JEFFERSON, Joseph (1829-1905)

JEFFERSON, Joseph (1829-1905)
son of Joseph Jefferson and his wife, Cornelia Frances Thomas, was born in Philadelphia, U.S.A., on 20 February 1829. Both his father and his grandfather were actors. The boy began his stage career at the age of four and he had little schooling. His father died when he was 13 and young Jefferson continued acting and helping to support the family. He saved money, visited Europe in 1856, and in November of that year joined Laura Keene's Company in New York and established a reputation as a first-rate actor. Early in 1861 his first wife died leaving him with four children; he had married at 21. His own health had not been good and he resolved to try new scenes. He played a season in San Francisco, and then sailed to Australia taking his eldest son with him. He arrived at Sydney in the beginning of November 1861, and played a successful season introducing to Australia Rip Van Winkle, Our American Cousin, The Octoroon and other plays. He opened in Melbourne on 31 March 1862, and had a most successful season extending over about six months. There was an excellent stock company at Melbourne which included Lambert, Stewart, Mrs Robert Heir and Rosa Dunn and the performances reached a very high standard. Seasons followed in the country and in Tasmania. In 1865 Jefferson with health recovered went to London and arranged with Dion Boucicault for a revised version of Rip Van Winkle. This was played in London with great success, and returning to America Jefferson made it his stock play, making annual tours of the states with it, and occasionally reviving The Heir-at-Law in which he played Dr Pangloss, The Cricket on the Hearth (Caleb Plummer) and The Rivals (Bob Acres). He became an institution in America, loved and respected by all for his great ability as an actor, and his fine personal character. With G. V. Brooke (q.v.) and Barry Sullivan (q.v.) he shared in a great period of dramatic art in Australia, and helped to lay the foundations for the future. He retired from the stage in May 1904 and died on 23 April 1905. He was married twice, and children by both marriages survived him. Two of his sons were capable actors, and a daughter married B. L. Farjeon (q.v.) the novelist. A list of Jefferson's parts will be found in Winter's book on the Jeffersons.
W. Winter, The Jeffersons; J. Jefferson, The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson; Dictionary of American Biography, vol. X; F. Wilson, Joseph Jefferson.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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