Bernard, William Bayle (DNB00)

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BERNARD, WILLIAM BAYLE (1807–1876), English dramatist, by birth an American, but a British subject and the son of British parents, was born on 27 Nov. 1807 at Boston, where his father, John Bernard [q, v.], was then manager of the theatre. In 1820 his family returned to England, and he completed his education at a school at Uxbridge. In 1826 he was appointed to a clerkship in the army accounts oftice by Canning, whose mother had been a leading actress in the elder Bernard's company at Plymouth. The office was abolished in 1830, and young Bernard was thrown upon his resources. He had already begun to write for the stage, having in 1827 produced his nautical drama, 'The Pilot,' for which he received 3l., and when the piece reached the hundredth night 2l. more, 'to prompt him to further exertions.' In 1828 he wrote a novel, 'The Freebooter's Bride,' in five volumes, a production of the Minerva Press school; and in 1829 he compiled 'Retrospections of the Stage' from memoranda left by his father, bringing the life of the latter down to his departure for America in 1797. In 1830 he became a professional dramatist, and produced plays and farces with such rapidity that, notwithstanding an eight year interruption of his dramatic labours, the total number amounted to 114. Many were written for America, and not half have been printed. The best-known are: 'Rip Van Winkle,' 1832; 'The Nervous Man,' 1833; 'The Man about Town,' 1836; 'Marie Ducange,' 1837; 'His Last Legs,' 1839; 'The Warding School,' 1841; and 'The Round of Wrong.' 1846. His last piece was 'The Doge of Venice,' 1867. He collaborated with Dr. Westland Marston in the production of 'Trevanion,' 1849, and wrote much dramatic and other criticism for the press. In 1874 he published the biography of Samuel Lover, an uninteresting book, owing to the entire dearth of material. He died at Brighton on 6 Aug. 1875. Bernard was a highly accomplished man, a prolific and efficient playwright, an excellent dramatic critic, thoughtful, studious, and interested in serious subjects.

[Men of the Time, 9th ed.; Era Newspaper; private information.]

R. G.