Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

About Thomas Charles King

Usually known as T. C. King

Introduction - Career - Obituary - Reminiscences - Biography - Three Posters - Ancestry Index

A Carte de Visite depicting T. C. King - Kindly donated by Jennie Bisset

Above - A Carte de Visite depicting T. C. King - Kindly donated by Jennie Bisset

A photograph of T. C. King - Courtesy Norman King Lloyd.Thomas Charles King was born at Twyning, near Tewkesbury, on the 24th of April 1818 and Baptised at the St Mary Magdalene Church in Twyning by George Foxton on the 17th of May the same year, 1818.

King made his first stage appearance in one-act dramas and operettas in Cheltenham at the age of fifteen. An actor and Theatre Manager, and a man of 'Ample Proportions,' King was to become a respected 'tragedian' and was equipped with an unusually thunderous voice.

Right - A Photograph of T. C. King - Courtesy Norman King Lloyd.

He was well known for his portrayal of Shakespeare's Hamlet and was playing Othello at Dublin's Queen's Theatre when the then relatively unknown Henry Irving was playing Cassio, in March of 1860.

A Notice from the ERA of the 18th of July 1852 which is advertising 'One Night more - Brilliant array of Talent for this Night only' at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the 22nd of July 1852.T. C. King's first London appearance was for a one night special Benefit for F. Webster at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where he appeared in 'The Merchant of Venice' as Shylock on Thursday the 22nd of July 1852. That same evening another new actor made his first appearance on any stage, at the same Theatre, namely J. L. Toole who appeared there in 'The Spitalfield's Weaver'.

Left - A Notice from the ERA of the 18th of July 1852 which is advertising 'One Night more - Brilliant array of Talent for this Night only' at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the 22nd of July 1852. In the cast for these productions were T. C. King in his first London Appearance, and J. L. Toole in his first performance on any stage.

The ERA reported on King's first London performance, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in their 1st of August 1852 edition saying:- 'MR. KING, THE TRAGEDIAN - This gentleman we noticed favourably last week when he appeared at the Haymarket, as Shylock, for Mr. F. Webster's benefit, but it was not then generally known that he studied it at a short notice to oblige Mr. Webster, and that it is not a character he would have chosen for a first appearance; but even with this disadvantage he obtained great applause and was called before the curtain to receive an additional proof of his success. He has achieved complete triumphs in Dublin in Virginius, Macbeth, Claude Melnotte, the Stranger, &c., &c. It would be therefore unjust to form a decided opinion on his acting till he is seen in a more favourable light.' - The ERA, 1st of August 1852.

King's daughter, Katty King, a fine comic actor, married Arthur Lloyd and toured with his company until her death in 1891. T. C. King also toured extensively himself, and was well known as one of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane's regular tragedians. He also performed at the Princess's Theatre, London under Charles Kean in 1857.

In 1876 Berrows Journal printed a short review of his career to date which can be read below.

When King died in October 1893 the ERA printed an extensive Obituary for him which gives much more detail on his life, see below.

The ERA also printed an article entitled 'Reminiscences of T. C. King' in their 4th of November 1893 edition which can also be read further down on this page. A full length pencil sketch of T. C. King, drawn by Alfred Bryan in 1894, can be seen here.

You may also like to read Harry Powell Lloyd's article on T. C. King and Arthur Lloyd from 1979 here.

T. C. King - From Berrows Journal, 25th March 1876

Mr. T. C. King, the celebrated tragedian (who has recently taken up residence at Fearndon Cottage, Fearnall Heath) (See Note), is a native of Cheltenham, where he was born in 1822. (See Note) He had scarcely attained manhood when he adopted the stage as a profession, of which he is now such a distinguished ornament. He had previously won high encomiums for his success in various amateur performances, and, encouraged by the flattering opinions of his admirers, abandoned mercantile pursuits for the career of an actor. Having procured an engagement at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, under the management of Mr. Mercer Simpson, he sustained a number of minor characters, during his first season, with marked success. His increasing reputation gained for him the offer of an engagement for the leading business in the York Theatrical Circuit, where he soon became a great favourite. A very advantageous and lucrative offer from Mr. Wm. Murray induced Mr. King to transfer his services to the Edinburgh stage, where his eminent abilities rendered him the most popular tragedian who had for years paced the boards of the Edinburgh Theatre.

He made his first appearance in the metropolis at the Princess's Theatre in "The Merchant of Venice." (See Note). In 1851 Mr. King was one of the actors selected to appear in the State Theatricals at Windsor Castle, and on the occasion of the performance of "As You Like it," he was complimented by the late Prince Consort, who expressed his high gratification with the admirable performance of Mr. King.

