John Philip Kemble
Cato : Cato
"KEMBLE / modelled published / by / I. GIBSON 1814" (incised on verso)
Bought by the Garrick Club in March 2003
A version cast in bronze also dated 1814 (34.3 high) is in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 149) [Cast without the drapery of the cloak.]; another version in plaster from c.1816 (46 high) is in the Sir John Soame's Museum, London
Kemble had first played Cato in London at Drury Lane on 28th April 1784 and again on 15th November later the same year. He then seems to have abandoned the role until a revival at Covent Garden which opened on 26th January 1811 and played sixteen times that season and five the following.
Kemble as Cato would reappear on Covent Garden playbills from May-June 1817, announcing that he would be playing many of his characters for the last time, most notably Brutus in Julius Caesar on the 6th, Corialanus on the 10th, Hotspur in Henry IV part 1on the 13th, Brutus (again for the last time!) on the 17th, Hamlet on the 21st, and Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII on the 27th. His final performance for Cato was announced on both 15th May and June 4th. Despite his illness at the time, this protracted retirement from the stage was a huge and popular success, with boxes for the final benefit on June 23rd let out two weeks in advance. Kemble finally bowed out as Corialanus to cheers and shouts of "No Farewell!", and it is perhaps for his Roman roles that he is best remembered.