Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Tearle, Osmond

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TEARLE, OSMOND (1852–1901), actor, whose full name was George Osmond Tearle, born at Plymouth on 8 March 1862, was son of George Tearle, colour-sergeant in the royal marines. After serving in the Crimean and China wars his father retired on pension to Liverpool. Educated there at St. Francis Xavier's College, Tearle took part in amateur theatricals, and in 1868 in 'penny readings' with Mr. T. Hail Caine. Inspired by Barry Sullivan's acting, he took to the stage, making his debut at the Adelphi Theatre, Liverpool, on 26 March 1869, as Guildenstern to Miss Adelaide Ross's Hamlet. In 1870, on Sullivan's recommendation, he became leading man at the Theatre Royal, Aberdeen. At Warrington in 1871 he appeared for the first time as Hamlet, a character which he played in all some 800 times. Early in 1874 he was a prominent and popular member of the Belfast stock company. After six years' stern provincial probation he made his first appearance in London at the Gaiety on 27 March 1875 as George de Buissy in Campbell Clarke's unsuccessful adaptation of 'Rose Michel,' subsequently playing there Charles Courtly in 'London Assurance.' Beginning on 17 May following, he acted 'Hamlet' at the Rotunda Theatre, Liverpool, for eighteen successive nights. Afterwards he toured with Mrs. John Wood's old comedy company as Charles Surface and Young Marlow.

At Darlington in 1877 Tearle started with his own travelling company. On 30 Sept. 1880 he made his American debut at Wallack's Theatre, New York, as Jaques in 'As You Like It,' and he remained there as leading actor of the stock company. After spending the summer of 1882 in England, he reappeared on 31 April 1883 at the Star Theatre, New York, as Hamlet, and subsequently toured in the United States as Wilfred Denver in 'The Silver King.' In 1888 he returned to England and organised his Shakespearean touring company. In 1889, and again in 1890, he conducted the festival performances at Stratford-on-Avon, producing in the first year 'Julius Caesar' and 'King Henry VI,' pt. i. (in which he acted Talbot), and in the second year 'King John' and 'The Two Grentlemen of Verona.' His travelling company changed its bill nightly, and had a repertory of thirteen plays. It was deemed an excellent training ground for the stage novice. Tearle last appeared in London at Terry's Theatre on 4 July 1898 as Charles Surface to Kate Vaughan's Lady Teazle. His last appearance on the stage was at Carlisle on 30 Aug. 1901, as Richelieu. He died on 7 Sept. following at Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and was buried beside his second wife at Whitley Bay, Northumberland.

As a Shakespearean actor Tearle combined the incisive elocution of the old school and the naturalness of the new. A man of commanding physique and dignified presence, he was well equipped for heroic parts. In later life he subdued his declamatory vigour, and played Othello and Bang Lear with power and restraint. He gained no foothold in London, but in America and the English provinces he won a high reputation.

Tearle was twice married: (1) to Mary Alice Rowe, an actress, who divorced him; and (2) in 1883 to Marianne Levy, widow and actress, daughter of F. B. Conway, the New York manager, and grand-daughter of William Augustus Conway, the tragedian [q. v.]. His second wife died on 9 Oct. 1896. His three sons, one by his first wife and two by his second, took to the stage. An only daughter by his first wife did not join the profession.

[Pascoe's Dramatic List; R. M. Sillard's Barry Sullivan and his Contemporaries; R. J. Broadbent's Annals of the Liverpool Stage; Col. T. Allston Brown's History of the New York Theatres; J. A. Hammerton's The Actor's Art; The Stage, 12 Sept. 1901; The Era, 14 Sept. 1901; private information.]

W. J. L.