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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Chambers, Charles Haddon

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Chambers, Charles Haddon, the well-known dramatist, was born at Stanmore, Sydney, N.S.W., in 1860. He traces his descent from an old west of Scotland family which had migrated to the north of Ireland, and been incorporated in the famous Ulster plantation. His father's maternal grandfather, John Ritchie, was the first shipbuilder in Ireland. In the middle of the last century, this enterprising Scotsman went over from the Clyde, and founded the yards where the White Star liners are now built. The dramatist's father, John Ritchie Chambers, was born in Ulster. At a comparatively early age he went to Victoria, and, subsequently drifting into New South Wales, he became attached to the Civil Service of that colony, in which he remained, occupying high positions in the Lands Department until he died in 1882. Haddon Chambers himself was educated at Marrickville and Fort Street Public schools, and in 1875 entered the local Civil Service, but resigned after a short time and betook himself with a squatter friend to the "back-blocks." In 1880 he visited Europe, returning to Australia after a nine months' trip. In 1882 he reappeared in London to begin his literary career, which he did by publishing some stories and articles in the society journals; and subsequently he wrote a number of short stories for the Argosy, Belgravia, Truth, Cassel's Saturday Journal, and other periodicals—one of which, a story of murder, entitled "In Cold Blood," drew a leading article from the Daily News. Mr. Chambers next turned his attention to the stage. Feeling his way cautiously at first, he produced a two-act farce at Margate in 1886. Next year a little domestic drama, The Open Gate, was played with success at the Comedy Theatre, London. In conjunction with Mr. Stanley Little, he then dramatised for Mr. Charrington and Miss Janet Achurch, Rider Haggard's novel "Dawn," under the title of Devil Caresfoot, which was first produced at a matinée at the Vaudeville Theatre, London. These artistes have recently reproduced the piece in Australia, with considerable success. Mr. Haddon Chambers, however, made his coup by a four-act original drama, Captain Swift, written for and originally produced by Mr. Beerbohm Tree, the well-known actor-manager of the Haymarket Theatre. This proved an immediate and genuine success, not only in London, but also in the English provinces, in America and in Australia. Since then Mr. Haddon Chambers has written The Idler As there was no immediate prospect of the production of this play in London, he crossed to New York, where he produced it at the Lyceum Theatre. The play scored an immediate and conspicuous success, with the result that, three months later, it appeared under the management of Mr. George Alexander at the St. James' Theatre, London, where it had a good run. The Idler has also been brought out with great success in Australia, with Mr. Charles Cartwright and Miss Olga Nethersole in the leading parts. Mr. Haddon Chambers' comedy, The Honourable Herbert, was produced by Mr. Thomas Thorne, at the Vaudeville Theatre, in 1892. Mr. Chambers republished his admirable short story "The Pipe of Peace," which he has dramatised for Mr. Geo. Alexander, in Mr. Patchett Martin's "Oak-Bough and Wattle-Blossom," and also contributed to Mr. Philip Mennell's collection "In Australian Wilds."