Matthews, Thomas (DNB00)

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MATTHEWS, THOMAS (1805–1889), actor and pantomimist, born 17 Oct. 1805, entered as a boy the office of the ‘Independent Whig,’ subsequently known after other changes as the ‘Sunday Times.’ After appearing at the Olympic Theatre he went to Sadler's Wells, where, on the retirement of Grimaldi in 1828, he appeared, 26 Dec. 1829, as clown in a pantomime called ‘The Hag of the Forest.’ Upon the revival of ‘Mother Goose’ he played clown for fifty nights, after being coached by Grimaldi. He then appeared at Covent Garden in successive years in ‘Puss in Boots,’ ‘Old Mother Hubbard,’ ‘Whittington and his Cat,’ and ‘Gammer Gurton.’ At Drury Lane he created a sensation by imitating Duvernay in ‘La Cachuca.’ His Orson was also a hit. Engaged by Macready at 3l. per week, 20 July 1837, he reappeared at Covent Garden, where he brought out ‘Fair Rosamond,’ and danced a mock bayadère dance. He visited Scotland and played in Edinburgh and elsewhere, and returned to the Olympic in Nelson Lee's pantomime ‘Riddle me, Riddle me Ree;’ then went to Paris, where, August 1842, he superintended the production at the Variétés of a pantomime called ‘Arlequin.’ Théophile Gautier speaks of his get-up as of ‘a rare fantasy,’ and praises his parody of the ‘Cachuca’ (L'Art Dramatique en France, ii. 260).

In 1843 he played at Drury Lane in Planché's ‘Fortunio,’ was seen in ballet at Vauxhall with the Paynes and Rosina Wright in 1847, was clown in 1848 in ‘Harlequin Lord Lovel’ at the Surrey, was at the Marylebone in 1851, and in the following year was at Drury Lane in Blanchard's ‘Dame Durden and the Droll Days of the Merry Monarch.’ In other pantomimes at the Adelphi, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and in the country, he was familiarly known, singing constantly the songs of ‘Hot Codlings,’ ‘Tippitywitchet,’ and the ‘Life of a Clown,’ the last composed for him by Balfe. In 1859 he gave an entertainment. After this he played at Drury Lane in the burlesque introductions to various pantomimes. His last appearance was at Drury Lane in 1865 in ‘Hop o' my Thumb.’ He then retired. After being bedridden for four months he died at Brighton, 4 March 1889, and was buried in Brighton cemetery. He was the last of the old-fashioned clowns, sang in approved fashion, transmitted the traditions of Grimaldi, was a prudent man, and was much respected.

[Personal recollections; Era newspaper, 9 March 1889; Era Almanack, various years; Scott and Howard's Life of E. L. Blanchard; Daily News, 11 March 1889; Theatrical Times, i. 274; Dramatic and Musical Review, various years; Pollock's Macready's Reminiscences.]

J. K.