The themes John Howard Payne wrote about
John Howard Payne was an American actor, poet, playwright, and author who had most of his theatrical career and success in London. He is today most remembered as the creator of "Home! Sweet Home!", a song he wrote in 1822 that became widely popular in the United States, Great Britain, and the English-speaking world. After his return to the United States, Payne spent time with the Cherokee Indians. He published accounts that suggested their origin as one of the Ten Lost Tribes of ancient Israel.
In 1842, Payne was appointed American Consul to Tunis, where he served for nearly 10 years until his death. Payne was a distant cousin of the American parlor song composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond, born 10 years after Payne's death.
Early Life and Education
John Howard Payne was born in New York City on June 9, 1791, one of the eldest of nine children and seven sons. Soon after his birth, his father moved the family to Boston, where he headed a school. The family also spent time at his grandfather's colonial-era house in East Hampton, New York, which was later preserved in honor of Payne. As a youth, Payne showed precocious dramatic talent, but his father tried to discourage that path. After the death of an older brother, his father installed young Payne, age 13, in the brother's position at the same accountants' firm in New York, but the boy did not have a mind for commerce.
His interest in theater was irrepressible. He published the first issue of The Thespian Mirror, a journal of theater criticism, at age 14. Soon after that, he wrote his first play, Julia: or the Wanderer, a comedy in five acts. Its language was racy, and it closed quickly. Payne then caught the attention of John E. Seaman, a wealthy New Yorker who recognized his talent and paid for his education at Union College.
Payne started a college paper called the Pastime, which he kept up for several issues. When he was 16, his mother died and his father's business failed. Payne thought he could best assist his family by leaving college and going on stage, and made his debut on February 24, 1809 as Young Norval in the play by the same name, at the old Park Theatre in New York. He was a brilliant success, and played in other major cities to acclaim. In a brief interval away from the theatre, he founded the Athenaeum, a circulating library and reading room.
Payne was friends with Sam Colt and his brother John C. Colt, who were accused of murdering . Payne was a character witness at John Colt's murder trial and acted as a witness in Colt's wedding ceremony to Caroline Henshaw on the morning of Colt's scheduled execution.
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