Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Three generations of Vandenhoffs were among featured players in theatres of both America and England for over a century, 1808 through 1913. George Vandenhoff, the subject of this study, was the eldest son of the accomplished British tragedian, John Vandenhoff. Lauded in England, George accepted a theatrical booking in New York in 1842 and later became a resident of that city. Dissatisfied with changing trends in the theatre and perceiving a growing interest in public readings of literature, Vandenhoff ultimately turned his attention from the actor's stage to the reader's platform. One of the first to introduce Shakespearean readings, he enjoyed thirty-nine years of popularity as a public reader of literature. Vandenhoff was among those professional men who actively sought to improve oral expression in a growing America. Staunchly defending the teaching of elocution (oral delivery), he wrote textbooks and offered instruction in that art. His manuals, judged to have been admirable, intelligible, correct in theory, and easy of practice, were in popular use in both England and America for over forty years. As an elocutionist, the ex-actor was particularly adept at characterization. Recognized as "New York's favorite reader," his performances expanded the literary awareness of his listeners and inspired many to seek guidance in improving their own elocution. As educator and entertainer, Vandenhoff foreshadowed the twentieth century concept of oral interpretation as a valid method for studying and stimulating appreciation of literature. Being a popular participant in the mainstream of nineteenth century elocution, he unquestionably made a significant contribution to the practice of oral interpretation of literature and to oral delivery in general. In addition to recording highlights of the theatrical careers of George Vandenhoff and nine other family members, this study is an investigation of his years as a public reader and teacher, primarily in New York and New England. Also, it is an assessment of his contribution to the art of oral reading as an author of elocutionary textbooks. Appendix A contains copies of playbills and character portraits of Vandenhoffs. Appendix B presents a table of literary selections and authors comprising the anthologies found in Vandenhoff's and five of his contemporaries' textbooks.