Murray, Charles (1754-1821) (DNB00)

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MURRAY, CHARLES (1754–1821), actor and dramatist, the son of Sir John Murray of Broughton [q. v.], was born in 1754 at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, stayed for some time in France, studied pharmacy and surgery in London, and took as surgeon's mate some voyages to the Mediterranean. After playing as an amateur in Liverpool he went, with an introduction from Younger, the Liverpool manager, to Tate Wilkinson of the York circuit, making, under the name of Raymur, at York his first professional appearance on the stage as Carlos in 'Love makes a Man, or the Fop's Fortune,' by Colley Cibber, an important part which he took at short notice. Attending assiduously to his profession, he made steady progress. A quarrel in a tavern in Wakefield in September 1776, in which he resented some contemptuous treatment on the part of a man of position, led to a scene in the theatre, renewed on the following evening, when an apology was demanded from Murray and refused. A large portion of the audience took his part, compelled him to go in private dress through a character he had resigned, and escorted him in triumph to Doncaster. After one or two further trips to sea he acted in his own name with Griffiths at Norwich, where he is believed to have produced a poor farce entitled 'The Experiment,' 8vo, 1779. This Genest classes among unacted plays. Murray is also credited in the 'Dramatic Mirror' with the 'New Maid of the Oaks,' said also to have been acted in Norwich, 8vo, 1778. This wretched tragedy is in the 'Biographia Dramatica' assigned to Ahab Salem, and is said to have been acted near Saratoga. On 8 Oct. 1785, as Sir Giles Overreach in 'A New Way to pay Old Debts,' he made his first appearance in Bath, where he played Joseph Surface, and was the original Albert in Reynolds's 'Werter' on 3 Dec. 1785. Here or at Bristol he played in his first season Macbeth, Clifford in the 'Heiress,' Evander in the 'Grecian Daughter,' Shylock, Iago, Iachimo, Pierre, Lord Davenant, Mr. Oakly, several French characters, and other parts, appearing for his benefit as Gibbet in the 'Beaux Stratagem,' with his wife as Cherry. Genest chronicles that they did not sell a single ticket. Here he remained until 1796, playing a great variety of parts, including King John, Osmyn, Adam in 'As you like it,' Sir Peter Teazle, Old Dornton in the 'Road to Ruin.' Mrs. Murray was occasionally seen, and on 1 July 1793, for the benefit of her father and of her mother, who played Queen Elinor, his daughter, subsequently Mrs. H. Siddons, made as Prince Arthur her first appearance on any stage. She subsequently played Titania, and on Mrs. Murray's final benefit in Bath on 19 May 1796, Fine Lady in Garrick's 'Lethe.' On this occasion Murray spoke a farewell address. The occasion only produced 64l, while the average receipts were 150l.

Murray came to Covent Garden with a good reputation, though Genest holds his coming to have been too long delayed. His first appearance in London took place on 30 Sept. as Shylock, with, it is said, Bagatelle in the 'Poor Soldier.' He was found interesting rather than great, and suited for secondary parts rather than primary. Murray had a good presence and bad tricks of pronunciation, and never attained a foremost position. Alcanor in 'Mahomet,' King in 'First Part of King Henry IV,' King Henry in 'King Richard III,' the King in 'Philaster,' Heartley in the 'Guardian,' Cassio, Lusignan, Strickland in the 'Suspicious Husband,' Dr. Caius, Manly in the 'Provoked Husband,' and many other parts were played in his first season. For his benefit, on 12 May 1798, he was Polixenes, Miss Murray making, as Perdita, her first appearance in London. He was on 11 Oct. 1798 the original Baron Wildenhaim in Mrs. Inchbald's Lovers' Vows.' On 10 May 1799 he was, for his benefit, Friar Lawrence to the Juliet of his daughter, Mrs. Murray making, as the Nurse, her first appearance at Covent Garden. From this time Miss Murray played ingénue parts, and on 13 Sept. 1802 appeared as Mrs. H. Siddons [q. v.] Murray's last appearance at Covent Garden appears to have been on 17 July 1817 as Brabantio to the Othello of Young, the lago of Booth, and the Desdemona of Miss O'Neill. During this season he had been on 3 May 1817 the original Alvarez in Shiel's 'Apostate,' and took part in John Philip Kemble's retiring performances, ending 23 June with Coriolanus. The 'Theatrical Inquisitor' of February 1817, x. 147, speaks of Murray as a veteran, and makes ungracious reference to his infirmities. Threatened with paralysis he withdrew to Edinburgh to be near his children, Mrs. Henry Siddons and William Henry Murray [q. v.], and died there on 8 Nov. 1821. The 'Georgian Era' credits him, in error, with being the manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, a post held by his son.

Murray was especially commended for the dignity of his old men. Portraits of him by Dupont as Baron Wildenhaim in 'Lovers' Vows,' and by De Wilde as Tobias in the 'Stranger,' are in the Mathews collection at the Garrick Club.

[Books cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Thespian Dict.; Georgian Era; Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage; Penley's Bath Stage; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ii. 391.]

J. K.