Reed, Thomas German (DNB00)

REED, THOMAS GERMAN (1817–1888), musician, son of Thomas Reed, a musician, by his wife Frances, daughter of Captain German of Bristol, was born at Bristol on 27 June 1817. At ten years of age he appeared at the Bath concerts as a pianoforte-player or singer, and also sang at the Bath Theatre. Shortly after, he was engaged as a pianoforte-player, singer, and actor of juvenile parts at the Haymarket Theatre, London, where his father had become musical conductor. In 1832 he was appointed organist to the Roman catholic chapel in Sloane Street, and deputy for his father as leader of the band at the Garrick Theatre. He was an early member of the Society of British Musicians, studied harmony and counterpoint, and gave lessons. His work at the theatre consisted largely in scoring and adapting new operas, such as ‘Fra Diavolo’ in 1837. In 1838 he both succeeded Tom Cooke as chapel-master at the Royal Bavarian Chapel and became musical director of the Haymarket Theatre, where he greatly improved the musical interludes. During a temporary closing of the theatre in 1843 he was engaged to produce Pacini's opera ‘Sappho’ at Drury Lane (1 April), and, after his engagement at the Haymarket ceased in 1851, he aided in the production of English opera at the Surrey Theatre, managed Sadler's Wells for a season of English opera, conducted the music at the Olympic under Alfred Wigan's management, and made prolonged provincial tours.

In 1855 he and his wife (see below) commenced a new style of performance, which ultimately, under the name of Mr. and Mrs. German Reed's Entertainment, gave him a very wide reputation. His object was to provide dramatic amusement for that class of society which was reluctant to visit the theatres. Proceedings began at St. Martin's Hall on 17 March 1855, when Reed and his wife produced what they called ‘Miss P. Horton's Illustrative Gatherings,’ and played together two pieces, ‘Holly Lodge’ and ‘The Enraged Musicians,’ in which Reed figured both as an actor and musical accompanist. On 4 Feb. 1856 they removed to the Gallery of Illustration, 14 Regent Street, and there produced, on 27 April 1857, ‘A Month from Home’ and ‘My Unfinished Opera,’ by William Brough, which were succeeded by many musical dramas, including ‘The Pyramid,’ by Shirley Brooks, 7 Feb. 1864; ‘The Peculiar Family,’ by W. Brough, 15 March 1865; ‘The Yachting Cruise,’ by F. C. Burnand, 2 April 1866; ‘Our Quiet Château,’ by Robert Reece [q. v.], 26 Dec. 1867; and ‘Inquire Within,’ by F. C. Burnand, 22 July 1868. On 4 June 1860 they were joined by John Orlando Parry [q. v.], and after 1868 the company was successively increased by the enlistment of Fanny Holland, Arthur Cecil, Corney Grain, and Alfred German Reed. Among the later performances given under Reed's active management were ‘Cox and Box,’ by Burnand and Sullivan, 29 March 1869; ‘Beggar my Neighbour,’ by F. C. Burnand, 28 March 1870; ‘A Sensation Novel,’ by F. Clay, 30 Jan. 1871, and ‘Near Relations,’ by Arthur Sketchley, 14 Aug. 1871. In September 1871 Reed made his last appearance on the stage, while his entertainment was in full tide of success. In December 1867 he had become lessee of St. George's Hall, and there, with an orchestra of forty persons and a strong chorus, he produced a few comic operas, ‘Contrabandista,’ by Burnand and Sullivan, ‘The Beggar's Opera,’ and others, but the venture met with little success. When the lease of the Gallery of Illustration expired on 30 July 1873, Reed's entertainment was transferred to St. George's Hall, opening on 20 April 1874.

Reed died at St. Croix, Upper East Sheen, Surrey, on 21 March 1888, and was buried in Mortlake cemetery.

With Burnand, Reed wrote ‘No. 204’ and, with A. Law, ‘Enchantment;’ both were played at St. George's Hall. He was also the composer and adapter of songs, some of which were sung at his own entertainments.

