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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Sir John Hare (1844-1921), Actor and theatre manager

Actor and theatre manager; born John Joseph Fairs 16 May 1844, probably at Giggleswick, Yorkshire. First appeared on stage in Liverpool, September 1864; first true hit as Lord Ptarmigant in Society, Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, November 1865; member of Prince of Wales’s company for nine years under Squire and Marie Bancroft; managed Court Theatre (today Royal Court Theatre) 1875–9; with William Hunter Kendal managed St James’s Theatre 1879–88, putting on fine productions of Pinero plays; managed Garrick Theatre 1889–95; throughout twenty years in management continued to act, most brilliantly in character parts as old men (‘Mr. Hare, a whimsical old “cuss” – a “squint-brain,” or a cynic, or a curmudgeon’), [1] a favourite classic being his Benjamin Goldfinch in A Pair of Spectacles (1890); undertook American tours 1890, 1895 and 1899; knighted 1907; thereafter made farewell tours of Britain till full retirement in 1917; died 28 December 1921 of pneumonia at home, 187B Queen’s Gate, London.

In person and as an actor he has been described as follows:

A dapper little man in stature and exceedingly well dressed, he was destined chiefly to play character parts, and very often old men, but nevertheless he had the power to dominate a scene in spite of his smallness even on a stage the size of Drury Lane’s. He, again, could switch in an instant from comedy to pathos. His voice was resonant and rich, and with him also his eyes were penetrating and beautifully set. [2]

Hare was not only a highly strung and sensitive little man but ‘peppery’ too, and people, who all loved and respected him either on his stage or in his private life, had often to mind their p’s and q’s with him. [3]

Hare was a pioneer in the art of suggesting character by tricks of deportment and facial expression that complete or illuminate the phrases of the author. He showed how this method might be applied without degenerating into grimace or becoming either elaborate or restless. His bearing and conduct on the stage were entirely natural, but were nevertheless informed at every moment with invention, and disciplined by a graceful economy to secure the effect at which he was aiming. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Whyte 1898, p.185.
2) Bancroft 1939, p.85.
3) Bancroft 1939, pp.95–6.
4) Palmer 1927.

Referencesback to top

Ashton 1997
Ashton, G., Pictures in the Garrick Club, ed. K.A. Burnim and A. Wilton, London, 1997.

Bancroft 1925
Bancroft, S., Empty Chairs, London, 1925.

Bancroft 1939
Bancroft, G.P., Stage and Bar: Recollections, London, 1939.

Bancroft & Bancroft 1909
Bancroft, S.B., and M.E. Bancroft, The Bancrofts: Recollections of Sixty Years, London, 1909.

Beerbohm [1920]
Beerbohm, M., comp., Herbert Beerbohm Tree: Some Memories of Him and of His Art, London, n.d. [1920].

Blomfield 2013
Blomfield, C., The Bancrofts on and off the Victorian Stage, Kew, 2013.

Burton 1938
Burton, P., Adventures among Immortals, London, 1938.

[Cassell] 1893
[Cassell & Co., pub.,] Royal Academy Pictures 1893: illustrating the hundred and twenty-fifth exhibition of the Royal Academy, London, 1893.

[Cassell] 1895
[Cassell & Co., pub.,] Cassell’s Universal Portrait Gallery: a collection of portraits of celebrities, English and foreign, with facsimile autographs, London, 1895.

[Cassell] 1908
[Cassell & Co., pub.,] Royal Academy Pictures and Sculpture 1908: illustrating the hundred and fortieth exhibition of the Royal Academy, London, 1908.

Dark 1904
Dark, S., ‘Mr John Hare’, Cassell’s Magazine, Oct. 1904, pp. 517–21.

Downey & Downey 1890–94
Downey, W., and D. Downey, The Cabinet Portrait Gallery: Photographs by W. & D. Downey, 5 ser., London, 1890–94.

Furniss [1915–16]
Furniss, H., Garrick Gallery Caricatures, privately printed, London, n.d. [1915–16].

Furniss 1925
Furniss, H., The Two Pins Club, London, 1925.

Hall 1930–34
Hall, L.A., Catalogue of Dramatic Portraits in the Theatre Collection of the Harvard College Library, 4 vols, Cambridge, MA, 1930–34.

Hare 1908
Hare, J., ‘Reminiscences & Reflections’, Strand, vols 35 & 36, 1908 (6 parts).

Irving 1951
Irving, L., Henry Irving: The Actor and His World, London, 1951.

Lawrence [c.1900]
Lawrence, B., ed., Celebrities of the Stage, London, n.d. [c.1900].

Mander & Mitchenson 1957
Mander, R. and J. Mitchenson, A Picture History of the British Theatre, London, 1957.

Macqueen-Pope 1958
Macqueen-Pope, W., St. James’s: Theatre of Distinction, London, 1958.

Matthews & Mellini 1982
Matthews, R.T., and P. Mellini, In ‘Vanity Fair’, London, 1982.

Palmer 1927
Palmer, J.L., ‘Hare, Sir John (Fairs) (1844–1921)’, DNB, Oxford, 1927.

Pemberton 1895
Pemberton, T.E., John Hare, Comedian, 1865–1895: A Biography, London, 1895.

Stoker 1906
Stoker, B., Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, 2 vols, London, 1906.

Wearing 2004
Wearing, J.P., ‘Hare, Sir John (1844–1921)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., September 2010.

Whyte 1898
Whyte, F., Actors of the Century: A Play-Lover’s Gleanings from Theatrical Annals, London, 1898.