John Lawrence William Toole was born in 1830 in St. Mary Axe, London. He was the younger son of James and Elizabeth Toole. He married Susan Kaslake in 1854, with whom he had a daughter, Florence, and son, Frank Lawrence.
Toole's first professional acting debut was in 1852, when he played Simmons in The Spitalfields Weaver at the Queen's Theatre in Dublin. He went on to perform in various theatres throughout his life, including the Edinburgh Theatre Royal, St. James's Theatre, the Lyceum and the New Adelphi in London. He was a close acquaintance of the actor Henry Irving (with whom he toured in 1866), and was popularly known for his characterisation of Tom Cranky in John Hollingshead's sketch, The Birthplace of Podgers.
In 1869 he began a long association with the Gaiety Theatre, under Hollingshead, with whom he mainly performed Burlesque and Farce. It was in the Gaiety that Toole played Thespis in Gilbert and Sullivan's first extravaganza, Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old, in 1871. JW, as an ardent theatre goer, attended the Gaiety Theatre reguarly, particularly in the late 1870s.
He was also a Producer, mainly within Toole's Theatre (previously the Folly Theatre, which Toole took over in 1870 and renamed in 1882), of which he was proprietor. His Reminiscences were compiled by Joseph Hatton and published in 1889. Toole died in 1906.
Kelly's London Postal Directory, London, 1861 and 1862; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford; Who was who: a cumulated index, 1897-1990, London, 1991; http://mysite.freeserve.com/arthurlloyd/Toole/prog1.htm; http://mysite.freeserve.com/arthurlloyd (accessed 2003).