Reed's wife, Priscilla Reed (1818–1895), actress, known in early life as Miss P. Horton, was born at Birmingham on 2 Jan. 1818. She was daughter of Thomas Horton by Barbara Westwater of Perth. At the age of ten she took the character of the Gipsy Girl in ‘Guy Mannering’ at the Surrey Theatre. During the season of 1829 she sang at Vauxhall Gardens, and on 26 Dec. 1830 was seen at Covent Garden as Mealey Mouth in ‘Harlequin, Pat, and Bat.’ She first attracted notice in London in February 1834, when playing Kate in Sheridan Knowles's melodrama ‘The Beggar of Bethnal Green’ at the Victoria Theatre. After some other successful engagements she was chosen by Macready for the part of Ariel in an elaborate revival of the ‘Tempest’ at Covent Garden in October 1838. From 1840 to 1847 she was for two periods a member of Benjamin Webster's company at the Haymarket, where on 16 March 1840 she sustained the part of Ophelia in ‘Hamlet,’ with Macready and Phelps in the chief characters. ‘The only striking novelty in the performance is the Ophelia of Miss P. Horton, which approaches very nearly to the wild pathos of the original in one scene, and is touching and beautiful in all’ (Athenæum, 21 March 1840, p. 238). On 8 Dec. she created the part of Georgina Vesey in the initial performance of Lord Lytton's ‘Money.’ At the same house she achieved between 1843 and 1847 great popularity in Planché's Easter and Christmas pieces. She filled singing parts, and used her fine contralto voice with much taste and judgment. In the meantime she also appeared at Drury Lane as Philidel in a revival of Purcell's opera ‘King Arthur’ on 20 Nov. 1842, and in the title-rôle of Planché's fancy spectacle ‘Fortunio and his Seven Gifted Servants’ on 17 April 1843. On 7 Dec. 1847, with the leading players of the day, she acted Ariel in the ‘Tempest,’ in aid of the fund for the purchase and preservation of Shakespeare's house at Stratford-on-Avon. She also, under the Keeley management, fulfilled an engagement at the Lyceum Theatre. On 24 Jan. 1844 she married Thomas German Reed. She continued from 1847 till 1854 at the Haymarket, Drury Lane, and the Olympic theatres. On 26 Feb. 1851, at Drury Lane, on Macready's last appearance, she was the Hecate in ‘Macbeth.’ Her last regular appearance on the stage took place in 1858; but she was seen at the Gaiety on 7 Feb. 1877 as the Beadle's Wife in ‘Charity begins at Home,’ for John Parry's benefit, when she, her husband, and their son, Alfred German Reed, appeared together.

After touring in the provinces in 1854 with an entertainment in which her husband played the piano and she gave representations of different European styles of singing, she opened in London on 17 March 1855 the entertainment called ‘Miss P. Horton's Illustrative Gatherings.’ Her varied impersonations were admirable (Morley, Journal of a London Playgoer, 1866, pp. 113–14), and she afterwards contributed greatly to the success of ‘Mr. and Mrs. German Reed's Entertainment,’ both at the Gallery of Illustration and afterwards at St. George's Hall. She retired from the ‘Entertainment’ in 1877. She died at the residence of her son-in-law, Edward Mitchell, at Bexley Heath, Kent, on 18 March 1895 (Times, 17 March 1895 and 23 March; Era, 16 March 1895 and 23 March).

The son, Alfred German Reed (1847–1895), actor, after serving an apprenticeship to John Penn & Sons, engineers, Greenwich, commenced acting small parts at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, but joined his parents' ‘Entertainment’ at the Gallery of Illustration in 1871. He improved rapidly as a comedian. On his father's and mother's retirement in 1877 he entered into partnership with Richard Corney Grain for the purpose of continuing the ‘Entertainment.’ Grain contributed diverting musical sketches, while Reed directed the dramatic part of the entertainment, in which he always took a leading part. Among the pieces produced by him were revivals of F. Clay's ‘Sensational Novel,’ and W. S. Gilbert's ‘Happy Arcadia,’ and ‘My Aunt's Secret.’ His best characters were Thomas Killiecrumper in ‘Killiecrumper,’ Thomas Trotter in ‘In Possession,’ and John Bigg in ‘Wanted an Heir.’ He died at Loweney House, Maude Grove, Fulham, on 10 March 1895, and was buried in Brompton cemetery. His partner, Corney Grain, died six days later. Reed was married and left a son, Walter German Reed (Times, 11 March 1895; Era, 16 March 1895; Sketch, 20 March 1895, p. 399, with four portraits).

[Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1883 iii. 90–1, 1889 iv. 769; Pascoe's Dramatic List, 1879 pp. 267–8, 1880 pp. 282–4; E. L. Blanchard's Life, 1891, pp. 218, 425, 708, 724; Planché's Extravaganzas, 1879, vol. iii. (portrait of Mrs. Reed); Cassell's Saturday Journal, 13 July 1894 (with portrait of Mrs. Reed); D. Williamson's The German Reeds and Corney Grain, 1895; information from Walter German Reed, esq.]

G. C. B.