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Murray, Charles

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Born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in 1754, Charles Murray was the son of Sir John Murray (1718-1777), baronet of Broughton, who is noticed in the DNB, and his second wife, née Webb. He enjoyed a classical education, studied pharmacy and surgery, and served as a surgeon’s mate in the Mediterranean. In 1773 he began to perform in private theatres, using the name Raymur to spare family embarrassment. He joined Wilkinson on the York circuit, and in 1777 he went to Norwich, where he assumed his real name and where his reputation grew over the next eight years. At Norwich he married his first wife, who died at age 21 in January 1780. Two years later he was living with Anne Payne (née Acres), an actress who was estranged from her husband, the actor Jonathan Payne. It is not clear whether or not Murray married her after Payne died in 1784. Murray made his first appearance at Bath on 8 October 1785 as Sir Giles Overreach in “A New Way to Pay Old Debts”, and he was the original Albert in “Werter” on 3 December 1785. At Bath and Bristol he played a number of leading roles, including Macbeth, Shylock, Iago, Iachimo, Evander in “The Grecian Daughter” and Pierre in “Venice Preserv’d”. His successes in the provinces brought him an engagement at Covent Garden Theatre, where he made his debut on 30 September 1796 as Shylock, for which he received mixed reviews. There were complaints of ‘a drawl in his recitation’ and deficiencies in majesty and grace, but in the judgment of the “Monthly Mirror” he was better suited to roles of older tragic figures (Shylock aside) like Lear, Evander, or Old Norval than ‘any actor we remember to have seen.’ Such roles, including Tobias in “The Stranger” (in which he is pictured by De Wilde, G0632), became his line at Covent Garden, where he remained through 1816-17. By then his ill health and infirmities were evident, and he made his farewell on 17 July 1817 as Brabantio in “Othello”. He eventually settled in Edinburgh, where his son William Henry Murray (q.v.) was manager of the theatre. Charles Murray died in Edinburgh on 8 November 1821. His private character was highly commended. In addition to the Edinburgh manager William Henry Murray, his children by Anne Payne Murray were Maria Murray, an actress who married the actor and author Joseph Leatherley Cowell and became the matriarch of a large theatrical family, and another daughter, Harriet Murray, who became an actress and married the actor Henry Siddons, the son of the famous Sarah Siddons. (BDA)
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