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Jones, Benjamin Napthali (1833–1890)

from Table Talk (Vic)

The news of Mr. B. N. [Benjamin Napthali] Jones' death at Goulburn on Thursday, February 13[1], was received with many expressions of regret both in Sydney and Melbourne, for the deceased actor was one of the most popular and the most respected men in his profession. Mr. Jones was taken ill whilst travelling from Albury to Wagga with the Little Lord Fauntleroy Company, in the interests of Messrs. Williamson and Co., but managed to bear up until he reached Goulburn, where he died in the presence of his wife and daughter the former of whom always travelled with her husband. Mr. Jones was a native of Sydney, and always proud of his birthplace. At a very early age he went to California, where, in 1849, he appeared at the Jenny Lind Theatre, San Francisco. After five years in California he returned to the old Victoria Theatre with Lola Montez, acting with her during her theatrical tour. After some years of "stock " work he went to New Zealand making a prolonged stay there as actor and manager, a great deal of his time being spent in connection with the late Mr. William Hoskins. In 1872 Mr. Jones took charge of the Victoria Theatre, Sydney, for Mr. John Bennett, and in 1878 managed the Theatre Royal for the late Mr. Sam Lazar. He then came to Melbourne under the management of of Messrs. Coppin, Hennings and Greville, and finally became the stage manager of that firm. As an actor his first appearance in Melbourne was as Hoyley Snayle in H. Pettitt's drama Sentenced to Death. Since his periodic engagment by Mr. Williamson's firm, he has been frequently before the public in a host of characters, of which the very last was as the Coroner in Jo, with Miss Jennie Lee, his business duties precluding his undertaking a more important part. In private life he was singularly frank and unaffected in his manners, of a warm and open-hearted disposition, and very free from the arrogance and conceit which too often accompany artistic talent. As an artist, though he has filled a hundred parts, and many of them with credit, he will be chiefly remembered for his impersonation of Polonius in Hamlet. He was by right of merit the Polonios of the Australian stage. When Mr. Warner revived Hamlet at the close of his last season one of poor Jones' admirers, after watching the last new Polonius to hand, remarked to the actor, who was just entering the theatre, "Why, Mr. Jones, you're wanted more on the stage than on the staircase, one might think!" The actor replied, " Yes, I'm not good for much, but I do think I have some idea how to act Polonius." The answer was peculiarly characteristic in its modesty, and on this account not unworthy of record. It is thus several years since playgoers have seen the deceased actor in his great part, which he last played under Mr. Dampier'a management at the Gaiety Theatre, Sydney. Mr. Jones leaves a wife and a family of four—two sons and two daughters—one of the former, Mr. Frank Jones, being at present engaged at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne. The residence of the deceased actor was Liverpool-street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, where his widow is still living. It is not generally known that two of Australia's best actresses were "discovered'' by Mr. B. N. Jones, Miss Myra Kemble and Miss Pattie Browne, both of whom thought him the first stage manager in Australia.

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Citation details

'Jones, Benjamin Napthali (1833–1890)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/jones-benjamin-napthali-29305/text36464, accessed 15 November 2019.

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