Philobiblon: Actresses I have known

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Actresses I have known

My 19th-century "blogger" is today musing on the theatre, and particularly the great actresses and actors she has seen on the London stage. Her considered favourite in terms of skill is Mrs Siddons:

I can hardly conceive anything finer than the expression which Mrs. Siddons gave to the simple reply, 'A deed without a name.’ [in the witches scene in Macbeth] It seemed full of all the guilty dread belonging to witchcraft; and it is just this idea of guilt which seems to be so difficult to convey to our minds, which are engrossed with the folly of the whole thing that we not recollect it was a sin.

But Miss Williams Wynn isn't above a bit of gossip, referring to the famous love affair of Miss Farren, which was recently turned into fiction:
"I recollect (not the admirable acting in the famous screen scene but) the circumstance of seeing Lord Derby leaving his private box to creep to her behind the scene; and, of course, we all looked with impatience for the discovery, hoping the screen would fall a little too soon, and show to the audience Lord Derby as well as Lady Teazle."

Also making an appearance are Madame de Stael, Miss O'Neill, Kemble and Talma. And the editor's note is interesting. Writing in the 1850s, he feels compelled to apologise for the seriousness with which Miss Williams Wynn takes her theatre. Obviously a respectable lady writing respectfully about actresses was something he had problems with.


Blogger Tony said...

Actresses? What is the feminist viewpoint on the question raised HERE?

11/29/2005 02:10:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I entirely agree with you about the 21st-century (or indeed later 20th-century) actors. But when you are talking about the 18th and 19th century the term of the time - actresses - seems to me appropriate.

11/29/2005 02:16:00 pm  
Blogger Tony said...

Fine, but make sure that if you're talking about 17th-century actors you note what the usage was then, if Pepys got it right.

11/29/2005 03:01:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Well I don't think there was such a thing as "right" English in the 17th century, but I'm happy to go with Pepys - the whole concept of women on stage then of course being very new to England, so I doubt the language was very stable on the point.

11/29/2005 03:04:00 pm  

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