John Pritt Harley

(1786—1858) actor

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Charles Mathews (1776—1835) actor

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Harley took over many of Charles Mathews the elder's roles at Drury Lane Theatre, after Mathews had been incapacitated by lameness. Possessing a similarly volatile and eccentric manner of performing, Harley was a bustling, vigorous actor, whose special style was often described by the word ‘buoyancy’. Drury Lane roles included Flexible (Mathews's role in Love, Law and Physic) and Captain Bobadil in Jonson's Every Man In His Humour. From September 1836 he became stage manager and leading low comedian at the St James's Theatre under Braham. Harley played Martin Tapkins in TheVillage Coquettes (1836), the published version of which was dedicated to him by Dickens. Dickens also wrote the farce TheStrange Gentleman, based on ‘The Great Winglebury Duel’ (SB), at Harley's request. Although Harley's performance ensured it a long run, Is She His Wife? (1837), also written for Harley by Dickens, proved less successful.


From Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).

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