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Barrymore, William

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William Barrymore, whose real name was Blewit, was born at Taunton in 1759, the son of a hair dresser. Various memoirs of his early life differ, but in July 1780 he was with a company of strollers at Plymouth. He made his way to London in 1782, appearing for the first time at Drury Lane on 3 October as Young Meadows in “Love in a Village”. He remained at that theatre for most of his career, at least through 1808-9, playing a considerable number of roles in musical pieces and comedies. He was also a leading actor at the Haymarket Theatre for many summer seasons. Critical reports describe him as an awkward performer, who acted with stiff knees, and had trouble retaining his lines; but at least one friendly source praised his judgment, noted his improvement over the years and suggested that he was industrious and steady as a second-rate actor. The last several years of his career he spent in the provinces, making his final appearance as Charles Beverley opposite Mrs Siddons as Mrs Beverley in “The Gamester” at Brighton in the summer of 1809. He died at Edinburgh in July 1830. Among his more effective roles had been Laertes in “Hamlet”, Dumont in “Jane Shore” and Osmond in “The Castle Spectre”. His son William Henry Barrymore acted in pantomimes and spectacles in London in the mid-nineteenth century and went to America, where he died in 1845. Our subject seems not to have been related to the famous family of Barrymores who played in America in the twentieth century. (BDA)
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