Frederick Hobson Leslie

Frederick Hobson Leslie

Frederick George Hobson, known as Fred Leslie (1 April 1855 – 7 December 1892), was an English actor, singer, comedian and dramatist.

Beginning his career in operetta, Leslie became best known for starring in, and writing (under the pseudonym A. C. Torr, a pun on the word "actor"), popular burlesque plays and other comic works of theatre.


Leslie was born in Woolwich, London, England. He was the youngest son of Charles Hobson, a wealthy military outfitter, and Sarah Hobson, née Pye. Leslie was educated in Woolwich, Lewisham and Pas-de-Calais. As a young man, he performed in amateur plays while working in commerce. Leslie married Louisa (Louie) Agate in 1879. The couple had three children. The oldest of these, William Herbert Leslie Hobson (1880–1945), became a stage and film actor and singer also using the name "Fred Leslie". [ [ Fred Leslie's son's entry at the IMDB database] ] [ [ Fred Leslie's son's entry at the IBDB database] ]


After briefly touring the British provinces, he made his first stage appearance in London at the Royalty Theatre as old Colonel Hardy in "Paul Pry" in 1878."The Times" obituary, 8 December 1892, p. 5] He was soon engaged by Kate Santley at the Royalty Theatre, where he played the title role in "Mr Lewis". He next played Agamemnon (under the name of "Mr Leslie") in "La belle Hélène" by "Jacques Offenbach". His vocal quality suited him to play the comic baritone roles in French operettas.Gänzl, Kurt. [ "Leslie, Fred (1855–1892)",] "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 18 September 2008, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16487] He soon appeared in operettas such as "Madame Favart", "La fille du tambour-major" (1880) [Adams, p. 515] and "Olivette", among other operettas. In addition to these comic roles, he played some leading roles in musical theatre pieces under the management of Selina Dolaro at the Folly Theatre and at the Alhambra Theatre in "The Bronze Horse" (1891) [Adams, p. 211] "La petite mademoiselle" and "Les manteaux noirs", among others.

In 1882, Leslie found wide success as the title character in the operetta "Rip Van Winkle", by Robert Planquette, at the Comedy Theatre, also starring W. S. Penley. [Traubner, pp. 88–89] In 1882 and 1883 he played in America at the Casino Theatre and elsewhere with John McCaull's opera company in "The Merry War" and "The Beggar Student". [ "Obituary: Fred Leslie Dead",] "The New York Times", 8 December 1892] In 1884 he played in "Fay o' Fire", which featured Marie Tempest in one of her first roles. The same year, at the Comedy Theatre, he played in "The Great Mogul" with Florence St. John and Arthur Roberts. [Traubner, p. 91]

In 1885 Leslie joined the Gaiety Theatre, London company as Jonathan Wild in H. P. Stephens and W. Yardley's burlesque "Little Jack Sheppard", with music by Meyer Lutz, and also starring Nellie Farren as Jack. The piece was a hit, and for the next seven years he and Farren were the pillars of the popular Gaiety Theatre burlesques. [Hollingshead (1898), pp. 443–44] In 1887, his "Miss Esmeralda" was a particular success, while "Frankenstein, or The Vampire's Victim", in which he played a monster in touch with his feminine side, was a flop. In 1888-89, Leslie, with Farren's Gaiety company, toured in the U.S. and Australia, in "Monte Cristo, Jr." and "Miss Esmeralda" (together with Sylvia Grey, Marion Hood and Letty Lind). [Moratti, Mel. [ "Theatre in Melbourne 1888"] at the Gilbert and Sullivan Down Under site] At the same time, Leslie played roles in other pieces, for example "David Garrick" by Thomas W. Robertson at the Gaiety in 1886. [Adams, p. 381]

Leslie's Don Caesar de Bazan in "Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué" (1888, a take off of Victor Hugo’s play "Ruy Blas"), was perhaps the most popular of his later parts, and he and Farren starred at the Gaiety and toured in this production and in "Miss Esmeralda", and "Joan of Arc" (1891). [Traubner, pp. 196–97] In 1891, Leslie and Farren again toured Australia with the Gaiety company in "Ruy Blas" and "Cinder Ellen up too Late" (with Sidney Jones as conductor). [Moratti, Mel. [ "Theatre in Melbourne 1891"] at the Gilbert and Sullivan Down Under site] Leslie died while rehearsing for his last burlesque, "Don Juan" (with lyrics by Adrian Ross). His early death, coupled with Farren's illness and retirement in 1892, brought to an end the type of Gaiety burlesque associated with them, at the same time that Edwardian musical comedy came to dominate the London theatre.

Leslie was known for his versatility, agility, entertaining personality and talent as a mimic. His performances, including singing (he was a baritone), dancing, clowning and whistling, were noted for their high spirits and ludicrous charm. Under the pseudonym of "A. C. Torr", he was part-author of many of his burlesques and also wrote the burlesque "Guy Fawkes Jr" for Arthur Roberts in 1890. [Adams, p. 621] Although Leslie is remembered best for the burlesques, he was a fine comic actor whom the critic Clement Scott called "one of the great lyric and comic artists of my time."

Early death

Leslie died of typhoid fever at his home in London at the age of 37. He was buried in Charlton cemetery in Greenwich, England.



*Adams, William Davenport. [ "A Dictionary of the Drama",] Burt Franklin, 1904
*Gänzl, Kurt. "The British musical theatre", 2 vols. (1986)
*Gänzl, Kurt. "The encyclopedia of the musical theatre", 2 vols. (1994)
*Hollingshead, John. [ "Gaiety Chronicles"] (1898) A. Constable & co.: London
*Hollingshead, John. "Good Old Gaiety: An Historiette & Remembrance" (1903) London:Gaity Theatre Co
*Traubner, Richard. "Operetta: A Theatrical History", Routledge, 2003 ISBN 0415966418
*Vincent, William Thomas and Clement Scott. [ "Recollections of Fred Leslie",] (1894) London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

External links

* [ Signed 1884 photo of Leslie]

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