The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Sullivan, Barry
Sullivan, Barry, the well-known tragedian, whose name is inseparably connected with the Australian stage, was born of Irish parents, in Birmingham in 1824, and made his first appearance on the stage in Cork, in 1840. After gaining a thorough mastery of the histrionic art in the English provinces, as understood by the "old school" of "legitimate," actors Mr. Sullivan "starred" in the United States and Canada (1857-60), and returning to England he sailed for Australia in May 1861. He remained chiefly at the old Theatre Royal, Melbourne, for the next six years, and may be said to have put theatrical matters on a democratic basis by instituting the "shilling pit." Barry Sullivan's career as manager and "star" in Melbourne may be very fairly compared with that of Mr. Irving in the same dual capacity in London. He played in that city for over a thousand consecutive nights with almost unvarying success, producing in a long line the whole of the great acting Shakespearian dramas, as well as the other recognised masterpieces of the British stage. His own acting as Richard III., Hamlet, Macbeth, King John, Othello and Iago, was greatly admired by Australian audiences, who were not without standard of comparison, having previously been made familiar with the performances of G. V. Brooke in the same rôles. Nor was Mr. Sullivan suffered to enjoy his great popularity in Melbourne without encountering personal rivalry. During his lesseeship of the Theatre Royal, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean appeared at the Haymarket Theatre, Melbourne, and the two tragedians were often "billed" to appear in the same characters on the same evening. As well as succeeding in the great tragic rôles referred to, Mr. Sullivan proved himself an admirable representative of such parts as Charles Surface, in School for Scandal, and he was also most effective in modern melodrama. One secret of Mr. Sullivan's wonderful success in the colonies was the excellence of his companies. The names of such artistes as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Heir (neé Cathcart), Mr. Vincent, and Miss Cleveland (now Mrs. Arthur Stirling), Mr. T. C. Lambert, Mr. H. G. Rogers, Mr. H. R. Harwood, Mr. Richard Stewart, Miss Rosa Dann, and numerous other "old favourites," were always to be found in the "cast." Mr. Sullivan played also in Sydney and other Australian cities, returning to England in 1866, when he reappeared at Drury Lane Theatre. In 1868 he became lessee of the Holborn Theatre. His management closed in 1870, and from this time forward he travelled backwards and forwards through the United States, Canada, and England. From 1875 to 1879 Mr. Sullivan accepted various brief engagements in London. Among his later performances of importance in the Metropolis were those of Richard III. (Cibber's version of Shakespeare's play) at Drury Lane in 1876; Macbeth, at the same house, and Benedick, at the Haymarket Theatre, on the occasion of Mr. Buckstone's benefit, in August 1879. He subsequently made many appearances in the Metropolis, but latterly his health began to fail rapidly. While at home in West Brighton in 1888, he was so near death's door that the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church were administered to him. But medical skill and the watchful care of his wife and daughters kept him alive until May 3rd, 1891.