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Lesser Ladies of the Victorian Stage

  • Jan McDonald (a1)


The theatrical memoirs published by actresses in the nineteenth century were generally written by women who had achieved recognition in their profession and had, therefore, acquired a place in society. Comparatively little is known about the jobbing actress who never achieved distinction in London, but who eked out an existence in the provinces, either with one of the better companies in Bath, Bristol or Edinburgh, on a theatrical ‘circuit’, or with one of the troupes of travelling players who rarely performed in theatre buildings, but in barns, village halls, inns and, occasionally, in private houses. At the bottom of the pile came the performers in fairground booths and penny theatres.



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1. ‘Corin’. The Truth about the Stage. London: Wyman and Sons, 1885, p. 20.

2. Paterson, Peter. Glimpses of Real Life. Edinburgh: William P. Niramo, 1864, p. 208.

3. Shuttleworth, H. C., ed. The Diary of an Actress, or the Realities of Stage Life. London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden and Welsh, 1885, pp. 132–3.

4. Marshall, Frances, ed. Charlotte Deans (1768–1859). A Commentary on the Story of a Travelling Player. Kendal: Titus Wilson, 1984.

5. An Appeal to the Women of England to Discourage the Stage. By a Lady. London: Joseph Masters, 1855, P. 9.

6. Kemble, Frances Anne. Record of a Girlhood. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1878, Vol 2, p. 61.

7. Neilson, Julia. Time for Remembrance. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1941, p. 234.

8. Holbrook, Ann Catherine. The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage. Birmingham: Martin and Hunter, 1809, p. 60.

9. Charlotte Deans, p. 41.

10. Lynn, Neville, The Thespian Papers. London: Walter Scott, 1887, p. 28.

11. The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage, p. 27.

12. Fyvie, John. Comedy Queens of the Georgian Era. London: Archibald Constable, 1906, p. 359.

13. The Truth about the Stage, p. 35.

14. Dyer, Robert. Nine Years of an Actor's Life. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Company, 1883, p. 46.

15. Charlotte Deans, p. 41.

16. Diary of an Actress, p. 32.

17. Record of a Girlhood, Vol 2, p. 131.

18. Bulley, Amy and Whitley, Margaret. Women's Work. London: Methuen and Company, 1894, p. 33.

19. Fitzgerald, P. H.. The World behind the Scenes. London: Chatto and Windus, 1881, p. 133.

20. Undated Report [1861?] on Prostitution in Glasgow. Faculty of Advocates Library, Glasgow.

21. Davis, Tracy C., supra, pp. 221–34.

22. Penley, Benville S. The Bath Stage. London: William Lewis and Son, 1892, p. 91.

23. Marshall, Thomas. Lives of the Most Celebrated Actors and Actresses. London: E. Appleyard, [1848], p. 112.

24. Glimpses of Real Life, p. 246.

25. The Thespian Papers, pp. 123–4.

26. Kendal, Madge. Dame Madge Kendal, By Herself. London: John Murray, 1933, p. 196.

27. Time for Remembrance, p. 44.

28. The Bath Stage, p. 136.

29. Diary of an Actress, p. 23.

30. Fagan, Elizabeth. From the Wings, by The Stage Cat. London: W. Collins and Company Limited, 1922, p. 25.

31. The Thespian Papers, p. 78.

32. Lives of the most celebrated Actors and Actresses, p. 74.

33. Glimpses of Real Life, pp. 208–9.

34. Graham, Joe. An old Stock Actor's Memories. London: John Murray, 1930, p. 107.

35. The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage, p. 54.

36. Holman, L. E.. Lamb's ‘Barbara S-’. London: Methuen, 1934, p. 100.

37. Barker, Michael. The Rise of the Victorian Actor. London: Groom Helm, 1978, Chapter 6 and Sanderson, MichaelFrom Irving to Olivier, a social history of the acting profession. London: The Athlone Press, 1984, Chapter 4.

38. Women's Work, p. 32.

39. Grein, J. T.. ‘The Cry of the underpaid Actress’, The Independent Theatregoer. 1912, pp. 1617.

40. Charlotte Deans, p. 70.

41. Women's Work, p. 32.

42. [Gladys Luttrell]. Letters of an Actress. London: Edward Arnold, 1902, p. 121.

43. The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage, p. 38.

44. Diary of an Actress, p. 92.

45. Glimpses of Real Life, p. 39.

46. Diary of an Actress, p. 155.

47. The Truth about the Stage, p. 52.

48. Glimpses of real Life, p. 40.

49. The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage, p. 60.

50. MrsCalvert, Charles. Sixty-eight Years on the Stage. London: Mills and Boon Limited, 1911, pp. 270–1.

51. Diary of an Actress, pp. 3940.

52. Rise of the Victorian Actor, Appendix 3, p. 225.

53. Parkes, Bessie Rayner. Essays on Woman's Work. London, 1865 p. 127.

54. Ibid., p. 128.

55. Diary of an Actress, p. 51.

Lesser Ladies of the Victorian Stage

  • Jan McDonald (a1)


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