Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BERNARD, John, actor, born in Portsmouth, England, in 1756; died in London, 29 November 1828. He was educated at Chichester. His father, a lieutenant in the navy, tried to check his son's aspirations for the stage by placing him in a solicitor's office; but at the age of seventeen he ran away from home, joined a traveling company, and made his first professional appearance as Jaffier at Chew Magna, Somerset County, in a theatre improvised in a malt-house. He was married in the following year, and, after various experiences common to strolling actors, in 1787 he made his first appearance in London at Covent Garden, playing Archer in "The Beaux' Stratagem" to the Mrs. Sullen of his wife. One reason of his success was his extreme conviviality. He lost his wife in 1792, and in 1797 came to the United States. He made his American debut 4 June 1797, as Goldfinch in "The Road to Ruin" at the Greenwich street theatre, New York. The following winter he went to Philadelphia, and in 1803 to Boston. In 1806 he was associated with Powers in the management of the Federal street theatre, Boston, and went to England for a company. He remained in the United States as actor and manager of various theatres for about twenty years, and took final leave of the stage in 1820 at Boston in his favorite character of Lord Agleby, when he returned to England, and died in poverty. A selection from his voluminous "Retrospections of the Stage" appeared two years after his death (2 vols., 1830), and a further selection, edited by his son, appeared in 1850-'1.*His son, William Bayle, dramatist, was born in Boston, 27 November 1807 ; died in London, England, 5 August 1875. At the age of thirteen he went with his father to England, and studied at Uxbridge. In 1826 he was appointed to a clerkship in the army accounts office, which he retained until 1830, when the office was abolished. In 1827 he produced a nautical drama, "The Pilot," for which he received £3, and, as an incentive "to prompt him to further exertions," he was presented with £2 more when the play reached its hundredth night. At the age of twenty-one he wrote "The Freebooter's Bride" (5 vols., 1828). The following year he compiled "Retrospections of the Stage," from memoranda found among his father's papers. At the age of twenty-three he entered fully on the career of a professional dramatist, and produced plays and farces with an unexampled rapidity. The total number of them is 114, not half of which have been printed. The best known are "Rip Van Winkle," "The Nervous Man, and the Man of Nerve," "The Man About Town," "Marie Ducange," "His Last Legs," "Dumb Belle," "The Boarding-School," "The Middy Ashore," "The Round of Wrong," "A Life's Trials," and "A Splendid Investment." His last play was "The Doge of Venice." He also published a life of Samuel Lover (London, 1874).
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