1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm

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TREE, SIR HERBERT BEERBOHM (1853–), English actor and manager, was born in London, on the 17th of December 1853, the son of Julius Beerbohm, a London merchant of German parentage; his half-brother, Max Beerbohm (b. 1872), became well known as a dramatic critic, a miscellaneous writer and caricaturist. Taking the stage name of Beerbohm Tree he made his first professional appearance in London in 1876. After some years of varied experience he made a striking success in 1884 as the curate in The Private Secretary, but he was making himself well known meanwhile in dramatic circles as an admirable actor in many roles. In September 1887 he became lessee and manager of the Haymarket theatre, London, where his representations of melodramatic “character” parts, as in Jim the Penman, The Red Lamp, and A Man’s Shadow, were highly successful. His varied talents as an actor were displayed, however, not only in a number of modern dramas, such as H. A. Jones’s Dancing Girl, but also in romantic parts such as Gringoire, and in the production of so essentially a literary play as Henley’s Beau Austin; and in classic parts his ability as a comedian was shown in The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which he played Falstaff, and as a tragedian in Hamlet; his presentations of Shakespeare were notable too as carrying forward the methods of realistic staging inaugurated at the Lyceum under Irving. In 1897 Mr Tree moved to the new Her Majesty’s (afterwards His Majesty’s) theatre, opening with Gilbert Parker’s Seats of the Mighty; but his chief successes were in Stephen Phillips’s poetical dramas, and in his splendid revivals of Shakespeare (especially Richard II. and the Merchant of Venice). The magnificence of the mounting, the originality and research shown in the “business” of his productions, and his own versatility in so many different types of character, made his management memorable in the history of the London stage; and on the death of Sir Henry Irving he was generally recognized as the leader in his profession. His wife (Maud Holt), an accomplished actress, and their daughter Viola, were also prominently associated with him. In 1907 he took his company to Berlin at the invitation of the German emperor, and gave a selection from his repertoire with great success. In the same year he established a school of dramatic art, for the training of actors, in London; and in this and other ways he was prominent in forwarding the interests of the stage. He was knighted in 1909.