Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day/J. L. Toole

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The eminent comedian, Mr. John Laurence Toole, is a native of the city of London, and was born, as he sometimes jokingly says, 'of poor but dishonest parents, you know,' in the year 1831. He is the son of the late celebrated toastmaster, who distinguished himself as much by his 'Silence, gentlemen, if you please,' and by his good and genial qualities, as his son has since done on the boards.

Mr. Toole received his education at the City of London School, and was removed thence at the usual age to become a clerk in a merchant's office, His taste for the drama appears to have developed itself very early in life, for at this time he became a member of the 'City Histrionic Club,' where he soon became very popular. The appearances of the amateur actor were hailed with applause at several metropolitan literary institutions, where he performed in various characters. His successes at Walworth, Aldersgate-street, Hackney, Crosby Hall, and other places, caused Mr. Toole to lay down his pen and put on the buskin as a professional actor.

His first appearance on the stage of a regular theatre was at Ipswich, on the occasion of a benefit, where— under an assumed name—he played the part of Silvester Daggerwood. This assumption was completely successful. On his return to town, Mr. Toole played as an amateur at the Haymarket, for Mr. F. Webster's benefit, taking the character of Simmons in the 'Spitalfields Weaver.' After this performance he gave up his commercial pursuits, and took to the stage for good.

His debut as a professional was made at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin, on the 2d of October 1852—now twenty years ago. Since that date Mr. Toole's career has been a series of successes. From Dublin, where he was well received, Mr. Toole went to Edinburgh, and thence to Glasgow.

In London his first engagement was at the St. James's Theatre, then


under the management of Mrs. Seymour. Here he played in 'My Friend the Major,' 'Boots at the Swan,' 'Honours before Titles'—in all of which his rendering of the characters he portrayed was perfectly satisfactory to audiences and critics.

A reengagement took him to Edinburgh, after which he appeared at the Lyceum, and made a success of the character of Fanfarronade in 'Belphegor.'

After a provincial tour, Mr. Toole commenced an engagement at the Adelphi, and played with the greatest success in 'Ici on Parle Français,' 'Willow Copse,' 'Birthplace of Podgers,' 'Good for Nothing,' 'Bengal Tiger,' and other pieces.

At the Adelphi, great successes were made in the adaptation of 'The Haunted Man' by his performance of Mr. Tetterby, and of a frightened servant in a miserable piece by Mr. Boucicault, called ' The Phantom.' The character saved the piece. After leaving the Adelphi Theatre, Mr. Toole became a member of Mr. W. H. Liston's company at the new Queen's, and contributed largely to the success of that undertaking in the production of several important original dramas, among which perhaps the most notable was that of Mr. Byron's 'Dearer than Life,' in which the actor's representation of Michael Garner again presented him to the public as the legitimate successor of the late Mr. Robson. The popularity of this drama has been very great, and it still continues to be a great attraction, not only through Mr. Toole's provincial engagements, but also when put forward in London, as it still occasionally is. Another successful production was that of the play of 'Not Guilty,' in which Mr. Toole had a prominent character. Nor should we forget a most admirable performance of his in the charming little drama called 'The Poor Nobleman,' which greatly contributed to the success of the piece. Space will not allow of our following Mr. Toole through those many original pieces in which the public have indorsed his qualities as an actor; but we must mention with a special word of praise the performance of Dick Dolland, in 'Uncle Dick's Darling;' and of John Lockwood, in the later drama called 'Wait and Hope,' produced a season or two back at the Gaiety.

Mr. Toole is almost unrivalled in his line at present. In comedy and farce, in humour and pathos, his acting is excellent. He is always amusing, often affecting. There are no parts that show him to greater advantage than such characters as Caleb Plummer in 'Dot,' or Harry Coke in 'Off the Line.' Of this impersonation, Mr. Toole makes one of those perfect pictures of everyday life of the lower class in which he has so often proved himself a consummate artist. But in low comedy and broad farce it would be difficult to find an actor of equal merit. He has identified himself of late with the character of Paul Pry, in Poole's celebrated play of that name. As Paul Pry he keeps his audience in a roar whenever he is on the stage; but he renders the character of the inquisitive gentleman in a quiet and unobtrusive way, quite original in itself. In Mr. Toole's hands, Paul's curiosity is a disease. He does not know of his peculiarity, and his 'I hope I don't intrude,' and 'I just dropped in,' fall not as gag phrases, but as the natural remarks of a man who feels the importance of his business must make his company desirable, or at all events tolerable.

Although, perhaps, the character is not naturally so well suited to Mr. Toole as many others of his well-known parts, he has completely made Paul his own. It is a part in which the actor mellows with time. Mr. Toole has played it many times, and his representation of the prying gossip is now admirable. It is one of the most finished and perfect of his efforts: from the beginning to the end of the piece he seems never to miss a single point.