Mr. King remained two years under the management of Mr. Charles Kean, when he relinquished his engagement for a starring tour in the principal theatres of the provinces, which was attended with the most gratifying success. In Dublin Mr. King was seized with a lingering and dangerous illness, and for some months was incapacitated from pursuing his profession. When at length he recovered, and re-appeared on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Hawkins-street, Dublin, he was welcomed by an enormous audience. The elite of the Irish capital crowded the boxes, and the pit and galleries were densely crammed. No higher compliment could be paid to the great talents of Mr. King than his unrivaled popularity as a tragedian in the sister island.

When his health was fully re-established, Mr. King fulfilled a series of starring engagements in England, Ireland, and Scotland, at the end of which he accepted an offer of a three years' engagement from Mr. F. B. Chatterton, and appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in October, 1868. He made his re-appearance in the metropolis in the character of Cardinal Richelieu, and achieved a remarkable success. This impersonation was succeeded by Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, William Tell, and other of his chief roles.

Mr. King has been married some years and his eldest daughter (See Note) (who inherits her father's genius for the stage) made a most successful debut. Mr. King is highly respected by the members of his profession, and his geniality and affability render him popular with all who have the privilege of knowing him.'

The above text in quotes was first published in Berrows Journal, 25th March 1876.

NB: T. C. King had moved to Firland Lodge, Fearnall Heath by 1879 according to the Claines Littlebury’s Directory of 1879, see here.

NB: The date of T. C. King's birth is stated as 1822 but the date is wrong, he was in fact born in 1818.

NB: This performance in London was actually at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the 22nd of July 1852.

NB: The eldest daughter of T. C. King mentioned in the article above refers to Elizabeth Bessie King (1849-1923) who supported her father in many productions including Orphelia to his Hamlet at Drury Lane and was also popular in Glasgow doing Music-Hall 'turns'.

Death of Mr T. C. King - Manchester Times, 3 November 1893

The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016, where T. C. King was buried in 1893 - Courtesy Valmae Young.

Above - The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016, where T. C. King was buried in 1893 - Courtesy Valmae Young.

The Gravestone of T. C. King at The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016 - Courtesy Valmae Young.The Late Mr T. C, KING. — The remains of the late Mr. T. C. King, the tragedian, were interred in Claines churchyard, near Worcester, on Friday afternoon.

A number of relatives and friends journeyed by train to Worcester, and then drove to Claines. The service was conducted in the church and at the grave by the Rev. A. S. Porter, vicar.

Right - The Gravestone of T. C. King and his wife Eliza at The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016 - Courtesy Valmae Young.

The chief mourners were Mr. Pitt Hardacre, Mr. Mercer, H. Simpson (late of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham). Captain Rodgers (Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingha), and Mr. Charles Dornton.

The above obituary for T. C. King was first published in the Manchester Times, 3 November 1893.

The Grave Stone for T. C. King and his wife Eliza King at Claines Parish Church in Worcester (shown right) is still in very good condition even today, and is inscribed with the words:- 'To the memory of my dear father and mother Thomas Charles King who died OCTr 21st 1893 - Eliza King who died JANy 8th 1878'.

The Inscription on the Gravestone of T. C. King and Eliza King at The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016 - Courtesy Valmae Young.

The Inscription on the Gravestone of T. C. King and Eliza King at The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016 - Courtesy Valmae Young.

Above - The Inscription on the Gravestone of T. C. King and Eliza King at The Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Claines, Worcester in March 2016 - Courtesy Valmae Young. The inscription reads:- 'To the memory of my dear father and mother Thomas Charles King who died OCTr 21st 1893 - Eliza King who died JANy 8th 1878'.

Obituary - Death of Mr T. C. King - The Era - October 28, 1893

Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street.  - Click to EnlargeWe regret to announce the death of Mr T C King, the veteran tragedian, who passed away on Saturday last at his residence, Osborne Villa, Alcester Road, King’s Heath, Birmingham. He had been suffering a long time from the decay of his natural powers. Mr King was born in Cheltenham in 1825, (Actually this date is wrong and he was in fact born 1818 M.L.) consequently at the time of his death he was in his sixty-ninth year. (Actually his seventy-fifth year M.L.) When quite a boy he displayed remarkable talents as an amateur, while at the age of fifteen he budded forth as a professional actor, and made his first appearance on the stage in his native town. After touring in some of the smaller places in minor dramas and operettas, Mr King, upon the recommendation of his manager, Mr Alexander Lee (who afterwards became manager of Drury-lane theatre) was engaged by the late Mr Mercer Simpson and under the Simpson and Munro management, he remained a member of the old stock company for a couple of seasons at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, which was recognised as one of the finest schools for actors in the provinces. It is interesting to note that in the salary list of the Theatre Royal for the ‘Winter season of 1844,’ Mr King was in receipt of 30s per week. He played many small parts in Shakespearean and other dramas, and always played them conscientiously and well. His first appearance in Birmingham was as Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, to the Romeo of Mr William Montague, father of ‘Bath’ Montague and the Juliet of Miss Emmaline Montague who afterwards became Mrs Compton.

