The Infant Prodigy Master Herbert – It’s Panto Season

By Becky Bavill, Library and Digital Assistant

For Day 19 we’ve got more Pantomimes for you with another entry from our Playbills collection which can be viewed on the website.

(c) Leeds Libraries

At Christmas, many families enjoy seeing a show.  On Tuesday 21st and Thursday 23rd December 1830 they could have gone to the Concert Room at the Commercial Buildings (the site of the Park Plaza hotel today) to watch the Infant Prodigy, Master Herbert (not yet eight years of age!) perform his quick change act in which he performed 10 different comic and tragic scenes in succession – for those old enough to remember, I imagine it was a little like Tommy Cooper’s hat routine.  The playbill (available on Leodis) details all the different characters and scenes to be performed, as well as advising that a biographical account is available from the printer.  Happily, it is also available on Google books.  At the age of three, the young Henry was taken to see a child act in London which would be the inspiration for his own.  The playbill for Master Grossmith’s performance available at the V&A online collection has some lovely pictures illustrating the kind of scenes that Henry would also perform.

Undated. View of Commercial Buildings on the corner of Park Row (Quebec) and Boar Lane. (c) Leeds Libraries

The biography states that after ‘a few more essays in the country’, Master Herbert was heading for the bright lights of London, but a quick search of the British Newspaper Archive and the British Library’s playbill collection does not find mention of him.  I did however, find him via Ancestry using the information from the biography.  It seems he gave up his stage career to become an engraver, like his father.  He married Eliza Morris in Liverpool in 1847 and had a son of his own.  I wonder if he too was an ‘infant roscius’?

Check back tomorrow for Day 20

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