The New Student's Reference Work/Jefferson, Joseph

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Joseph Jefferson

Jefferson, Joseph, a noted American actor, was born at Philadelphia, Feb. 20, 1829. He came of theatrical stock, his father and grandfather being well-known American actors, while his great-grandfather had been a member of Garrick’s company. When Jefferson was only three years old, he appeared in the play Pizarro as Cora’s child, and at four years he was dancing as a miniature “Jim Crow.” For many jears he went through the severe training of a strolling actor, and then played at New York, where in 1857 he made a success in several characters. In 1865 he visited London, and at the Adelphi theater played his world-famous part of Rip Van Winkle for the first time. With this character his name will be forever associated. Nor is this wonderful, for it is one of the most perfect works of art — beautiful in conception and delightful and delicate in execution. The art was all the actor’s; the dramatist had done nothing. Rip was a lazy, good-for-nothing vagabond; but Jefferson made him “the Arcadian vagabond of the world of dreams.” In his profession he gained both fame and fortune, and his personal character was high. His death occurred on April 23, 1905. See his Autobiography.