Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Young, Charles Mayne

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683517Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63 — Young, Charles Mayne1900John Joseph Knight

YOUNG, CHARLES MAYNE (1777–1856), comedian, the son of Thomas Young, a surgeon of some eminence, by his wife Anna, was born in Fenchurch Street, London, on 10 Jan. 1777. He spent 1786 in Copenhagen with his father's sister Mary, married to Professor Müller, a court physician of Denmark, and he acquired the friendly patronage subsequently maintained of the royal family of Denmark. On his return he was sent to Eton, where he remained three years, and afterwards in 1791–2 to Merchant Taylors'. Young's father is depicted as a brutal and debauched tyrant who treated his family with great cruelty, and at length brought another woman into the place of his wife. The entire family took refuge with a maiden sister of Mrs. Young, by whom they were reared with some difficulty.

Charles Mayne Young became a clerk in a well-known city house, Loughnan & Co. After playing at one or two small theatres as an amateur he appeared under the name of Green at Liverpool in 1798 as Douglas. Emboldened by success, he took his own name, and accepted in Manchester an engagement to play leading business. After acting in Liverpool and Glasgow he made his first appearance in Edinburgh on 23 Jan. 1802 as Doricourt in the ‘Belle's Stratagem.’ He played during the entire season, and was taken up by Scott, whose friendship he retained, and with whom he more than once stayed. Lockhart says that Young was the first actor of whom Scott saw much. So early as 1803 Scott calls him his friend. Returning to Liverpool, Young found as his leading lady Miss Julia Ann Grimani, a descendant of the famous Venetian family of the name, whom he married at St. Anne's Church, Liverpool, on 9 March 1805. Miss Grimani made her first appearance on any stage at Bath on 16 April 1800 as Euphrasia in the ‘Grecian Daughter.’ After playing a season or two in Bath, she was at the Haymarket in 1803 and 1804, where she was Mrs. Haller in the ‘Stranger,’ Virginia in ‘Paul and Virginia,’ Miss Richland in the ‘Good-natured Man,’ and Miranda in the ‘Busybody.’ She died of puerperal fever, at the reputed age of twenty-one, on 17 July 1806, after giving birth to a son, Julian Charles. She was buried in Prestwich churchyard.

Young, who had had some share in management in Manchester and elsewhere, after some negotiations with Colman, came to London in 1807 and made, on 22 June at the Haymarket, his first appearance, playing Hamlet, in which, though he had to stand injurious comparisons with Kemble, he won acceptance. He was also seen as Octavian in the ‘Mountaineers,’ Don Felix in the ‘Wonder,’ the Stranger, Osmond in the ‘Castle Spectre,’ Hotspur, Frederick in the ‘Poor Gentleman,’ Petruchio, Gondibert in the ‘Battle of Hexham,’ Sir Edward Mortimer in the ‘Iron Chest,’ Harry Dornton in the ‘Road to Ruin,’ Eustace de Saint Pierre in the ‘Surrender of Calais,’ Penruddock in the ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ and Rolla in ‘Pizarro,’ parts in which he had had country practice; and was on 13 Aug. the first Frank Woodland in T. Dibdin's unprinted ‘Errors Excepted.’ In the two following seasons he was Zanga in the ‘Revenge,’ Old Wilmot in ‘Fatal Curiosity,’ Zorinski in a piece so named, Duke in Tobin's ‘Honeymoon,’ Leon in ‘Rule a Wife and have a Wife,’ Falkland in the ‘Rivals,’ Durimel in ‘Point of Honour,’ and George Barnwell; and was the original Selico in Colman's ‘Africa’ on 29 July 1808, and the Count de Valmont in Dimond's ‘Foundling of the Forest’ on July 1809. He had in the season of 1807–1808 and 1808–9 been at Bath appearing as Hamlet on 3 Oct. 1807, and playing Leon, Ranger, and Young Mirabel in the ‘Inconstant.’

On 10 Nov. 1808, as the original Daran in Reynolds's ‘Exile,’ he appeared for the first time as a member of the Covent Garden company, then, in consequence of the destruction of the theatre by fire, acting at the Haymarket Opera House. With the company he migrated to the other Haymarket house, where he played Othello, Reuben Glenroy in ‘Town and Country,’ Macbeth, Beverley, Lord Townly, and Frederick in ‘Lover's Vows.’ His engagement was to support John Philip Kemble, and on occasion to replace him. After the opening of the new theatre in Covent Garden and the suppression of the ‘O. P.’ riots he appeared as Evander in the ‘Grecian Daughter,’ and played Publius in the ‘Roman Father.’ He was the first Abbot of Corbey in Reynolds's ‘Free Knights, or the Edict of Charlemagne,’ on 8 Feb. 1810, and played Sir John Restless in ‘All in the Wrong,’ and Irwin in ‘Every one has his Fault.’ In Reynolds's ‘Bridal Ring’ on 16 Oct. 1810 he was the first Marquis de Vinci; and on 29 Nov. the first Gustavus Vasa in Dimond's play so named, Sir Roderick Dhu in Morton's ‘Knight of Snowdoun’ on 5 Feb. 1811, and on 23 March Lord de Mallory in Holman's ‘Gazette Extraordinary.’ He was also seen as Kitely and Ford.