Right - A Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street. T.C. King was Arthur Lloyd's wife, Katty King's father. - Click to enlarge. The poster is one of a large collection of original Lloyd Posters collected since the mid 1800s by members of the family and found recently after being lost for 50 years. To see all these posters click the Poster Index here.

Among his early associates at the Theatre Royal were Creswick, Webb, Conway, Ridgway, John Barton, Cook, Atkins and other sterling comedians and tragedians; while Mr Alfred Mellon was leader of the orchestra. He thus began his real career in the best class company. ‘That was the school for a young actor.’ Mr King used to say, with sparkling eyes, ‘and in the two years I stayed with Mr Simpson, I learned much.’ As a proof of the calibre of the work the stock company at the Royal did, we may mention that during the year Shakespeare held the stage for six-months out of the twelve. They got plenty of diversity though and Mr King was wont to speak in glowing terms of the appearance in pantomime of three tragedians such as Mead, Swinburne and himself. Mead was cast for the part of a comic Quaker, who walked demurely across the stage until he suddenly stepped inside the clown’s magic circle, when he at once began to dance. ‘I’ said King, ‘was a magician, and went down a trap.’ King’s reputation as a Shakespearean actor rapidly became established, and after fulfilling an engagement in the York theatrical circuit he was again sought after by old Mr Simpson, and appeared as the leading man at the Theatre Royal with exceedingly gratifying results to himself and the management. He became very popular with the Birmingham public, and subsequently, when he transferred his services to the Edinburgh stage, his success was not less pronounced. A funny story is told of his re-engagement by Mr Simpson. King’s success at York had been so great that Mr Simpson sought him out, and mentioned his want of a leading man for the coming season. He concluded- ‘If you care to come I will give you one hundred shillings a-week, sir’. ‘A sum,’ said Mr King, ‘which appeared so vast in comparison with the five pounds it represented that I closed with him at once.’

Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the National Standard Theatre, Shoreditch. - Click to EnlargeIt was at Edinburgh, under the management of Mr Murray that the late Mr Charles Kean became impressed with the high talents of the young tragedian, and offered him a three years’ engagement at the Princess’s Theatre, London, in his series of Shakespearean revivals.

Left - A Bill for a Benefit for T.C. King, at the National Standard Theatre, Shoreditch. T.C. King was Arthur Lloyd's wife, Katty King's father. - Click to enlarge. The poster is one of a large collection of original Lloyd Posters collected since the mid 1800s by members of the family and found recently after being lost for 50 years. To see all these posters click the Poster Index here.

Mr King accepted, and during the engagement he had the honour of appearing with Mr and Mrs Charles Kean ‘by command’ at a Royal entertainment at Windsor Castle on Jan 31st, 1858, when As You Like It was played before the Queen, the Price Consort and the Court. On June 12th, 1856, Mr King made his first appearance in Birmingham as a ‘star’ actor, and later the same year he appeared as Hamlet for the first time on the local boards. He also gained popularity as Claude Melnotte, Richard the Third, Sir Giles Overeach and Rolla; and in 1851 he made a remarkable hit as Mephistopheles in a version of Faust and Marguerite, produced by Dion Boucicault at the Princess’s Theatre. Mr King was a favourite in all the large towns, and especially in Dublin. It was while lying, and at death’s door, as everyone thought that the incident occurred with Gustavus Vaughan Brooke without which no sketch of King’s career would be complete. Prone, and sick unto death, he was visited by his old friends, Brooke, Harry Webb and Tom Powrie. ‘Gus’ had come to wish ‘Tom’ goodbye before he set sail in the London for Australia. After the three had done their utmost to cheer the sufferer, Gus said, ‘Clear out boys, I want to speak to Tom. The boys accordingly ‘cleared’ and the two old and steadfast friends were alone. ‘Now look here, old man,’ said Brooke, ‘a fellow can’t be on his back so many months without getting under the weather. Take this as a parting gift.’ So saying, he tried to thrust a roll of Irish banknotes into the sick man’s hand. His comrade assured him that he was all right; the children were earning money, and he could not take it. Brooke appeared disappointed, but put his arm’s round the other’s neck and said, ‘Kiss me, old fellow; good-bye.’ The tears came into both their eyes. At this moment the others returned into the room, Powrie asking in tragic fashion, ‘When shall we three meet again?’ As they left after bidding King, ‘Goodbye!’ he heard Brooke say, ‘Poor Tom, I fear he’s booked for kingdom come. We shall never see him more.’ And they never did. In less than twelve-months, those three men had joined the great majority; whilst King was able to walk abroad again.

During his career Mr King was the associate of many of the great actors of the past. He lodged with Robson in Dublin, before the later became the Queen’s favourite comedian. Kean and Keeley, Phelps, the Webbs, and Atkins, Miss Glyn, Celeste, and Miss Cleveland - he could talk of them all. Of his own impersonation he liked Othello best; but his motto was, ‘The way to play what you like is to like what you play.’

