John Henry Johnstone [q. v.]; she predeceased him, dying in London in 1851.
Wallack belonged to the school of Kemble, whom, according to Talfourd, he imitated, copying much ‘of his dignity of movement and majesty of action.’ He had, however, little fervid enthusiasm or touching pathos. Joseph Jefferson praises his Alessandro, Massaroni, and Don Cæsar de Bazan. Thackeray when in New York on his last visit was much taken with his Shylock. The ‘Dramatic and Musical Review’ speaks of him as the ‘king of melodrama,’ and praises highly his Joseph Surface, Charles Surface, Captain Absolute, Tom Shuffleton, Wilford, Martin Heywood, and Alessandro Massaroni. Macready praises his Charalois, and he delighted Fanny Kemble in the ‘Rent Day.’ Oxberry declares that he was indifferent in tragedy, admirable in melodrama, and always pleasing and delightful in light comedy, in which, however, the spectator was always sensible of a hidden want.
Portraits of him in the Garrick Club, not forming part of the Mathews collection, show him a dark, handsome man. A portrait of him as Ford accompanies a memoir in the ‘Theatrical Times,’ vol. i.; one as Alessandro Massaroni, a second memoir in the ‘Dramatic Magazine;’ and a third as Charalois is given in Oxberry's ‘Dramatic Biography.’ Sketches of him in character by Millais are in existence in America, and are reproduced with other portraits in his son's ‘Memories of Fifty Years’ (1889).
His son, John Johnstone Wallack (1819–1888), known to the public as Lester Wallack, was born in New York on 31 Dec. 1819, and played with his father in Bath and elsewhere. His first appearance was as Angelo in ‘Tortesa the Usurer,’ by N. P. Willis. He was for some time at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, and played Benedick to the Rosalind of Helen Faucit in Manchester. His first appearance in London was at the Haymarket, in a piece called ‘The Little Devil.’ On 27 Sept. 1847, as Sir Charles Coldstream in ‘Used up,’ he opened at the Broadway Theatre, New York. His career belongs to America, where he played a great number of parts, principally in light comedy, including Doricourt, Rover, Claude Melnotte, Wildrake, Bassanio, Captain Absolute, and Sir Benjamin Backbite. He married a sister of Sir John Everett Millais, and died near Stamford, Connecticut, on 6 Sept. 1888. A year later there was published posthumously in New York his ‘Memories of Fifty Years,’ which gives details of his American career.[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Dramatic Mag.; Oxberry's Dramatic Biography; Theatrical Times; Era newspaper, 15 Jan. 1865; Dramatic and Musical Review, vol. viii.; Era Almanack, various years; Clark Russell's Representative Actors; Macready's Reminiscences; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Thespian Mag.; New Monthly Mag. various years; Dibdin's Edinburgh Theatre; Forster and Lewis's Dramatic Essays; Gent. Mag. 1865, i. 387; Lester Wallack's Memories of Fifty Years; Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson.]