Sir Augustus Henry Glossop Harris (1852-1896)
The actor and impresario who was ‘the father of modern pantomime’.
The monument to Augustus ‘Gus’ Harris, being saluted by an elegantly robed woman, is one of the most eye-catching in in the cemetery’s Great Circle. It’s as flamboyant as the man himself.
Gus was born into a theatrical family in Paris. His grandparents were a theatre manager and an opera singer. His father, also Augustus Harris, was an actor and theatre manager, and his mother a theatrical costumier.
After a short period working in commerce, Gus entered the theatre. He began as an actor, but found much greater success as a stage manager. In 1879, aged just 27, he took over the vacant Drury Lane theatre in London and was soon filling the seats. His lavish and extravagant pantomimes and melodramas became hugely popular, and he co-wrote, produced and sometimes even acted in them too. He then turned his attention to opera, transforming the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden into a great success as well.
Gus was sometimes managing three or four of the city’s premier theatres at once. Somehow he also found time to become a London County Councillor and sheriff of London. Tragically, his hugely successful but hectic career took its toll. He died, aged just 43, of exhaustion, diabetes and cancer in a hotel in Folkestone in 1896.