Mr King had two daughters, one of whom (Katty King) married Mr Arthur Lloyd; the other remained with her father until his death. He was interred on Friday in the churchyard of Claines near Worcester.

The Era October 28th 1893.

You may also like to read Harry Powell Lloyd's article on T. C. King and Arthur Lloyd from 1979 here.

Reminiscences of T. C. King - The ERA, 4th of November 1893

Sir - Receiving intelligence on the Monday after his death of the passing away of Mr Thomas Charles King, my mind traversed the long record of his theatrical career as I have so often heard him dilate upon it.

Mr. king, when quite a youth, conceived a passion for the stage, and waxed enthusiastic over amateur performances on the strength of which, he has told me he used to "worry" theatrical managers. I have often heard him say that he afterwards grew to have a horror of amateurs - realising what a "nuisance" he had once been in that line himself. The sketch of his first performance as the Ghost to Macready's Hamlet was, when rendered in his own inimitable viva-voce, one of the funniest reminiscences I ever heard.

At rehearsal Macready expressed a wish for the Ghost to make his disappearance (in the rampart scene down an opening in the stage, and asked Mr King very earnestly if he thought he could manage to glide with the requisite supernatural dignity backwards to the spot. Anxious to please, Mr King replied in the affirmative, and spent an hour or two alone when rehearsal was over doing the great crab-trick. At night he got through the scene with the exacting tragedian very effectively, and made a graceful and successful retrogade to the bridge, on which he took his stand, rolling forth the sepulchral charge, "Remember me." But alas! the sublime scene was now at the mercy of that remorseless fiend, the stage carpenter, whose blocks were (as usual) out of order. The signal was given, but the bridge did not move. "Beast!" muttered Macready; "why do you not go down?" Here the bridge moved slightly, with a jerk that nearly sent the dignified Ghost off his balance, while the great tragedian was gnashing his teeth and growling, sotto voice, "Great G---, sir! Will you go down? Beast!" &c.

Now the bridge started again with another jerk, moving very slowly and wobbling the poor Ghost about till he was mid-leg deep, when it stuck again. A fatal titter sounded from the front; Macready was ejaculating "Beast!" and Mr King thought he had had enough of it. In as stately a fashion as was possible under the conditions, he stepped upon the stage and glided off. When the act was over Macready stalked up to Mr King and groaned, "Great G---, sir! Why did you not go down?" "You must inquire of the stage-carpenter, sir," replied Mr King gravely; "and, Mr Macready, though I pay all deference to your genius and position, I must protest against your calling me beast!" Macready must have thought the better of his fellow actor for this dignified speech. They were always good friends.

Macready seems to have had a very trying temper during business, but Mr King always spoke leniently of his peculiarities, for he regarded him - as an artist - with a reverence amounting almost to worship.

Windsor Castle and the Theatre royal, Windsor in 2010 - Photo M.L.Mr King was very proud of his visit to Windsor Castle, where, on one occasion, Kean's company performed by Her Majesty's command.

Right - Windsor Castle and the Theatre royal, Windsor in 2010 - Photo M.L.

The principals gentlemen dressed together in one palatial room, and a great Court functionary on entering shortly before the rising of the curtain, was scandalised to find that the actors had stuck bits of candle in their wax - melted on a Carrara mantelpiece, above which hung a masterpiece of painting. This had been (somewhat heedlessly) done as the readiest way to get a light close to the face, which is so essential to making-up. "Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" cried the horrified official, "have you no Consideration? What would his Royal Highness say to this! Truly actors are the same reckless, easy-going race they were in the days of Shakespeare! Pray extinguish those candies gentlemen - flaring within six inches of a Correggio worth £30,000!" The stage appointments and scenery were perfect, and this incomparable company of mummers played to the flower of rank and statesmanship who faced them with - their backs! It is not, of course, etiquette for spectators to turn their backs to the Sovereign. Her Majesty and the Prince Consort were seated on a dais facing the stage, the "commanded" guests facing them, and applauding only when they applauded.

A Bill for T. C King in 'George Barnwell or The London Merchant' and several other pieces at the Theatre Royal Adelphi, Glasgow on Saturday the 15th of January 1848 - Courtesy Ralph Peppers.Amongst that brilliant assemblage were men and women whose names are enrolled in the peerage, and are marked in history, but Mr King's eyes were drawn to the figure of an old man, who sat, with characteristic impassability, leaning forward in a slight stoop. The face, partly turned towards the stage, disclosed the massive Roman profile familiar through the engraver's art to millions of the Anglo-Saxon race, and the player recognised the Duke of Wellington!

The players were bidden to an exclusive supper - or banquet - of their own when the comedy was over, and Charles Kean himself gave the one toast of the evening with that pedantic accent and fantastic pronunciation which has furnished a fruitful theme for professional satire.

