Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/120

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This veteran actor had earned a great reputation many years ago. His name will go down to future generations of playgoers as that of one who was a master of the art of embodying on the stage every variety of character. No man has played with success in a greater number of characters than the proprietor of the Adelphi.

Benjamin Webster is descended from a good Yorkshire family, though the city of Bath was his birthplace. He made his first appearance on the stage of life on the 3d of September 1800. He was educated for the navy, and a commission was procured for him by the late Duchess of York; but he never entered the service. The navy has been the loser and the stage the gainer by the circumstance. He was fond of music, and made that his first profession. While fulfilling an engagement in the orchestra of the theatre at Warwick, he first threw down the fiddlestick, and put on the mask and tights of a harlequin—a character different from those with which in after years he pleased the public. But his real début as an actor took place in the same theatre, in the character of Thessalus in 'Alexander the Great.' He succeeded, and resolved to devote himself for the future to the stage. His career after this was that of most young actors. He travelled from town to town, playing all sorts of parts at all sorts of theatres—a training which proved most beneficial. After various adventures in England and Ireland, he turned up in London, where he played trifling parts at several houses. At length, in 1825, 'Measure for Measure' was being performed at Drury Lane, with a strong cast, and Harley had the part of Pompey the clown. The popular comedian was suddenly taken ill. At three or four hours' notice, Benjamin Webster took his place, delighted the audience, pleased the manager, and filled the press with his praises. From this time his name was made. He had plenty of good offers; and in 1829 he opened at the Haymarket, in 'Lodgings for Single Gentlemen.' When Morris, the