About this Famous Person
Patriarch of the Barrymore acting family
Source : Tim DOWLING
Born Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blythe in the Sikh holy city, Amritsar, Punjab or more precisely Fort Agra, India, he was the son of William Edward Blythe, a surveyor for the British East India Company and his wife Matilda Chamberlayne. Herbert had an older brother named Will and a sister named Evelin. Matilda, after a difficult pregnancy died shortly after giving birth to Herbert on September 21, 1849. In his formative years Herbert was raised by his Aunt Amelia Blythe, his mother's sister. Amelia, a Chamberlayne by birth, had married a brother of Herbert's father and was a Blythe by marriage. Herbert was sent back to England for education at Harrow School, England and studied Law at Oxford University where he was Captain of his class football team in 1868. Herbert also became enamored of the sport of boxing. The Marquess of Queensberry rules were firmly established at this time but it wasn't unusual to see bare knuckle fights. On March 21, 1872 Herbert won the middleweight boxing championship of England. Years later many of Herbert's friends would be sports figures of the day particularly boxers and wrestlers such as William Muldoon, John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett and a young actor named Hobart Bosworth, the latter of whom Herbert would stage in an amateur bout with his son Lionel. Herbert's father expected him to become a barrister, but Herbert fell in with a group of actors, which scandalized the elder Blythe. That same year 1872 Herbert sat for his first posed theatrical photographic portrait by noted photographer Oliver Sarony, an older brother of the better remembered Napoleon Sarony. In order to spare his father the "shame" of having a son in such a "dissolute" vocation, he took the stage name Maurice Barrymore (though he never legally changed from "Blythe"), inspired by a conversation he had with fellow actor Charles Vandenhoff about William Barrymore, an early 19th-century English thespian, after seeing a poster depicting Barrymore in the Haymarket Theatre. He wanted his first name to be pronounced in the French manner (môr-ES) instead of the English (MÔR-is). His friends avoided that altogether by simply calling him "Barry".