John Lawrence Toole - Encyclopedia

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JOHN LAWRENCE TOOLE (1832-1906), English actor, son of an old employe of the East India Company who for many years acted as toast-master in the City of London, was born in London on the 12th of March 1832. He was educated at the City of London School, and started life in a wine merchant's office; but his natural propensity for comic acting was not to be denied, and after some practice as an amateur with the City Histrionic Club, he definitely took to the stage in 1852, appearing in Dublin as Simmons in The Spitalfields Weaver. He gained experience in the provinces, and in 1854 made his first professional appearance in London at the St James's theatre, acting Samuel Pepys in The King's Rival and Weazel in My Friend the Major. In 1857, having just had a great success as Paul Pry, he met Henry Irving in Edinburgh, and recommended him to go to' London; and their friendship remained thenceforth of the closest kind. In 1858 Toole joined Webster at the Adelphi, and established his popularity as a comedian, among other parts creating Joe Spriggins in Ici on parle franrais. In 1868 he was engaged at the Gaiety, appearing among other pieces in Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. His fame was at its height in 1874, when he went on tour to the United States, but he failed to reproduce there the success he had in England. In 1879 he took the "Folly" theatre in London, which he renamed "Toole's" in 1882. He was constantly away in the provinces, but he produced here a number of plays: H. J. Byron's Upper Crust and Auntie; Pinero's Hester's Mystery and Girls and Boys; burlesques such as Paw Claudian, and, later, J. M. Barrie's Walker, London. But his appearances gradually became fewer, and after 1893 he was seen no more on the London stage, while his theatre was pulled down shortly afterwards for an extension of Charing Cross Hospital. He published his reminiscences in 1888. Toole married in 1854; and the death of his only son in 1879, and later of his wife and daughter, had distressing effects on his health; attacks of gout, from 1886 onwards, crippled him, and ultimately he retired to Brighton, where after a long illness he died on the 30th of July 1906. In his prime he was immensely popular, and also immensely funny in a way which lepended a good deal on his tricks and delivery of words. He excelled in what may be called Dickens parts - combining humour and pathos. He was a good man of business, and left a considerable fortune, out of which he made a number of bequests to charity and to his friends. His genial and sympathetic nature was no less conspicuous off the stage than on it.

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