Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Fechter, Charles Albert

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FECHTER, Charles Albert, actor, b. in London, England, 23 Oct., 1824; d. near Quakertown, Pa., 5 Aug., 1879. His father was of German parentage, but born in France. His mother was an Englishwoman. Charles was taken to France at an early age and there educated. He gave himself for a time to the study and practice of the sculptor's art, but had a natural inclination for the stage, and made his début at the Salle Molière in 1840 in a piece called “Le Mari de la Veuve.” After a tour of the principal cities and visiting Italy, he went in 1844 to Berlin, where he had great success as Duval in “La dame aux Camelias.” After performing in London in French, he appeared in an English version of “Ruy Blas” at the Princess theatre, 27 Oct., 1860. In the following year, 20 March, at the same house, he astonished and perplexed London playgoers by his marvellous impersonation of Hamlet in English. It was not the Hamlet to which they had been accustomed, but was nevertheless a grand conception well carried out. In the following October he appeared as Othello, producing a similar effect. He became lessee of the Lyceum in January, 1863, and brought out in succession “The Duke's Motto,” “Bell Demonio,” and “The Long Strike.” Claude Melnotte, in the “Lady of Lyons,” became one of his favorite characters. He came to the United States at the close of 1869, and appeared at Niblo's in the character of Hamlet. A few nights before he had seen Edwin Booth in the same character, and had been singularly demonstrative in his approval. His own impersonation of the character was very different, but it was well received. The large audience was enthusiastic, and the critics sought for merits rather than faults. After a tour through the states he returned to Europe. He again visited the United States in 1872, having determined to make this country his home. Wherever he appeared he commanded large audiences and almost fabulous prices; but his American career was not a success in the full sense of the word. As a manager in Boston he failed. As a place of retreat, when not on starring engagements, he purchased a farm in the village of Richmond, Bucks co., three miles from Quakertown, Pa., and in the company of Lizzie Price, whom he had married, he there spent most of his time. He became very corpulent, which unfitted him for some of his favorite characters. He contracted an incurable malady, and, after considerable suffering, died on his farm. As an actor he despised all stage conventionalities, but was sympathetic and realistic. If he had had more restraining, more self-governing power, he would have been greater as an actor and as a man.