"Ladies - a - and - a - gentlemen." Every glass was lifted, and all stood up.

"The Ka-ween!"

The stage-manager was sorely exercised in spirit because of many of the guests wishing - well, it was not unnatural - to preserve a biscuit or a bon bon as a souvenir of the one great honour of a lifetime. A certain member of the company - one of the most celebrated actors of his time, now long passed away - contrived to smuggle a small cluster of grapes from his plate into his pocket. Mr King, sitting next him, gasped a remonstrance. "Sh-h!" whispered the other in reply. "My little girl is lying very ill. I'll tell her these came from her Majesty, and that will cure her - if anything will." Good old faith in the King's touch!

Left - A Bill for T. C King in 'George Barnwell or The London Merchant' and several other pieces at the Theatre Royal Adelphi, Glasgow on Saturday the 15th of January 1848 - Courtesy Ralph Peppers.

Amongst the many great actresses with whom Mr King was professionally associated was that unsurpassable artist Charlotte Cushman. She was an immense woman - nearly six feet high, and formed in proportion. She could enact Hamlet or Romeo with not only the power but the appearance of a man; indeed, an old friend of mine who had often played Dandie Dinmont with her assured me that when dressed for Meg Merrilies she looked like a man in disguise. Yet such was the genius of the woman that whatever part she undertook she performed to perfection, and was as captivating in comedy as she was impressive in tragedy. They were good comrades and friends, these two, to the last day of the great Cushman's life. She was a simple-mannered, bright-tempered, witty creature, not without a spice of frolic in her; and it is difficult to realise that the Medea of Medeas, who used to electrify Mr King when he was acting with her, would be addressed by him in private life as "Charlotte," while she genially called him "Tom." Once during a representation of The Honeymoon, in the scene where Juliana embraces Aranza, the lady flew to her lord with an outburst of physical vigour for which he was wholly unprepared and they fell headlong to the stage together! Mr King afterwards "chaffed" Miss Cushman severely for taking advantage of his weakness - "Next time, Charlotte, plant one leg firmly behind me to brace myself." Cushman was an amiable soul. She took this badinage all in good part, and only laughed.

On visiting Ireland, where he remained for a long time, Mr King established himself as a favourite. He was a very fine elocutionist, and had a most dignified stage presence. Though not tall, like his friend Brooke, he had a very handsome figure, and his movements on the stage were exquisitely graceful, while his strongly marked features lent great expressiveness to his assumption of a part. He was a pleasing stage lover, and was accounted excellent as Romeo. When he played the part to the greet Mrs Warner's Juliet, she remarked that so ardent a Romeo in real life would assuredly have climbed that balcony in defiance of all your houses!" This was a rare compliment which Mr King duly appreciated.

The Original 1821 Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street, DublinIt was at the Theatre Royal, Dublin (shown Right) that he played lead to Helen Faucit when she started there, and also where he made his first appearance with Phelps, of which he once gave me a graphic and amusing account. As he was leaving the stage one Saturday noon, after treasury, he raised his eyes by the instinct of habit to the call-board, and read, "Monday, Othello," Below of course was the cast - "Iago, Mr Phelps; Othello, Mr T. C. King." He suddenly recollected that Phelps, like Macready, Forrest, Brooke, and other stars, had a fancy for playing Iago and Othello on alternate nights. On such occasions, of course, the leading man played second; but Mr King had known nothing of the ensuing week's bill till he saw the legend on the call-board.

To use his own words, he was horror-stricken. He had never played Othello in his life! Often as he had acted Iago (a great part with him), he did not even know Othello's lines beyond the cues. And here was he - a popular favourite - pitted against a renowned tragedian and cast at forty-eight hours' notice for a tremendous Shakespearean part which he had never even attempted to study! His head swam around. He went straight home and there swathed that head in wet towels, renewed and cooled repeatedly as often as they were uncoiled from his raging brain. It was in this way he applied himself to the study of the text. He renewed the formula after performance that night, and thenceforward took neither sleep nor rest until on the Sunday midnight he found himself perfect in Othello's lines. This may fairly be pronounced a unique achievement. The rehearsal on Monday, of course, would make him feel steadier in his work, for he had great stage experience as well as supreme ability; but he averred to me that he had never felt so nervous in his life as on that memorable night when the street flats were run on for the second scene. "I pulled through somehow!" he said, modestly. "The applause was very encouraging, and Phelps, who was very pleasant, ceremoniously congratulated me when the curtain fell." It is worthy of note that Othello came to be one of Mr King's favourite parts.

