George Verrall (1800-1830) is a cousin so distant that it’s hardly worth mentioning the fact. But although he died young he packed a lot into his short life, and it’s a pleasure to remember him here.
George was the son, grandson and great grandson of men called George Verrall, and he even had a half-brother also called George (from his father’s second marriage). His father must have thought that the future of the name was secure, but as fate would have it the half-brother died in 1843 at an even younger age, 21, than the George I’m writing about today. Both died before their father and neither had any children.
One or other of these sons painted portraits of their George Verrall father and grandfather which, just to complete the confusion, were inherited by a nephew of theirs. The nephew’s name was, I’m afraid to say, George Verrall. This last George (1848-1911) also died without children, and the whereabouts of the paintings is, to me at least, unknown.
one of whose names George Verrall took as a stage name in tribute
With so many George Verralls to confuse the historian, I’m rather grateful that the George I started this post with changed his name to George Vernon when he became an actor. “Mr Vernon,” recalls Henry Dickinson Stone in his 1873 memoir Personal Reminiscences of the Drama, “was one of nature’s noblemen, a gentleman of the old school, highly educated, and a dramatic artist of the very first order.”
As George Vernon he emigrated to
in Albany in 1827 in the company of the Fisher family, actors all. What a fascinating bunch! Two brothers and four sisters, all marinaded in theatre from an early age by a librarian father New York State George Fisher who was obsessed with Shakespeare. Frederick
South Pearl Street Theater, Albany NY in the 1880s
when it became part of Proctor's chain of vaudeville theatres
But the strain of holding the reins at the theatre took its toll on George Vernon’s health. He lost his singing voice, and became too ill to act. He bought and retired to Woodstock Farm outside the town (now an animal sanctuary) where he died in 1830 only three years after arriving in
As Mrs Vernon, his widow achieved considerable success as a comic actress. “Though never noted for her beauty,” reports an 1880 history of
theatres, “she possessed an intelligent and expressive face, and a polished manner, that' at once denoted the woman of intellect and refinement. She was tall and till the last possessed a graceful figure. Her education was liberal, and it was said that during her connection with the Park theatre, her opinion, in all passages of disputed readings of the Shakespeare dramas, was considered final.” Albany
It sounds as if she did her father (and her husband) proud, and she wasn’t the only one. More on the rest of the Fisher acting dynasty in my next post.