The death of Mr. Benjamin Webster, at the age of eighty-five, was recorded last week. London play-goers who are not young, and who used to visit the Adelphi or the Haymarket—which were most popular theatres for middle-class London audiences some thirty years ago—cherish many recollections of this finished actor and experienced manager. He was born at Bath in 1797, the son of an officer in the Army, and was educated at a Military Academy, but preferred the stage as a profession, and began its practice in provincial theatres of the West of England. In 1818 he came to London, and was engaged at several of the minor theatres successively, including the Coburg, or "Victoria," as styled later, and the Regency, now called the Prince of Wales's, near Tottenham-court-road; in 1824, he was at Drury Lane. He joined the Haymarket Company in 1829, and by careful study, devoting earnest thought to the conception of characters, worked his way up to a high reputation. He held the post of stage-manager at Covent Garden in 1836, but in the following year became lessee of the Haymarket, which he managed during fifteen years, bringing out many original plays by eminent authors, and aiding to develop the talents of some of the best actors of that period. Webster may be classed with Macready and Phelps in respect of the part he then bore in sustaining the English drama; and he also wrote, or adapted from the French, several pieces which gained approval and success. His more recent management of the, Adelphi, where Madame Celeste, Paul Bedford, Wright, and Toole, the first-named in the melodrama, the others in broad comedy, never failed to prove interesting and entertaining, will be in the remembrance of many of our readers. Mr. Webster's own powers were best displayed, like those of Phelps, in the representation of strongly marked individualities endowed with superior intellectual energy and force of will. One of his most accurate performances was that of Moliere's "Tartuffe," at the St. James's, if we mistake not, in an elegant verse translation by the late Mr. Oxenford, which would have satisfied a refined critic of the Theatre Francais. Mr. Webster was also connected, at different times, with the Olympic and the Princess's Theatre; and he exerted himself for the general interest of his profession, being the founder of the Royal Dramatic College, unfortunately not a successful institution, and an active supporter of the Theatrical Fund.
Our Portrait of Mr. Webster is from a photograph by Messrs. Elliott and Fry.
Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2255—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, July 22, 1882, p.89