Helena Faucit ( 1817 - 1898 )   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Helena Faucit as Juliet in Richmond

Her first appearance was made at Richmond as Juliet, in the summer of 1833, while she was yet scarcely the age of Shakespeare's Juliet.

It was brought about thus. One hot afternoon the sisters went in at the stage door of the theatre, seeking shelter from the sun; and, finding the place untenanted, held a sort of half ludicrous rehearsal of the Balcony Scene; Helen speaking Juliet's lines. The manager, Mr. Willis Jones, was, unknown to the performers, a witness of their frolic, and he was so struck by the Juliet's fine voice, excellent appearance, and admirable recitation, that he prevailed upon her friends to allow her to appear on his stage, announced only as A Young Lady.

She accordingly played several times, with great success.

From 'Actors and Actresses from the days of David Garrick to the present time' edited by Brander Matthews and Laurence Hutton, Cassell and Company, New York 1886.


Helena Faucit, Engraving after a drawing by Miss Clara Lane, published by Walker and Cockerell.

Helena Faucit, an Appreciation

Miss Faucit's acting is the perfection of pathos.

She has the art of giving to simple words and sentences a world of meaning —of appealing directly to the heart — of opening the deepest depths of feeling. .   .   .    .

There are many other examples easily referrable, of a feeling infused — a depth of passion — of almost unutterable human love, constituting the power she possesses of rousing those sympathies which men need not be ashamed of, though their eyes dim with tears.

[From Talliss Dramatic Magazine, December, 1850.]


ANtigoneHelena Saville Faucit, Lady Martin (11 October 1817 - 31 October 1898).  Helen Faucit as Antigone (1845).  Portrait by Frederick Burton.   (National Gallery of Ireland.) Copyright expired on this image.

Faucit develops her key roles

She had not had the advantage — or disadvantage — of having seen previous interpreters of Shakespeare's heroines, and she was wholly ignorant of the traditions of the stage. All her conceptions were her own; and in her own way she struggled to express what her keen insight showed her of the soul of the character. Thus there was a freshness in her acting which was as rare as it was charming.

Mr. Percival Farren, elder brother of the celebrated William Farren, was her first master; and of him and his kindly care she writes with warm affection and appreciation. In her first season she had the incalculable benefit of the advice and help of Charles Kemble; and she gratefully acknowledges how fortunate it was that, to one of her shy and sensitive nature, so sympathetic an instructor was given.

[From 'Actors and Actresses from the days of David Garrick to the present time' edited by Brander Matthews and Laurence Hutton, Cassell and Company, New York 1886]


Mr Macready as King Lear with Helena Faucit as Cordelia, Act V Scene 3, in the play by William Shakespeare.

Helena Faucit in the Provinces

From this time she acted much in the provinces. Her friends considered that there she would receive the best practice; so she declined numerous engagements offered her in London, and began, at Edinburgh, a series of triumphantly successful engagements — so successful that she chronicles, with just pride, that after her first night in Edinburgh, she never played, there or elsewhere, to an indifferent house.

That she never, after this time, was permanently established in London, is a painful proof of the degradation of public taste; but she appeared as a star at frequent intervals, finding no diminution of her personal success, and showing ever-increasing ripeness of judgment and powers.

[From Actors and Actresses tom the days of David Garrick to the present time edited by Brander Matthews and Laurence Hutton, Cassell and Company, New York 1886]


Lady Martin, 1881 (Helen Faucit 1814-1898). Photograph from a drawing by Annette Elias, Collection of University of Victoria Library. Copyright expired on this image.

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