Henry Pettitt (1848-1893)
Popular and prolific Victorian dramatist, famous for his melodramas.
Henry Pettitt’s eye-catching memorial on the cemetery’s Central Avenue features his portrait, and is topped with a broken column. This poignant Victorian symbol indicated a life cut too short. Henry was only 45 when he died of typhoid fever, while he was enjoying great success in his career as a dramatist, actor and author.
Henry was born near Birmingham, the son of a civil engineer. When his father got into financial difficulties, 13-year-old Henry had to leave school. He came to London, where he worked as an office clerk, and began writing for magazines and produced two novels. Aged 21, he got a job as a junior English master in a school in Camden Town.
He began writing for the stage soon after, and his first play was produced in 1872. He went on to write a huge number of melodramas and comedies. Henry often worked in close collaboration with others, including Augustus Harris. One of their plays, Burmah, was produced on Broadway in 1896.
Henry’s plays were very popular in London and the provinces, and many were staged as far afield as America and Australia. At least two of his plays at the Adelphi Theatre ran for over 400 performances, and it’s said that his pantomime, Harlequin King Frolic, had the longest run of any pantomime ever.