Harriet Elizabeth Faucit 1789 - 1857   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Harriet Elizabeth Saville [née Diddear;known as Mrs Faucit]

Harriet Elizabeth Saville [née Diddear; other married name Farren; known as Mrs Faucit] (1789–1857), actress, was the daughter of provincial theatre manager John Diddear and his wife, Elizabeth. When not quite seven she made a successful début at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, under her father's management, as Edward in Everyone has his Fault. She continued to act during childhood and adolescence, at Brighton, Dover, Richmond, and Margate.

Mrs Faucit's London début, as Desdemona in Othello, was at Covent Garden on 8 October 1813; critics approved her appearance and voice but deplored her tendency to play to the audience and to turn Desdemona into an arch, vivacious Congreve heroine. Her most important part that season was Cleopatra in a lavishly mounted Antony and Cleopatra, under the direction of John Phillip Kemble, with a text combining Shakespeare and Dryden.

Although overshadowed by Eliza O'Neill, who arrived in 1814, she had a substantial metropolitan career for more than two decades, always at Covent Garden, Drury Lane, or the Haymarket.

In 1821, after an unsuccessful attempt to have her marriage to John Faucit Saville annulled, she became the common-law wife of the eminent comedian William Farren, with whom she lived from then on.  On 16 November 1853, shortly after Saville's death, she and Farren were legally married.

[Text based on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Cleopatra 1813
Mrs. Faucit (1789-1857) as Cleopatra in J. P. Kemble's Covent Garden staging of Antony and Cleopatra: 1813. Samuel De Wilde (Painter); Henry Cook (Engraver); 1814. original in the H. Beard Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum. [This image is in the public domain.]

John Savill Faucit and Harriet Faucit (Diddear), their marriage and joint careers.

John Faucit Saville [Savill] (1783?–1853), actor, theatre manager, and playwright, was reportedly seventy years old when he died, but neither his date of birth nor his parents' names are known. Perhaps his real name was, as is usually supposed, John Savill[e] Faucit: some early signatures and his initial stage name, Mr Faucit, support this. Yet most official documents, from his marriage record on, give Savill or Saville as surname, often with Faucit as middle name.

Saville's career began at Stepney fair, probably in his late teens: here he joined ‘Muster [John] Richardson's’ company, which toured the fairs with a large, portable booth, acting in pantomimes and abbreviated, highly stereotyped dramas. In 1804, at about twenty-one, the small but personable actor was engaged at the Theatre Royal, Richmond, Surrey, where he played dashing, if secondary, roles such as Frank Rochdale in John Bull and Courtall in The Belle's Stratagem. He and the fifteen-year-old actress Harriet Diddear became mutually attracted; in 1805, when he was again at Richmond and she was in her father's company at Margate, they eloped to London and were married—under the name Savill—on 2 September. Shortly afterwards, having been reconciled with the Diddears, they acted at Margate, then Dover, as Mr and Mrs Faucit.

In 1806 the couple joined the prosperous Norwich circuit, whose company travelled to seven towns and acted throughout the year; except for a brief hiatus (with Macready at Newcastle), they remained with it for seven years. Faucit acted ‘second juvenile’ roles and ‘Country Boys’ in conventional drama and principal parts in ‘both serious & comic Pantomimes’; Mrs Faucit eventually played all the leading female characters.

In 1813 they were engaged at a major London theatre, Covent Garden. Four children had been born during the Norwich years—John, Harriet, Edmund Henry, and Alfred; after the move to London, there were two more—Helena and Charles.

At Covent Garden, although his wife was regularly employed, Faucit appeared only sporadically, mostly in minor comic parts such as Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice; in 1817, however, he acted Gratiano in that play, winning critical approval for his innovative seriousness in the trial scene.

Faucit's wife left him in 1821 but continued to bill herself as Mrs Faucit, in consequence of which he reversed his names to Faucit Savill(e).

[Text based on theOxford Dictionary of National Biography.]


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