BARRY, SPRANGER (1719–1777), British actor, was born in Dublin on the 23rd of November 1719, the son of a silversmith, to whose business he was brought up. His first appearance on the stage was at the Smock Alley theatre on the 5th of February 1744, and his engagement at once increased its prosperity. His first London appearance was made in 1746 as Othello at Drury Lane. Here his talents were speedily recognized, and in Hamlet and Macbeth he alternated with Garrick, arousing the latter’s jealousy by his success as Romeo. This resulted in his leaving Drury Lane for Covent Garden in 1750, accompanied by Mrs Cibber, his Juliet. Both houses now at once put on Romeo and Juliet for a series of rival performances, and Barry’s impersonation was preferred by the critics to Garrick’s. In 1758 Barry built the Crow Street theatre, Dublin, and later a new theatre in Cork, but he was not successful as a manager and returned to London to play at the Haymarket, then under the management of Foote. As his second wife, he married in 1768 the actress Mrs Dancer (1734–1801), and he and Mrs Barry played under Garrick’s management, Barry appearing in 1767, after ten years’ absence from the stage, in Othello, his greatest part. In 1774 they both moved to Covent Garden, where Barry remained until his death on the 10th of January 1777. He was a singularly handsome man, with the advantage of height which Garrick lacked.
His second wife, Ann Street Barry, was born in Bath in 1734, the daughter of an apothecary. Early in life she married an actor of the name of Dancer, and it was as Mrs Dancer that she made her first recorded appearance in 1758 as Cordelia to Spranger Barry’s Lear at the Crow Street theatre. During the next nine years she played all the leading tragic parts, but without any great success, and it was not until she came to Drury Lane with Barry that her reputation advanced to the high point at which it afterwards stood. After his death, she remained at Covent Garden and married a man much younger than herself, named Crawford, being first billed as Mrs Crawford in 1778. Her last appearance is said to have been as Lady Randolph in Douglas at Covent Garden in 1798. This part, and that of Desdemona, were among her great impersonations; in both she was considered by some critics superior to Mrs Siddons, who expressed her fear of her in one of her letters. She died on the 29th of November 1801 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.