The Payne family is one of several 19th-century pantomime dynasties. Harry was the son of W.H. Payne, the classic pantomimist who was a master of 'dumb show' or comic mime, and who invented much of the Harlequinade action. Known as the 'King of Pantomime', he appeared at Covent Garden in the 1820s with Grimaldi and the great Harlequin, Bologna. Harry Payne began his career playing Harlequin at Covent Garden but in 1859 he had to take over as Clown in the middle of a performance when Richard Flexmore collapsed. After this, Payne was Covent Garden's Clown until 1870. After appearing elsewhere, he went to Drury Lane in 1883, where he played Clown for the last 12 years of his life, with his brother Fred as Harlequin.