Homes, ” begun in the Lyceum theatre in 1818, which, according to Leigh Hunt, “for the richness and variety of his humour, were as good as half a dozen plays distilled.” Off the stage his simple and kind-hearted disposition won him affection and esteem. In 1822 Mathews visited America, his observation on his experiences there forming for the reader a most entertaining portion of his biography. From infancy his health had been uncertain, and the toils of his profession gradually undermined it. In 1834 he paid a second visit to America. His last appearance in New York was on the 11th of February 183 5, when he played Samuel Coddle in Married Life and Andrew Steward in The Lone House. He died at Plymouth on the 28th of June 1835. In 1797 he had married Eliza Kirkham Strong (d. 1802), and in 1803 Anne Jackson, an actress, the author of the popular and diverting Memoirs, by Mrs Mathews (4 vols., 1838-1839).
His son CHARLES JAMES MATHEWS (1803-1878), who was born at Liverpool on the 26th of December 1803, became even better known as an actor. After attending Merchant Taylors School he was articled as pupil to an architect, and continued for some years nominally to follow this profession. His first public appearance on the stage was made on the 7th of December 1835, at the Olympic, London, as George Rattleton in his own play The Humpbacked Lover, and as Tim Topple the Tiger in Leman Rode's Old and Young Stager. In 1838 he married Madame Vestris, then lessee of the Olympic, but neither his management of this theatre, nor subsequently of Covent Garden, nor of the Lyceum, resulted in pecuniary success, although the introduction of scenery more realistic and careful in detail than had hitherto been employed was due to his enterprise. In the year of his marriage he visited America, but without receiving a very cordial welcome. As an actor he held in England an unrivalled place in his peculiar vein of light eccentric comedy. The easy grace of his manner, and the imperturbable solemnity with which he perpetrated his absurdities, never failed to charm and amuse; his humour was never broad, but always measured and restrained. It was as the leading character in such plays as the Game of Speculation, My Awful Dad, Cool as a Cucumber, Patter versus Clatter, and Little Toddlekins, that he specially excelled. In 1856 Mme Vestris died, and in the following year Mathews again visited the United States, where in 1858 he married Mrs A. H. Davenport. In 1861 they gave a series of “ At Homes ” at the Haymarket theatre, which were almost as popular as had been those of the elder Mathews. Charles James Mathews was one of the few English actors who played in French successfully, -his appearance in Paris in 1863 in a French version of Cool as a Cucumber, written by himself, being received with great approbation. He also played there again in 1865 as Sir Charles Coldcream in the original play L'Homme blasé (English version by Boucicault, Used up). After reaching his sixty-sixth year, Mathews. set out on atour round the world, in which was included a third visit to America, and on his return in 1872 he continued to act without interruption till within a few weeks of his death on the 24th of June 1878. He made his last appearance in New York at Wallack's theatre on the 7th of June 1872, in H. ]. Byron's Not such a Fool as he Looks. His last appearance in London was at the Opéra Comique on the 2nd of June 1877, in The Liar and The Cosy Couple. At Stalybridge he gave his last performance on the 8th of June 1878, when he played Adonis Evergreen in his own comedy M y Awful Dad.
See the Life of Charles James Mathews, edited by Charles Dickens (2 vols., 1879); H. G. Paine in Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States (New York, 1886).
MATHEWS, THOMAS (1676–1751), British admiral, son of Colonel Edward Mathews (d. 1700), and grandson on his mother's side of Sir Thomas Armstrong (1624–1684), who was executed for the Rye House Plot, was born at Llandaff Court, Llandaff. He entered the navy and became lieutenant in 1699, being promoted captain in 1703. During the short war with Spain (1718–20) he commanded the “ Kent ” in the fleet of Sir George Byng (Lord Torrington), and from 1722 to 1724 he had the command of a small squadron sent to the East Indies to repress the pirates of the coast of Malabar. He saw no further service till March 1741, when he was appointed to the command in the Mediterranean, and plenipotentiary to the king of Sardinia and the other courts of Italy. It is impossible to understand upon what grounds he was selected. As an admiral he was not distinguished; he was quite destitute of the experience and the tact required for his diplomatic duties; and he was on the worst possible terms with his second in command, Richard Lestock (1679?–1746). Yet the purpose for which he was sent out in his double capacity was not altogether ill performed. In 1742 Mathews sent a small squadron to Naples to compel King Charles III., afterwards king of Spain, to remain neutral. It was commanded by commodore, afterwards admiral, William Martin (1696?–1756), who refused to enter into negotiations, and gave the king half an hour in which to return an answer. In June of the same year a squadron of Spanish galleys, which had taken refuge in the Bay of Saint Tropez, was burnt by the fireships of Mathews' fleet. In the meantime a Spanish squadron of line-of-battleships had taken refuge in Toulon, and was watched by the British fleet fromits anchorage at Hyères. In February 1744 the Spaniards put to sea in company with a French force. Mathews, who had now returned to his flagship, followed, and an engagement took place on the rrth of February. The battle was highly discreditable to the British fleet, and not very honourable to their opponents, but it is of the highest historical importance in the history of the navy. It marked the lowest pitch reached in discipline and fighting and efficiency by the fleet in the 18th century, and it had a very bad effect in confirming the pedantic system of tactics set up by the old Fighting Instructions. The British fleet followed the enemy in light winds on the 10th of February, and became scattered. Mathews hoisted the signal to form the line, and then when night fell, to lie to. At that moment Lestock, who commanded in the rear, was at a considerable distance from the body of the fleet, and he ought undoubtedly to have joined his admiral before lying to, but he obeyed the second order, with the result, which it is impossible not to feel that he foresaw and desired, that when morning came he was a long way off the flag of Mathews. The enemy were within striking distance of the van and centre of the British fleet, and Mathews attacked their rear. The battle was ill fought, as it had been ill prepared. Lestock never came into action at all. One Spanish line-of-battleship, the “ Poder ” (74), was taken, but afterwards burnt. Several of the British captains behaved very badly, and Mathews in a heat of confused anger bore down on the enemy out of his line, while the signal to keep the line was still flying at his mast head. The French and Spaniards got away, and were not pursued by Mathews, though they were of inferior strength.
Deep indignation was aroused at home by this naval miscarriage, and the battle led to more than twenty courts-martial and a parliamentary inquiry. The evils which had overrun the navy were clearly displayed, and in so far some good was done. It was shown for instance that one of the captains whose ship behaved worst was a man of extreme age who was nearly blind and deaf. One of the captains was so frightened at the prospect of a trial that he deserted on his way home and disappeared into Spain. Mathews resigned and returned home after the battle. In consequence of the parliamentary motion for inquiry, Lestock was brought to trial, and acquitted on the ground that he had obeyed orders. Then Mathews was tried in 1746, and was condemned to be dismissed the service on the ground that he had not only failed to pursue the enemy but had taken his fleet into action in a confused manner. He had in fact not waited till he had his fleet in a line with the enemy before bearing down on them, and he had disordered his own line. To the country at large it appeared strange that the admiral who had actually fought should be condemned, while the admiral who hadikept at a distance was acquitted. Mathews looked upon his condemnation as the result of mere party spirit. Sheer pedantry on the part of the officers forming