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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Brooke, Gustavus Vaughan

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Brooke, Gustavus Vaughan, the well-known actor, was the son of Gustavus Vaughan Brooke of Dublin, was born on April 25th, 1818, at Hardwick Place, Dublin, and was educated at a school conducted by the brother of Maria Edgeworth. When about fifteen he applied to Calcraft of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, for an engagement; and owing to the sudden indisposition of Edmund Kean he was allowed to appear as William Tell on Easter Monday (April 9th) 1833. Permanent employment followed. He subsequently made his first appearance in London as Virginius at the Victoria Theatre, and in 1840 he entered into an engagement with Macready to appear at Drury Lane, but threw it up through dissatisfaction with his part. His real début in London took place on Jan. 3rd, 1848, when he appeared as Othello at the Olympic, and scored a great success with the public as well as with critics of judgment. Later on he went to America, and played Othello at the Broadway Theatre, New York, on Dec. 15th, 1851. His success in the States led him to take the Astor Place Opera House in New York, which he opened in May 1852. The venture was a disastrous failure, and after a fresh tour in the States he reappeared at Drury Lane, then under the management of E. T. Smith, the father of the Hon. L. L. Smith of Victoria (q.v.). Mr. George Coppin visited England in 1854 with the view of engaging "stars" for Australia, and amongst others secured G. V. Brooke who from 1855 to 1857 received as much as £100 a night for playing in Australia and New Zealand. He went into partnership with Coppin in the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, and the Melbourne Cremorne, with results so disastrous that both were beggared, and dissolved partnership in Feb. 1859, when Brooke returned to England to find his prospects far from bright. His reappearance at Drury Lane as Othello was a failure, habits of dissipation having left their deteriorating traces on his once fine presence and splendid voice. Brooke married Miss Avonia Jones, an actress of no great merit. Disgusted by his ill success in London, Brooke decided to return to Australia, and took his passage in the ill-fated ship London, which foundered in the Bay of Biscay on Jan. 11th, 1866. Brooke was amongst those who perished, his manly and even heroic conduct during the long agony which preceded the final sinking of the vessel being such as to shed lustre over a career which, in its later phases, had been clouded by a deplorable absence of self-control.