A Poster for T. C. King in 'Rob Roy' at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin in November 1858 - Click to enlarge.Afterwards he went to the Queen's Theatre, Dublin, and played engagements under the management of Henry Webb, one of the celebrated Brothers Webb. Harry Webb was a good-hearted fellow, though he had his eccentricities. One night when Mr King was playing Macbeth he slipped away from the entrance, and, throwing a large cloak about him, stole up to the dress-circle to count the house in that part as well as to peep at the stage from a hole in one of the doors. Presently he rushed back, foaming with rage at the stage-manager. "What's the meaning of this disgraceful exhibition, sir - only two witches on the heath? Send me the third sir! Where is the third?" - "Why here he is, and I'll take good care to have him fined on Saturday morning! A stage wait, Mr Webb, and a nice hunt we've had for you?" Struck with confusion, Mr Webb gasped out an apology, as in duty bound, to the stage-manager. He had completely forgotten, when glaring at the two witches through the "pigeon-hole," that the third witch was himself!

Left - A Poster for T. C. King in 'Rob Roy' at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin in November 1858 - Click to enlarge.

This gentleman was accounted an admirable low comedian, and was a most conscientious actor. He had a peculiar voice and delivery, and Mr King, who dearly loved a jest, once, when playing Jaques to Webb's Touchstone, mimicked his style and manner in the speech beginning "Call me not fool till Heaven hath sent me fortune." At the close of the scene, Webb, who had been listening quietly in the entrance, said gravely, "Tom, don't do that again." "Ah! did you take?" " To be sure! 'Twas an imitation of Charles Kean, and a d---d style it is!"

Many years ago Mr Webb put up Gerald Griffin's exquisite play Gisippus, with Mr King - then his leading man - in the title-part. The manager and the tragedian were chatting apart, when Webb pointed out his new juvenile gentleman, who was standing at some distance, awaiting the commencement of rehearsal. "I say," muttered the manager, "that's the young chap that's going to do Fulvius. What d'ye think of him?"

The Statue of Henry Irving at the rear of the National Portrait Gallery on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road, London - Photo M.L. November 2009 Mr King glanced at the subject, who was tall and slender, having a poetic face with intensely expressive magnetic eyes. "He isn't bad," said the tragedian indulgently. The name of the young chap who didn't look bad, and who played Fulvius, was Henry Irving. Mr King was utterly free from professional jealousy. He had a sincere admiration for Mr Irving, and watched with keen interest his artistic career. He told me once that what most impressed him in his professional association with Henry Irving (and there will be no greener laurel in the great artist's overshadowing wreath) was his consistent consideration for the rights and the feelings of others.

Right - The Statue of Henry Irving at the rear of the National Portrait Gallery on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road, London - Photo M.L. November 2009.

Mr King had a long and terrible illness while in Dublin. In fact, his life was despaired of at the time when his old friend Brooke paid him his farewell visit. Of all stories of his career this was the one Mr King loved best to relate, and I never heard him speak of Brooke without deep emotion. Strangely enough, he was restored to health, and long outlived the three actors who were then mournfully awaiting his end. Mr King afterwards toured through England and the United States with invariable artistic success. He once undertook theatrical management, but found it less congenial than acting. He was extremely rigorous about careful rehearsing, and, like all actors who commenced at the foot of the ladder, was particularly bitter concerning the assumption of important parts by persons who had not the necessary long and careful training as well as a certain amount of natural ability. During the latter part of his career he would wax indignant on this point. He never minced matters.

I saw him one morning seated on the stage, with his back to the footlights, grimly surveying the different members who were assembling for the rehearsal of a great play, which he had found very loosely performed on the previous occasion. "Where's the lady?" he demanded in his austerest tones. "I hope she's coming to rehearsal, for, by God, she wants it!"

A person who, when playing Francis to his Stranger, actually sat down at the table with him. Another who, in the character of Joseph, threw himself into Richelieu's chair (the seat of a prince of the church), while King himself was pacing the stage. These and similar things I have known work him up to a passion of invective. But he had a singularly forgiving temper, and confessing to a fault would cool him in a moment, while he accepted an apology with the grace and kindliness of a true gentleman.

Mr King was an idolater of Shakespeare. He knew every foot of earth about Stratford and Shottery, and was an enchanting cicerone in conducting one over the hallowed ground. It cannot be said that he was suited to a wide range of Shakespearian parts - few actors are but his reading of the Bard was perfect, for he delivered the text as one speaking the thoughts of a soul that he understood. He was wholly admirable in such parts as Ingomar, Don Ceasar, St. Pierre, and Mephistopheles. His laugh (hilarious music in every-day life) was, in the last-named part, such a diabolic chuckle as to be unpleasant realism. His voice was musical and sympathetic, of singular depth and compass - tenderness in one breath and thunder in the next, with no exaggeration in either - a rare quality in an actor.

For many years of his later life he suffered tortures from rheumatic pain. He writes me in one letter: - "To-day I cannot walk or stand. * * * I write with difficulty. * * * I have my voice still. All that is left of my power to act - my soul and my voice."

