Charles Wyndham (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sir Charles Wyndham
Charles Wyndham appearing as Captain Dudley Smooth in "Money" by Lord Lytton
The grave of Charles Wyndham, Hampstead Cemetery

Sir Charles Wyndham (23 March 1837 – 12 January 1919) was an English surgeon mainly remembered as an actor-manager, and theatre owner.


He was born as Charles Culverwell in Liverpool, the only son of a surgeon, Robert James Culverwell, M.R.C.S.

Charles was educated in Germany, then studied Medicine at King's College London and at the College of Surgeons and the Peter Street Anatomical School in Dublin.[1][2] He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1857 and was licenced in 1858.

His taste for the stage - he had taken part in amateur drama - was too strong for him to take up either the clerical or the medical career suggested for him. His first appearances on stage[3] were for Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair's private theatre in St Andrews.

Life and career[edit]

Early in 1862 he made his first professional appearance in London, performing with Ellen Terry. Later in the year he went to America and since further stage work was not forthcoming, he returned to medicine. There was a shortage of surgeons in the United States, which was in the throes of the Civil War, and he volunteered to become brigade surgeon in the Union army. He served at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

On 17 November 1864 he resigned his contract with the Army to return to the stage. He starred, in 1867, in W. S. Gilbert's La Vivandière. In later years he was to appear in America: between 1870 and 1872 in his own Wyndham Comedy Company; and in later tours between 1882 and 1909. On one occasion he appeared in New York City with John Wilkes Booth.[citation needed] He acted also in German.[2]

Returning to England, his career blossomed. Although he was occasionally to play Shakespeare, his work mostly consisted of the popular melodramas and comedies of the time. He played at Manchester and Dublin in Her Ladyship's Guardian, his own adaptation of Edward B. Hamley's novel Lady Lee's Widowhood. He reappeared in London in 1866 as Sir Arthur Lascelles in Morion's All that Glitters is not Gold, but his great success at that time was in F. C. Burnand's burlesque of Black-eyed Susan, as Hatchett, "with dance." This brought him to the erstwhile St James's Theatre, where he played with Henry Irving in Idalia; then with Ellen Terry in Charles Reade's Double Marriage, and Tom Taylor's Still Waters Run Deep.[citation needed]

As Charles Surface, his best part for many years, and in a breezy three-act farce, The Pink Dominos, by James Albery, and in Brighton, an anglicized version of Saratoga by Bronson Howard (1842–1908), who married his sister, he added greatly to his popularity both at home and abroad. In 1876 he took control of the Criterion Theatre. Here he produced a long succession of plays, in which he took the leading part, notably a number of old English comedies, and in such modern plays as The Liars, The Case of Rebellious Susan and others by Henry Arthur Jones and Foggerty's Fairy by W. S. Gilbert (1881); and he became famous for his acting in David Garrick. In the fall of 1882 he returned to America where he was given a celebratory dinner in his honor at which Oscar Wilde gave a speech.[4]

Wilde became a friend to Wyndham and in 1895 contracted with him to produce his play The Importance of Being Earnest at the Criterion Theatre before it was transferred for its first performance at the St. James' Theatre. In 1899 he opened his new theatre, called Wyndham's Theatre. From 1885 onwards his leading actress was Miss Mary Moore (Mrs. Albery), who became his partner in the proprietorship of the Criterion and Wyndham's theatres, and of his New Theatre, opened in 1903; and her delightful acting in comedy made their long association memorable on the London stage.[citation needed]

He was knighted in the 1902 Coronation Honours,[5] receiving the accolade from King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace on 24 October that year.[6][7]

In 1860 he married Emma Silberrad, the granddaughter of Baron Silberrad of Hesse-Darmstadt. They had one son and one daughter both of whom survived him. When his first wife died in 1916, in the same year he married Mary Moore (widow of the dramatist James Albery), youngest daughter of Charles Moore, parliamentary agent. Mary had been his leading lady for 30 years and had also been associated with him as a manager of his theatres.[8] Charles Wyndham died on 12 January 1919, from pneumonia following influenza, and is buried with both wives in Hampstead Cemetery.


  • Florence T. Shore, Sir Charles Wyndham (New York, 1908)
  • Thomas Edgar Pemberton, Sir Charles Wyndham, A Biography (London, Hutchinson And Co., 1904)

See also[edit]

  • Article: "A British Actor and Surgeon in Lincoln's Army",; accessed 17 January 2016.
  • Wendy Trewin All on stage : Charles Wyndham and the Alberys (1980); ISBN 0-245-53444-X
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Michael Read
    ‘Wyndham, Sir Charles (1837–1919)’ online edn, May 2006; accessed 17 January 2016.
  • Wyndham's obituary, The Times, 13 January 1919


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wyndham, Sir Charles" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ a b  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Wyndham, Sir Charles" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier & Son Company.
  3. ^ Dictionary of Biography 1912–1921, Oxford, pp. 595-96.
  4. ^ Cooper, John. "Oscar Wilde and Charles Wyndham". Oscar Wilde in America. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  5. ^ "The Coronation Honours". The Times (36804). London. 26 June 1902. p. 5.
  6. ^ "No. 27494". The London Gazette. 11 November 1902. p. 7165.
  7. ^ "Wyndham, Sir Charles". Who's Who. 1910. p. 2148.
  8. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 1912–1921, pp. 597-98