Kemble's performances were now but few, and Young became accepted as the leading English tragedian, until his supremacy was challenged, first by Kean and subsequently by Macready. Kean did not appear at Drury Lane until 1814, and before that time Young had established himself at Covent Garden. He was the original Benzowsky in a translation of Kotzebue's ‘Kamtschatka’ on 16 Oct. 1811, Rolla in Reynolds's ‘Virgin of the Sun’ on 31 Jan. 1812, Almanzor in Dimond's ‘Æthiop’ on 6 Oct., Dorax (the renegade) in Reynolds's ‘Renegade’ (an adaptation from Dryden) on 2 Dec., and Count Villars in Morton's ‘Education’ on 27 April 1813. He had also been seen in Iachimo, Pierre, Prospero, Biron in ‘Isabella,’ Jaques, Joseph Surface, Coriolanus, Mark Antony in ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ Richard III, Cassius, Iago, Barford in ‘Who wants a Guinea?’ and Macheath in the ‘Beggar's Opera.’ He had been in October 1813 in Bath. Subsequently at Covent Garden he was the first Fitzharding in Mrs. C. Kemble's ‘Smiles and Tears,’ 12 Dec. 1815; Count St. Evermont (? Evremont) in Sheil's ‘Adelaide, or the Emigrants,’ 23 May 1816; Leontius in an alteration of the ‘Humorous Lieutenant,’ 18 Jan. 1817; Aben Hamet in Dimond's ‘Conquest of Taranto,’ 15 April; Malec in Sheil's ‘Apostate,’ 3 May; Duke of Savoy in Reynolds's piece so named, 29 Sept.; Varanes in Dillon's ‘Retribution,’ 1 Jan. 1818; Montalto in Sheil's ‘Bellamira,’ 22 April; Colonna in Sheil's ‘Evadne,’ 10 Feb. 1819; Fredolfo in Maturin's ‘Fredolfo,’ 12 May. He had meantime added to his repertory many important parts, including Chamont in the ‘Orphan,’ Duke in ‘Measure for Measure,’ Horatio in the ‘Fair Penitent,’ Inkle in ‘Inkle and Yarico,’ Columbus, Falstaff, King John, Brutus, Hastings in ‘Jane Shore;’ and at Bath ‘King Lear.’ For one or two years following Young was at Bath or elsewhere in the country.

On 17 Oct. 1822, as Hamlet, he made his first appearance at Drury Lane, where he divided ‘the lead’ with Kean, and supported him in Iago and Clytus. The following season he was back at Covent Garden, where he played Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, Cato, was the first Count de Procida in ‘Vespers of Palermo’ on 12 Dec. 1823, was Foster in a revival of ‘A Woman never Vexed,’ and was the first Cesario in ‘Ravenna,’ translated from Schiller, on 3 Dec. 1824. In the spring of 1826, supported by Vandenhoff, he played an engagement in Edinburgh, which city he revisited in 1830 and 1831, making his last appearance there on 9 April 1831. Once more at Covent Garden in 1826, he was the first Doge in Miss Mitford's ‘Foscari’ on 4 Nov. He was the original Vladimir in Talbot's ‘Serf’ on 23 Jan. 1828. On 1 Oct. 1828 he reappeared at Drury Lane in Hamlet, played Macbeth, and was on 9 Oct. the original Rienzi in Miss Mitford's ‘Rienzi,’ on 12 Jan. 1829 the first Caswallon in Walker's ‘Caswallon,’ and on 21 Feb. the first Peter the Great in the piece so named. He played Lord Townly and Virginius, and was the first Subrius Flavius in Lister's ‘Epicaris’ on 14 Oct. In spite of tempting offers from America, he determined while still youthful to retire from the stage. His farewell took place on 31 Jan. 1832 as Hamlet. Macready played the Ghost, and the elder Mathews for that occasion only Polonius. The receipts were 643l. 7s. 6d. Young made a speech declaring that his reasons for quitting the stage were that he felt his strength declining and wished to be remembered at his best. After his retirement he lived principally in Brighton, where he died on 28 June 1856. He was buried in the churchyard at Southwick Green, near Brighton (see Fitzball, Thirty-five Years of a Dramatic Author's Life, ii. 332). He left one son, the Rev. Julian Charles Young, who wrote his life. Young was fond of hunting, and had more than one accident in connection with it. He led a blameless life and was much respected. No theatrical stories are current concerning him. He was about five feet seven inches in height, eyes and complexion dark, slightly inclined to corpulency. He had an admirable voice, and seems to have had a good presence. Macready wrote with some emotion on hearing of his death, and said that he and Young disliked but respected each other.

