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Hidden Identities, Forgotten Histories: Female Provincial Touring Artists in Britain, 1887–1900

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2022


Provincial touring companies of the late Victorian period, comprising mostly unknown actors and actresses, have received minimal scholarly attention until recently. The sheer number of ‘on-the-road’ artists who were employed in such enterprises from the late nineteenth century onwards increased to such an extent that to establish a framework for their individual and collective study presents significant challenges. This article addresses this problem by proposing a method, grounded in genealogy, that records the male and/or female artists of a given touring company over its full term without selective bias in order to establish a cohort of subjects for further examination. It tracks the touring companies of actor-manager Lawrence Daly, an individual unheard of today, between 1887 and 1900, the year of his death. One hundred and twenty-five female artists employed by Daly during this period are recovered, and their careers, family histories, and personal identities are subjected to statistical analysis. The conclusions drawn here not only contribute to the better understanding of the social history of non-elite female provincial artists of the late nineteenth century, but also afford the opportunity to shine a light on figures whose names, lives, and achievements are long forgotten. Further, a case is made for the method as the basis for a wide-ranging database of provincial touring companies and artists. Bernard Ince is an independent theatre historian who has contributed several articles on Victorian and Edwardian theatre to New Theatre Quarterly.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2022

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