John Hare, Comedian, 1865-1895 - T. Edgar Pemberton

T. Edgar Pemberton


T. Edgar Pemberton (1849-1905)

Thomas Edgar Pemberton was born on 1 July 1849, in Birmingham England, to Thomas Pemberton (1818-1873) and Lucy Johnstone (1819-1896). He had, at least, eight siblings: two older sisters, Mary and Lucy, a younger brother, Ebenezer Johnstone (who died young), three younger sisters, Dorothea, Augusta and Violet, and the youngest, twin sons, Warwick and Joseph T.

Pemberton’s father was the head of a brass foundry on Livery Street, in Birmingham, and by the time he was 19 years old, Thomas Edgar had joined the firm. Eventually he succeeded his father in running the business and he remained in that position until 1900.

In 1871 Census he was staying with his sister Lucy and her husband, Henry Stedall, and their young family, in Bloomsbury, London, England. Whether this was a short stint living in the Capital or just a visit is unknown, but by 1873 Thomas Edgar is back in Birmingham.

Thomas Edgar married Mary Elizabeth Townley on 11 March 1873 and shortly after this event he began his career as a writer. He wrote four novels between 1873-1879: Charles Lysaght, Under Pressure, A Very Old Question and Born to Blush Unseen.

Thomas Edgar and Mary had five children: Eva (1894-1955), May (1875-1941), Thomas Eben (1879-1929), Guy (1883-1959) and Madge Kendal (1886-1870). Young Madge was named after the stage actress Dame Madge Kendal (1849-1935) whom Edgar admired and, later, wrote a biography of her and her husband aptly titled, The Kendals.

For his children he wrote an allegorical fairytale, titled Fairbrass.

Along with writing novels, T. Edgar also dabbled as a playwright. He wrote the play Weeds for his actor friends Madge and William Hunter Kendal which was performed at the Prince of Wales’ Theatre in November 1874.

His most successful play, Freezing-a-Mother-in-Law was initially produced in Birmingham and then moved across the pond to New York. He also collaborated with American author/playwright Bret Harte and together they produced the play, Sue, in America.

Back at home T. Edgar was elected as the Governor of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was also the honourary secretary for the group known as Our Shakespeare Club, in Birmingham.

T. Edgar’s immersion in Theatre, both in the UK and America, led to his insightful work as a drama critic for the Birmingham Daily Post where he posted a weekly equivalent to a theatre gossip column titled “Flashes from the Footlights”.

He eventually turned his attention away from newspaper and back to book writing, this time as a theatrical biographer. His subjects included William & Madge Kendal, T.W. Robertson, E.A. Sothren, Ellen Terry and Her Sisters, Sir Charles Wyndham and John Hare.

T. Edgar Pemberton died on 28 September 1905 in his home at Broadway, Worcester.

His book on John Hare is part of UPEI’s Provenance Collection. Pasted inside the book is a small calling card printed with “Pye Corner, Broadway, Worcester…” and the rest is handwritten with July 4th 1903, With thanks for your good wishes- T.Edgar Pemberton. Thomas Hutchinson Esq.

Thomas Hutchinson has printed his name on the inside of the front cover and has given the book the number 5137 for his personal library. Mr. Hutchinson was know to write letters to authors and ask for a token or signature to attach to their books. It seems, Mr. Pemberton was more than happy to comply.


1851 England Census. Class: HO107; Piece: 2051; Folio: 311; Page: 8; GSU roll: 87306-87307

1861 Census Returns of England and Wales. Class: RG 9; Piece: 2020; Folio: 54; Page: 7; GSU roll:

1871 England Census. Class: RG10; Piece: 338; Folio: 81; Page: 40; GSU roll: 824604

1881 England Census. Class: RG11; Piece: 2955; Folio: 26; Page: 43; GSU roll: 1341707

1891 Census Returns of England and Wales Class: RG12; Piece: 2337; Folio: 88; Page: 14;
GSU roll: 6097447

England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office. Registration Year: 1873;
Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar; Registration District: Birmingham. Mary Elizabeth Townley and Thomas Edgar

Matthew, H.C.G, Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, v.43 (Patel-Phelips), p.508. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England.

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