in ‘The School for Scandal,’ and Modus in ‘The Hunchback.’
Engaged by W. H. Liston for the Olympic Theatre, he opened there on 9 Oct. 1869 as Steerforth in ‘Little Em'ly,’ and subsequently played there a series of parts, in one of which, Charley Burridge in H. J. Byron's ‘Daisy Farm,’ he made his first pronounced success in London (1 May 1871). From the Olympic he went to the Lyceum Theatre under H. L. Bateman [q. v.]. There on 26 Dec. 1871 he succeeded Irving as Alfred Jingle in Albery's play of ‘Pickwick.’ In September 1872, at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester, he supported Adelaide Neilson as Romeo, Claude Melnotte, and Orlando, and in the following year he appeared with her in Paris at the Athénée Theatre.
On his return to London he was engaged by David James and Thomas Thorne for the Vaudeville, and ‘opened’ there on 20 Sept. 1873 as Charles Surface in ‘The School for Scandal.’ On the first performance there of H. J. Byron's comedy, ‘Our Boys,’ 16 Jan. 1875, he created the part of Charles Middlewick.
From the Vaudeville he passed to the Haymarket Theatre, where his rôles included Claudio in ‘Measure for Measure,’ in support of Adelaide Neilson (1 April 1876). Subsequently he returned to the Vaudeville to play his original part in ‘Our Boys.’ He was next seen at the St. James's Theatre under Mrs. John Wood, and as Vladimir in ‘The Danischeffs’ on 6 Jan. 1877 he made a great impression. At the Aquarium Theatre, 24 May, he made a further success in his impersonation of Young Mirabel in Farquhar's old comedy, ‘The Inconstant.’ At the Globe Theatre matinée performance, 2 Feb. 1878, he played Romeo for the first time in London.
Subsequently at the Princess's Theatre he achieved his chief reputation in melodrama. His performance of Tom Robinson in a revival of Charles Reade's drama, ‘It's Never Too Late to Mend’ (26 Dec. 1878), proved a popular triumph. On 2 June 1879 his rendering at the same theatre of Coupeau in Charles Reade's version of Emile Zola's ‘L'Assommoir,’ entitled ‘Drink,’ placed him among the most popular actors of his day. His presentation of the drunkard, who dies of delirium tremens, was as realistic and intense as any performance of which there is record. Francisque Sarcey, the French critic, declared it to be infinitely superior to that of Gil Naza, the French actor, who created the part in Paris.
On 20 Sept. 1880 he commenced an engagement at Sadler's Wells Theatre, when he appeared with effect as Othello. This was followed by William Tell, Claude Melnotte, and Ingomar, and he alternated the parts of Macbeth and Macduff with Hermann Vezin. A five years' engagement with the Gatti Brothers at the Adelphi Theatre began on 14 March 1881. He appeared as Michael Strogoff in a drama of that name, adapted from the French by H. J. Byron. Warner illustrated his strength of passion and will at this performance when, in a grim duel between himself as hero and James Fernandez as the villain, he impulsively caught at his antagonist's unhappily unblunted dagger, and dangerously wounded his hand; he ended the play and took his call, but fainted as soon as the curtain fell, and for several hours his life seemed in jeopardy. The joint of his middle finger was permanently stiffened. While at the Adelphi he confined himself to melodrama, playing Walter Lee in Henry Pettitt's drama, ‘Taken from Life’ (31 Dec. 1881), which ran for twelve months; Christian in Robert Buchanan's ‘Stormbeaten’ (14 March 1883); and Ned Drayton in Sims and Pettitt's drama, ‘In the Ranks’ (6 Oct.), which ran for eighteen months.
On 9 Dec. 1887 Warner was given a great complimentary ‘benefit’ performance at Drury Lane Theatre, prior to his departure on an Australian tour. His daughter Grace then made her first appearance on the stage, playing Juliet to her father's Romeo in the balcony scene. Originally intended to last a few weeks, his tour in Australia proved so successful that he remained there two and a half years. His repertory included many of his old parts, including those in ‘Drink,’ ‘The Road to Ruin,’ ‘The School for Scandal,’ ‘It's Never Too Late to Mend,’ and ‘Dora,’ also by Charles Reade. In addition he played many new parts, including Hamlet and Pygmalion in ‘Pygmalion and Galatea.’ On his return to England he continued his successes in melodrama. He acted for Augustus Harris at Drury Lane Theatre (6 Sept. 1890), and reappeared at the Princess's Theatre (16 April 1892). At the end of 1894 he toured as D'Artagnan in ‘The Three Musketeers,’ and in many ephemeral melodramas. At the Princess's on 27 Dec. 1897, he played Jack Ferrers in ‘How London Lives’; and he gave a vivid performance of the part of a paralytic, Jan Perrott, in ‘Ragged Robin,’ on 23 June 1898, at Her Majesty's Theatre, under (Sir) H. Beerbohm Tree. At Wyndham's Theatre on 1 March