William Farren, the second actor of that name, was born in London on 15 May 1786, the second son of the actor William Farren (1754-1795) and the actress Mary Mansell Orton. For details of the large Farren family that lived comfortably in Gower Street, see the elder William Farren’s notice above. The younger William Farren attended Dr Barrow’s school in Soho, and having inherited some £6000, in 1806 he ventured upon the stage at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, under the management of his brother Percival, as Archy MacSarcasm in “Love à la Mode”. He then went to Dublin, where he acted for some ten years before he returned to make his London debut at Covent Garden on 10 September 1818 as Sir Peter Teazle in “The School for Scandal” (G0215). A week later, on 18 September, he appeared as Lord Ogleby in “The Clandestine Marriage” (G0216). Subsequently he became one of the leading actors of his day, excelling mainly in light comedy roles like Sir Anthony Absolute, Lovegold in “The Miser”, Sir Fretful Plagiary in “The Critic” and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. He also played at the Haymarket. Farren remained at Covent Garden some ten years, until he went over to Drury Lane on 16 October 1828 to act Sir Peter Teazle. There he stayed until 1837, offering a wide range of parts, including some in tragedy, such as Polonius, Kent and Casca. He returned to Covent Garden for several years and in the early 1840s joined Benjamin Webster’s company at the Haymarket, where he also served as stage manager. While acting the title role in “Old Parr” on 24 October 1843 he suffered a stroke, which paralysed one side of his body and left his speech indistinct. Nevertheless, he continued to act at the Haymarket for some ten years, until he became manager of the Strand Theatre and then the Olympic Theatre from September 1850 to September 1853. He took leave of the stage on 16 July 1855 at the Haymarket, playing a scene from “The Clandestine Marriage”. He died at his house, No 28, Brompton Square, on 24 September 1861. It is said that Farren was the best representative of his time of old men in comedies.
By an unknown woman (his first wife?) Farren had two sons: Henry Farren (1826-1860), who acted in London and America and is noticed in the DNB, and his elder brother William Farren (1825-1908). Our subject married late in life, in 1856, the actress Harriet Diddear Faucit (d. June 1857), who by her previous marriage to the actor Saville Faucit (d. 1853) was the mother of the nineteenth-century actress Helen Faucit (1817-1898).