Brooke, Gustavus Vaughan (DNB00)
BROOKE, GUSTAVUS VAUGHAN (1818–1866), actor, is said in a biographical sketch, presumably dictated by himself, to have been born on 25 April 1818, at Hardwick Place, Dublin, and to have received his education at a school conducted by a brother of Maria Edgeworth. When about fifteen years of age he applied to Calcraft, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, for an engagement. The manager, embarrassed by a sudden indisposition of Edmund Kean, allowed the youth to appear on Easter Tuesday 1833 as William Tell. An engagement followed, in course of which Brooke played Virginius, Douglas, Uolla, and other characters of the class. He then travelled in the country, and was received with favour in Limerick, Londonderry, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other places. His first appearance in London took place at the Victoria as Virginius, and attracted little attention. In 1840 he accepted from Macready an engagement to appear at Drury Lane, but was dissatisfied with his part, and threw up the engagement. On 3 Jan. 1848 what waspractically his debut took place as Othello at the Olympic. A failure at one time seemed imminent, but in the stronger scenes Brooke triumphed, and the performance excited much interest. During this engagement Brooke appeared as Sir Giles Overreach, Richard III, Shylock, Virginius, Hamlet, Brutus, and in one original part, the hero of the 'Lords of Ellingham,' a play by his manager, Mr. Spicer. Refusing liberal offers from Webster for the Haymarket, Brooke returned into the country, but reappeared in London at the Marylebone Theatre, and subsequently under Farren at the Olympic. He then went to America, and played as Othello with unqualified success on 15 Dec. 1851 at the Broadway Theatre, New York. After visiting Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, and Baltimore, he took the Astor Place Opera House, New York, which he opened in May 1852. The experiment was disastrous, and was abandoned after a few weeks. A fresh tour through the United States followed. On 5 Sept. 1853 Brooke reappeared at Drury Lane, then under the management of E. T. Smith. A visit to Australia followed, and was at the outset eminently successful. Brooke once more, in partnership with Coppin, went into management, taking the Theatre Royal, Melbourne. Ruin again came upon him, and he returned to London practically penniless. Upon his reappearance at Drury Lane as Othello he failed to hit the taste of the town. At the beginning of 1866 he started again for Australia. The London, the vessel in which, with his sister, he started, foundered at sea on 10 Jan. 1866, and Brooke, whose conduct throughout the shipwreck has been described by the few survivors as manly and even heroic, perished, lie married in his later years Miss Avonia Jones, an actress of no conspicuous merit. Brooke had a fine presence and a noble voice, both of which he turned at first to good account. To the influence of these, rather than to the display of any eminent intellectual gifts, his success was attributable. His first appearance as Othello elicited, however, from men of judgment more favourable criticism than has often been passed upon any actor of secondary mark. When last he appeared in London, his tragic acting was little more than rant. Habits of dissipation interfered with his success. He is said, when fortunate, to have paid in full the claims upon him contracted previous to his insolvency, for which he was not legally liable.
[Tallis's Dramatic Magazine, 1851; Vandenhoff's Dramatic Reminiscences, London, 1860, Longman's Magazine, March 1885; Era newspaper, 21 Jan. 1866.]