Thomas Barry Sullivan

(1821 - 1891) Acclaimed stage actor of late 19th century.

Thomas Barry Sullivan
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About Thomas Barry Sullivan

Thomas Barry Sullivan in (1821 - 1891) Acclaimed stage actor of late 19th century..

Thomas Barry Sullivan was christened Thomas Sullivan, son of Peter Sullivan and his wife, Mary Barry, was born at Howard's Place, Birmingham.

When he was about eight years old his father and mother died, and he was then put in the care of his paternal grandfather at Bristol. He was educated first at the school attached to the Catholic church in Trenchard-street and then at the Stokes Croft Endowed school.

At 14 he entered a lawyer's office, but, seeing William Macready in 'Macbeth' and other parts, was so impressed that he decided to become an actor.

In 1837 he joined a strolling company and at Cork was given an engagement at 15s. a week as a regular member of a stock company. By 1840 he was playing important parts, and having a good light tenor voice, occasionally sang in opera. But his ambition was to become a tragedian. In November of that year he obtained an engagement with Murray's stock company at Edinburgh, at a salary of 30 shillings a week, on the understanding that he was to play "second heavy" parts.

He married on 4 July 1842 Mary Amory, daughter of a lieutenant in the army, and they had two sons and three daughters.

He soon began to play leading roles and in 1844, supporting Helen Faucit in The Merchant of Venice, he took the part of Antonio, and was Petruchio to her Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew.

In the following 20 years he was constantly playing in London, the provinces and in the United States. When the memorial theatre at Stratford-on-Avon was opened, Sullivan was selected to play Benedick and Helen Faucit emerged from her retirement to play Beatrice. On the following evening Sullivan appeared as Hamlet. On 4 June 1887 while at Liverpool he made his last appearance on the stage, his part being Richard III. His health had been uncertain for some time and in the following year he had a stroke of paralysis. He was so ill in August 1888 that the last rites of his church were administered, but he lingered for another two and a half years. His wife survived him.

Sullivan was five feet nine inches high and well formed. For a long period he was one of the finest and most finished actors of his period, though at times inclined to err on the robust side. He had had immense experience, and was steeped in the traditions of the stage, but never hesitated to make an innovation if he thought it was warranted. In latter years he developed some mannerisms, but he never lost his popularity. In private life he lived somewhat austerely, and amassed a competence.

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