Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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GILBERT, John Gibbs, actor, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 27 February, 1810. He was educated in the public schools of his native City, and at the age of fourteen placed in a dry-goods store, where he remained four years. After some experience in private theatricals he appeared, 28 November, 1828, at the old Tremont theatre, as Jaffier in "Venice Preserved." This was followed by Sir Edward Mortimore in "The Iron Chest," and Shylock in " The Merchant of Venice." But Mr. Gilbert soon became a stock actor, on the pay of three dollars per week, and, dissatisfied with his condition, sought an engagement with Caldwell, manager of the New Orleans theatre, and for about four years played "general utility" in the southwestern theatres. Subsequently he acted for five years in Boston, one year in New York City, and again five years in Boston. In 1847 Mr. Gilbert went to London and joined the company of the Princess's theatre, haying been engaged to represent the parts of old men in standard comedies. His first appearance there was as Sir Robert Bramble in "The Poor Gentleman." After the close of the London season he visited Paris, for the purpose of study. In 1848 Mr. Gilbert returned to this country, and appeared under the management of Hamblin, at the New York Park theatre. His last performance at this place was in the part of Admiral Kingston in "Naval Engagements," the evening before it was destroyed by fire, after a few months of unsuccessful management. Thereafter he joined Hamblin's company at the Bowery theatre. From the latter place, in 1851, he went to Philadelphia for five years, and thence to Boston until 1857, when he returned to Philadelphia, remaining until 1862. In 1862 Mr. Gilbert joined the company of Wallack's theatre in New York City, with which he has since been connected. He has been twice married. His second wife, nee Sarah H. Gavett, is living. Mr. Gilbert's career of sixty years before the public has been unmarked either by vicissitudes or adventures. Away from the theatre his life has been quiet and retired. He is one of the few performers before the public whose career compasses more than two generations, from the days when he played in connection with Cooperm Junius B. Booth, and the Kembles. His range of characters has been wide, in comedy and tragedy, and at the present time (1887) he is among the few who are able to portray effectively the fine old English gentleman of other days. Among his most popular personations are Sir Peter Teazle, Sir Anthony Absolute, Lord Ogleby, Job Thornberry and Old Dornton. His ability to learn new parts is unimpaired, and after a few readings of old ones that were favorites with him many years ago, he is able to recite them with precision. With all his experience he has told the writer of this article that on first nights he is usually snore or less nervous, and in former years was several times overcome by stage-fright. Although well nigh an octogenarian, he looks more like a man of sixty, and ascribes his freedom from many of the ailments of advanced age to constant bathing and cold-water treatment.
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