Henry Irving

   Henry Irving (1838-1905) was a celebrated English actor. His original name was John Henry Brodribb. His education was that of a London clerk. He had a fondness for reading and for attending the theater. In 1856 he appeared in a play for the first time. After attaining success in plays, now little known, he impersonated Eugene Aram and Richelieu. In 1874 he played the part of Hamlet at the Lyceum Theater, London, with such power and originality as to place himself in the front rank of English actors. Four years later he obtained a lease of the Lyceum Theater. Together with Ellen Terry he made and spent a fortune in trying to raise the taste of the British public. His favorite characters were Macbeth, Othello, Shylock, and Richard III. Irving and Miss Terry visited the United States repeatedly and were received with favor. Queen Victoria knighted Irving in 1895. Three years later the University of Cambridge gave him the honorary degree of LL.D.

   Irving was a man of intellectuality, wonderful dramatic power, and high ideals. It is not too much to say that he has given the world a new interpretation of Shakespeare's characters. While no man's reputation in the dramatic world could have been greater, it is to be regretted that the British public did not patronize the Lyceum as liberally as Irving had hoped. He was wont to exclaim with bitterness that mediocre, cheap plays received more encouragement than high class plays presented regardless of expense for costumes and scenery. Ir­ving died a poor man. His funeral was held October 20, 1905, at Westminster Abbey. The most eminent people in Lon­don, including the representatives of foreign countries, formed part of the vast congregation. He was laid at rest in the Poet's corner, by the side of Garrick. He lies near the statue of Shakespeare in the interpreta­tion of whose plays he won his fame.