Young was perhaps the most distinguished member of the Kemble school. He had to undergo formidable comparisons with Kemble first, then with Kean and Macready, held his place creditably, and had a small world which believed him superior to all competitors. Before he came to London he gave promise in comedy, and won favourable opinions as Job Thornberry in ‘John Bull’ and Goldfinch in ‘Road to Ruin.’ The comic parts in which he was accepted in London were Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, and Megrim in ‘Blue Devils.’ His best parts, however, are said to have been Hamlet, Octavian, Macbeth, Prospero, Cassius, and Daran in the ‘Exile.’ Mrs. Piozzi speaks of his Lear affecting her almost to hysterics. In several of these parts Young was openly charged with imitating Kemble. He was a good deal less self-conscious than John Philip Kemble, and he had not the self-content which characterised the Kemble family.

Hazlitt speaks disparagingly of Young as in general a respectable actor, who seldom gratifies and seldom offends. Of his Joseph Surface he says, ‘Never was there a less prepossessing hypocrite. Mr. Young indeed puts on a long, disagreeable, whining face, but he does not hide the accomplished plausible villain behind it.’ Leigh Hunt condemns him for being habitually incorrect in his words, except in Hamlet, which he is said to have played with ‘decent’ accuracy. He had a sort of melodious chanting in delivery. Hunt adds: ‘In a part of mournful beauty he is perfectly delicious—the very personification of a melodious sigh. Again in a proud soldierly character or an indignant patriot, where there is a firm purpose, he plays in a fiery spirit entirely his own. And in a piece where the declamation abounds in images of pomp and luxury he displays a rich oriental manner which no one can rival.’ Kean bears witness: ‘He is an actor; and though I flatter myself he could not act Othello as I do, yet what chance should I have in Iago after him, with his personal advantages and his d——d musical voice? I don't believe he could play Jaffier as well as I can; but fancy me in Pierre after him! I tell you what: Young is not only an actor such as I did not dream him to have been, but he is a gentleman.’ The ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ 1822, says: ‘There are characters in which he is unrivalled and almost perfect; his Pierre, if not so lofty, is more natural and more soldierly even than Kemble's; his Chamont is full of brotherly pride, noble impetuosity, and heroic scorn; and his Jaques is ‘most musical, most melancholy,’ attuned to the very temperament of the gentle wood-walks among which he muses.’ Parts of testy philanthropists and eccentric humourists with a vein of kindness are said to have been as vivid in his hands as in those of Terry, while he lent them at times a degree of refinement and a tinge of poetical and romantic colouring of which Terry was incapable. Robson, the old playgoer, declares that Young was rather a fine declaimer than a fine actor. He had many admirers and friends on the French stage, among whom may be counted Talma.

Young's portrait, coloured, as the Stranger, by M. W. Sharp, accompanies his life in Terry's ‘British Theatrical Gallery.’ A portrait as King John, by Sir Edwin Landseer, two likenesses by George Harlowe, and a picture as Hamlet by De Wilde are in the Mathews collection in the Garrick Club. The Harlowe and Landseer portraits were engraved by Jeens for the ‘Life’ of 1871, which also contains two excellent drawings by J. C. Young.

[The entire stage life of Young is practically covered by Genest's Account of the Stage. The Memoir of Young (London, 2 vols. 1871) by his son, Julian Charles Young, rector of Ilmington, contributes some information, but is disappointing. Lives are in the Georgian Era, Oxberry's Dramatic Biography, Biography of the British Stage, 1824, and Dramatic and Musical Review, vol. viii. See also Doran's Stage Annals, ed. Lowe, the collected criticisms of Leigh Hunt and Hazlitt, Terry's British Theatrical Gallery, Court Journal, 1832, Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage, Robson's Old Playgoer. Lockhart's Scott, Clark Russell's Representative Actors, Notes and Queries, 9th ser. iii. 107, 156, and Era newspaper, 6 July 1836 and 6 July 1856, are among many sources that have been consulted.]

J. K.