February 6, 2015

February 6, 1838: Sir Henry Irving Born

Photograph of Henry Irving, taken about 1878
 by Lock and Whitflield, London
He was the most notable actor of his age. He was, in fact, the first British actor ever to be knighted. Yet most of his fame today is due to the writings of his humble biographer and business manager, a fellow by the name of Bram Stoker.

Irving was actually born with the name John Henry Brodribb. He became fascinated by the theater at a young age, and took the name Henry Irving. He joined the Lyceum Theatre when it was at its lowest ebb, but soon brought it back to life with his startling and memorable performances. In time, he became theater manager as well as actor, and was responsible for much of the theater's success.

Stoker made Irving's acquaintance after writing a favorable review of Irving's performance inHamlet. Irving appreciated the review and invited Stoker to dinner. The two were soon good friends, and Stoker became Irving's business manager at the Lyceum, where he stayed for 27 years.

In addition to his theater duties, Stoker found time to write. His most famous work, of course, isDracula. It is generally believed that Stoker's depiction of the title character -- with his charismatic presence, elegant manners, and cold aristocratic demeanor -- was modeled after Irving.

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