Harris, Joseph (?) (fl.1661-1681) (DNB00)

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HARRIS, JOSEPH (?) (fl. 1661–1681), actor, was a member of the company of Sir William D'Avenant at Lincoln's Inn Fields. He was one of four actors sworn in to serve the Duke of York. Until late in the following century he is only mentioned as Mr. Harris. To a confusion with an inferior actor, Joseph Harris (fl. 1661-1699) [q. v.], is probably due the ascription to him of the name of Joseph.

Harris's first recorded part, was Alphonso in D'Avenant's 'Siege of Rhodes,' in which he appeared in 1661. In the course of the same season, 15 Aug., he was the original Younger Pallatine in the `Wits,' Truman Junior in the 'Cutler of Coleman Street,' Horatio in 'Hamlet,' and the original Count Prospero in D'Avenant's `Love and Honour.' Harris was one of the three actors to whom, on the the production of `Love and Honour,' the king, the Duke ot York, and the Earl of Oxford gave their coronation suits. On 1 March 1662 he played Romeo to the Juliet of Mrs. Saunderson and she Mercutio of Betterton; and on 20 Oct. was the original Beaupres in the `Villain' of Thomas Porter. A full list of the characters in which he is known to have played is given in Genest (i. 388-9). From this he appears to have been an actor of singularly varied powers, and equally at home in tragedy and comedy. Among his röles were Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Duke Ferdinand in the `Duchess of Malfi,' Cardinal Wolsey, and Macduff. A list of original characters almost as long and as varied as that of Betterton stands opposite his name. It includes, at Lincoln's Inn Fields, Don Antonio in the `Adventures of Five Hours,' adapted by Sir Samuel Tuke from Calderon, January 1663; King Henry in Lord Orrery's `Henry V,' 13 Aug. 1664; Sir Frederick Frolic in Etherege's `Love in a Tub;' Theocles in the 'Rivals,' D'Avenant's alteration of `Two Noble Kinsmen;' Warner in Dryden's `Sir Martin Marr-all;' Sir Joslin Jolly in Etherege's `She would if she could,' 6 Feb. 1668; Don John in D'Avenant's 'Man's the Master.' 26 March 1668. In this piece Harris and Sandford, as two ballad-singers, sang the epilogue. In 1671 the company removed to Dorset Garden, of which Lady D'Avenant (through her son Charles), Betterton, and Harris were managers. At this house Harris was the original Ferdinand in Crowne's `Charles VIII, or the Invasion of Naples,' Theramenes in Otway's `Alcibiades,' Medley in Etherege's 'Man of the Mode,' Don John of Austria in Otway's `Don Carlos Prince of Spain,' Valentine in Otway's `Friendship in Fashion' (licensed 31 May 1678), &c. He appears for the last time in 1681 as Cardinal Beaufort in Crowne's adaptation of `King Henry VI.' In playing `The Man's the Master,' Harris, using a foil without a button, hit Cademan near the eye, disabling him from acting ever after.

Davies, whose information is derived from Downes, eulogises his powers. He was in some parts held the equal of Betterton. Pepys Speaks, 22 July 1663, of Harris leaving D'Avenant in consequence of being refused 20l, for himself extraordinary more than Betterton or anybody else, upon every new play and 10l. upon every revive.' The king, at the intercession of D'Avenant, forbade the engagement of Harris at the Theatre Royal. Pepys says that Harris had become very proud of late, having been generally preferred to Betterton as 'a more ayery man, as he is indeed.' On 10 Dec. Harris is said to have come back to his duties. On 24 Jan. 1686-7 Harris visited Pepys, who found him `a very curious and understanding person in all pictures and other things, and a man of fine conversation.' Pepys admitted him to considerable intimacy, asked him to dinner, and to bring with him Shadwell the poet, and represented him as associated with young blades in ‘all the roguish (?) things of the world,’ 30 May 1668. A portrait of Harris in his habit of Henry V, ‘mighty like a player’ but only ‘pretty well’ in other respects, was executed by Hayls, and was seen by Pepys on 5 Aug. 1668. An engraving of Harris, executed by Harding from an original picture in the collection of the Earl of Orford at Strawberry Hill, is given in Waldron's ‘Shakespearean Miscellany,’ 1802, with a biography of Harris compiled from Downes.

[Pepys in his Diary and Downes in the Roscius Anglicanus supply the information concerning Harris which is embodied in subsequent compilations. Genest's Account of the Stage, Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies, and other works cited may be consulted. A writer in the Dramatic Magazine, 1829–30, ii. 353–6, misled by the resemblance of name, carries information concerning this Harris to 1790.]

J. K.