Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ryder, John (1814-1885)

RYDER, JOHN (1814–1885), actor, born in the Isle of Thanet on 5 April 1814, had obtained in the country some recognition in the so-called ‘legitimate drama’ when he was engaged by Macready for Drury Lane Theatre, at which house he appeared as the Duke Frederick in ‘As you like it’ on 1 Oct. 1842. He took part in most of Macready's productions, and was (24 April) the original King in Sheridan Knowles's ‘Secretary.’ In September 1843 he accompanied Macready to America, supporting him, on a second visit in 1848, through an arduous and, as events proved, dangerous campaign. More than once in his ‘Diaries’ Macready expresses his contentment at his choice of a companion, saying that without him he ‘could not have got through’ (Reminiscences, ii. 222). Macready also owns to cutting down his parts. On 13 Oct. 1845, at the Princess's, Ryder was Claudius to Macready's Hamlet. On 20 May 1846 he was the original Sir Adam Weir in White's ‘King of the Commons.’ At the production (22 Nov. 1848) of Macready's abridgment of Taylor's ‘Philip van Artevelde,’ Ryder was Van den Bosch, and at that of Oxenford's version of Corneille's ‘Ariane,’ 28 Jan. 1850, he was Œnarus. In the opening performance at the Princess's under the Kean and Keeley management, on 28 Sept. 1850, he played Antonio in ‘Twelfth Night.’ In the character of Aymer de la Roche, the grand-master in A. R. Slous's ‘Templar,’ on 9 Nov. 1850, he won favourable recognition, being said to look the part magnificently, and act with much judgment. After Keeley's retirement from management Ryder played, under Charles Kean at the same house, Pistol in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’; Hubert in ‘King John’ (a great success, more than once repeated); Macduff, and Buckingham in ‘King Henry VIII;’ and was the original Colonel Boswell in Lovell's ‘Trial of Love’ (7 June 1852). On 9 Oct. 1854 he was the first John Dymond in Jerrold's ‘Heart of Gold.’ He was subsequently seen as Polixenes, Bolingbroke in ‘King Richard II,’ Caliban, Edgar in ‘King Lear,’ Pizarro, William in ‘King Henry V,’ and Bassanio. Upon Kean's retirement from the Princess's, Ryder remained under Augustus Harris, sen., creating the rôles of Giovanni Orseolo in Falconer's ‘Master Passion’ (2 Nov. 1859), an adaptation of ‘Les Noces Vénitiennes’ of Victor Séjour, and Mark Beresford in ‘Gossip,’ an adaptation by T. J. Williams and A. Harris of ‘L'Enfant Terrible’ (25 Dec.), and was, so far as England is concerned, the first Timothy Crabstick in Brougham's ‘Playing with Fire,’ 28 Sept. 1861. He also played Kent in ‘Lear,’ and was, 23 Oct., Iago to Fechter's Othello. He subsequently changed parts, playing Othello to Fechter's Iago; played Falstaff in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ and Jaques, and was, on 15 Feb. 1862, the original Colonel Lambeth in Brougham's ‘Angel of Midnight’ (‘L'Ange de Minuit’ of Barrière and Plouvier). At Astley's, rechristened the Westminster, he was, 26 Jan. 1863, David Deans in Boucicault's ‘Trial of Effie Deans.’ Ryder had previously appeared at Drury Lane, 19 Sept. 1862, as the Rajah Gholam Bahadoor in Boucicault's ‘Relief of Lucknow.’ On 12 Sept. 1863 he played an original part at the same house in Falconer's ‘Nature's above Art,’ and on 8 Jan. 1864 Santoni, a monk, in the ‘Night and Morning’ of the same author. On Phelps's revival of ‘Manfred,’ he was the Abbot of Saint Maurice. On 22 Oct., at the Lyceum, under Fechter, he was the first Baron d'Alvares in the ‘King's Butterfly,’ an adaptation of ‘Fanfan la Tulipe.’ Don Salluste in ‘Ruy Blas’ followed at the same house, and on 11 Nov. 1867, in consequence of the sudden illness of Fechter, he played the last four acts of ‘Hamlet.’ At Drury Lane he was, on 30 March 1869, the original Javert in Bayle Bernard's ‘Man with two Lives’ (‘Les Misérables’). In Burnand's ‘Turn of the Tide’ (Queen's, 29 May), he was the first Doctor Mortimer. At the Queen's he was, on 10 Dec., the original Sir Norwold in Burnand's ‘Morden Grange.’ In Tom Taylor's ‘'Twixt Axe and Crown,’ 22 Jan. 1870, he was the first Simon Renard, and on 10 April 1871 the first Raoul de Gaucourt in Taylor's ‘Joan of Arc,’ his son William, who was for a short time on the London stage, playing the Count de la Trémouille. Iachimo in ‘Cymbeline’ and Virginius were played at the Queen's, and on 8 July 1872 he was the first Creon in Wills's ‘Medea in Corinth.’ In Sir Charles Young's ‘Montcalm,’ 28 Sept., he was the first Chevalier Malcorne, and at the same house played the original Ireton in Bate Richard's ‘Cromwell,’ 21 Dec.; Master Walter in ‘The Hunchback’ followed. On 15 Dec. 1874, at the Lyceum, he was Friar Lawrence, and in April 1875, at the Gaiety, Leonato in ‘Much Ado about Nothing.’ He played for a benefit Banquo at Drury Lane, 12 Nov. 1882, and on 6 Oct. of the same year was, at the Adelphi, the original Colonel Wynter in ‘In the Ranks,’ by Sims and Pettitt. This part he was compelled by illness to relinquish. He died, in poverty it is said, on 27 March 1885.

Tall, well built, and with a powerful voice, Ryder was a serviceable actor in secondary parts. Friar Lawrence and Hubert were his best characters. He was a good stage-manager and a competent instructor. Among many pupils whom he trained and brought on the stage were Stella Colas and Lilian Adelaide Neilson [q. v.] An excellent portrait of Ryder, from a photograph, appears in Pascoe's ‘Dramatic List.’

[Personal recollections; Pascoe's Dramatic List; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Cole's Life and Times of Charles Kean; Macready's Reminiscences, ed. Pollock; Coleman's Players and Playwrights; Stirling's Drury Lane; Sunday Times, various years; Era Almanac, various years; Era Newspaper, 28 March 1885; Pemberton's Life and Writings of T. W. Robertson.]

J. K.