Mr King was an enthusiastic ornithologist - could tell you the name of a bird upon the wing. He had a passionate love of flowers and the cultivation of them - was an ardent botanist, equally erudite in flora and fauna. He was fond of music and painting, and his home was beautified by a thousand evidences of his love of art; but the strongest part in him was his worship of Nature. To know the man as he really was in himself was not merely to feel the charm of his acting, or to recognise his social graces in private life, but to ramble through a cathedral or historic ruin in his company, or see him amongst the woods and hills! Then it was that the real soul of the man shone forth in a kind of exultation in the glory of Nature.

Death was a kindly visitant to the aspiring soul after its long battle with the "pangs of wasting disease" - to quote his own sad words. And sweet was it to be ministered unto even to the last by the gentle and beloved hand of her whose lifelong devotion to her father - were it permissible to unveil the sanctity of private life - might well claim - One half the laurel that o'ershades his grave. OMEGA.

The above text was first published in the ERA, 4th, November 1893.

KING, THOMAS CHISWELL (1818- 1893)

From - The Dictionary of National Biography Supplement Vol. III 1901

A Carte de Visite depicting T. C. King - Kindly donated by Jennie Bisset KING, THOMAS CHISWELL (1818 - 1893), actor, was born at Twyning, near Tewkesbury, on 24 April 1818. He adopted his wife's maiden name of Chiswell in addition to his own name of Thomas King on his marriage, which took place shortly after he joined the theatrical profession. Apprenticed in his youth to the painting and paper-hanging business at Cheltenham, he acquired a taste for the stage through acting with amateurs, and about 1840 joined the company of Alexander Lee, the ballad composer, to support Mrs. Harriett Waylett [q. v.] in one-act dramas and operettas in Cheltenham, Worcester, Warwick, and Leamington. In 1843 he became attached in a subordinate capacity to the Simpson-Munro company at Birmingham, playing on 24 Oct. Conrade in ' Much Ado about Nothing,' and Sir Thomas Fairfax in the ' Field of the Forty Footsteps.' On 16 May 1844 he was seen as Young Scrooge in the 'Christmas Carol ' to the Fezziwig of his wife.

Right - A Carte de Visite depicting T. C. King - Kindly donated by Jennie Bisset.

King made rapid progress in his profession , and by August 1847 was playing leading business on the York circuit under J. L. Pritchard. Proceeding to Gourlay's Victoria Theatre, Edinburgh, in June 1848, he remained there four months, and in November joined W. H. Murray's company at the Theatre Royal in the same city as 'heavy man,' appearing on the 13th as Sir Richard Wroughton in the 'Jacobite.' In April 1850 he supported Charles Kean during his visit to Edinburgh, and was engaged by him to play secondary tragic parts during the opening season of his management in London.

The Exterior of Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a print dated 1851 - From 'London's Lost Theatres of the 19th century' by Errol Sherson.Making his debut at the Princess's in October 1850 as Bassanio in the 'Merchant of Venice,' King subsequently played the king in 'Henry IV, Part I.,' and on 31 Jan. 1851 was seen as the exiled duke when 'As you like it' was performed before the queen at Windsor.

Left - The Exterior of Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street - From a print dated 1851 - From 'London's Lost Theatres of the 19th century' by Errol Sherson.

Late in the year he was engaged by John Harris of Dublin as leading actor at the Theatre Royal there. He opened under the new management on 26 Dec. as Colonel Buckthorne in 'Love in a Maze,' and soon became an abiding favourite with Dublin playgoers. Remaining there five seasons, he appeared in no fewer than fifteen notable Shakespearean revivals, and as Macbeth, Master Ford, Hotspur, and Leontes, met with much approbation. During 1855 he was in leading support to Helen Faucit, Samuel Phelps, and Miss Glyn during their visits to Dublin. In March 1856 he seceded abruptly from the Theatre Royal, and on 14 April began a three weeks' engagement at the Queen's in the same city in ' Hamlet.' Opening at Birmingham on 20 Oct., in conjunction with Miss Glyn, King remained there after her departure, and on 18 Nov. played Colonna in 'Evadne.' On 3 Dec. he was seen as John Mildmay in 'Still Waters run deep,' and as Quasimodo in 'Esmeralda.' On 6 July 1857 he made his first appearance in Manchester, in association with Miss Marriott and Robert Roxby [q.v.] Returning to Birmingham on 26 Sept. as Hamlet, he appeared there on the 27th as Mephistopheles in Boucicault's version of 'Faust and Marguerite,' which was played for forty-eight nights at a profit of 2,000l.

A Poster for T. C. King in 'Rob Roy' at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin in November 1858 - Click to enlarge.During 1859 King fulfilled several engagements at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin. On 16 April he played there Serjeant Austerlitz in 'Theresa's Vow,' to the Theresa of his daughter Bessie. On 26 July he was seen as Martin Heywood in the 'Rent Day,' and on 14 Dec. as Estevan in the 'Broken Sword.' On 30 April 1860 he began an important engagement at the City of London Theatre as Hamlet, returning thither in December. On 24 Sept. intervening he returned to the Queen's at Dublin as Ruthven in the 'Vampire.'

Right - A Poster for T. C. King in 'Rob Roy' at the Queen's Theatre, Dublin in November 1858 - Click to enlarge.

From 1861 to 1868 King's record was one of splendid strolling. On 15 March 1869 he was given a trial engagement at Drury Lane by F. C. Chatterton, opening there as Richelieu to the Julie de Mortemar of his daughter Bessie, who then made her London debut. He was favourably received, and subsequently played Hamlet, Julian St. Pierre, and William in 'Black-eyed Susan,' besides alternating Othello and Lago with Charles Dillon. At the same house on 24 Sept. 1870 King was the original Varney in the 'Amy Robsart ' of Andrew Halliday. In the Easter of 1871 his services were transferred to the Adelphi at a salary of 30l. per week. There he originated the role of Quasimodo in Andrew Halliday's version of 'Notre Dame,' which ran uninterruptedly to November, and was revived at Christmas.

A programme for 'The Thief' at the present Lyceum Theatre, New York, in January 1908. In June 1873 King fulfilled an engagement at the Marylebone, and on 11 Sept. made his American debut at the Lyceum Theatre, New York, as Quasimodo. The play did not repeat its Adelphi success, although it was performed for six weeks. On 27 Oct. King played Othello, after which the Lyceum closed abruptly. It reopened in November with Italian opera, and on the 7th 'Notre Dame' was revived for four nights. Afterwards King made a successful tour of Canada, exclusively in Shakespearean plays, and returned to the Lyceum Theatre, New York, on 3 March 1874.

Left - A programme for 'The Thief' at the present Lyceum Theatre, New York, in January 1908. This Theatre on 45th Street, built in 1903 and still standing today, replaced an earlier Lyceum Theatre on Fourth Avenue which was built in 1885 and was demolished in 1902. However the Theatre referred to in the text above, where T. C. King performed in 1873 was the Lyceum Theatre on 107 West 14th Street, New York, which opened as the Theatre Francais in 1866 and was renamed the Lyceum Theatre in 1871. This Theatre would continue in various guises until it was demolished in 1938.

From 1878 to 1880 King was lessee of the Worcester theatre, an unprofitable speculation. In 1883 he made a short provincial tour under Mr. J. Pitt Hardacre's management, but he had outlived his popularity and the vogue of his school. Later appearances were infrequent, but in July 1890 he performed for six nights to good houses at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester, and was much admired as Ingomar, one of his most characteristic impersonations. Retiring finally to King's Heath, he died there on 21 Oct. 1893, and was buried at Claines, near Worcester. He had a son and two daughters, all of whom took to the stage. His elder daughter, Miss Bessie King, survives him.

A sound tragedian of the second order, T. C. King was the last exponent of a school which subordinated intelligence to precept and tradition. Physically he was well equipped, having a tall and shapely figure, with dark expressive features and well-set eyes; and his rich bass voice was flexible and resonant. A temperate graceful actor, he had more individuality and fewer vices of style than most conventional tragedians. In London he never established his hold, but in one or two large provincial centres, notably Dublin and Birmingham, his following was large and affectionate.

[Many errors of detail common to all the biographical accounts of T. C. King are here corrected, thanks to authentic information kindly placed at the writer's disposal by the actor's nephew, Mr. Henry King of St. Leonards-on-Sea. Data have also been derived from Dibdin's Annals of the Edinburgh Stage; Pascoe's Dramatic List; Levey and O'Rorke's Annals of the Theatre Royal, Dublin; Cole's Life of Charles Kean; Michael Williams's London Theatres, Past and Present; Birmingham Faces and Places, vol. v. No. 12; local playbills in the Birmingham Free Library; Freeman's Journal.] W. J. L. (W. J. Lawrence).

The above article was first published in The Dictionary of National Biography Supplement Vol. III 1901.

You may also like to read Harry Powell Lloyd's article on T. C. King and Arthur Lloyd from 1979 here.

Some of the archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

Three Posters Featuring T. C. King in 1855 / 56 - Kindly sent in by Jennie Bisset

A Poster Featuring T. C. King in 1855 - Kindly sent in by Jennie Bisset

A Poster Featuring T. C. King in 1855 - Kindly sent in by Jennie Bisset

A Poster Featuring T. C. King in 1856 - Kindly sent in by Jennie Bisset

Above - Three Posters Featuring T. C. King in 1855 / 56 - Kindly sent in by Jennie Bisset. Fred Lloyd, the elder brother of Arthur Lloyd, is also featured on the 1856 poster, along with a Mr. Newton who was probably Eliza Newton's father.

Other Pages that may be of Interest