Players of the 18th and 19th Century Theatre

Eva Marie Veigel  (Mrs Garrick)  1724 - 1822

Eva Marie Veigel (also Eva Maria Violette, with variants Eva Maria and Ava-Maria), born in Vienna on February 29, 1724, was the wife of actor David Garrick.

Eva Marie Veigel was a well known dancer of her day, using the stage name Violette or Violetti, said to be a nickname given to her by Empress Maria Theresa based on the meaning of her surname - a corruption from the Middle High German viol, 'violet'.

Her true origins are uncertain. There is some doubt as to her paternity, with some saying she was the daughter of a respectable Viennese businessman named John Veigel; but Veigel and her husband were known to say she was of noble paternity. Guido Wald Rüdiger, Count of Starhemberg and Richard Boyle, the Earl of Burlington are thought the most likely candidates if this claim is true. She had a brother, Ferdinand Charles, who was also a ballet dancer.

At the time of her death she was living at Adelphi Terrace, in the London borough of Westminster.

Her will, dated January 28, 1819, was proved October 30, 1822. The only relations of her own whom she named were her niece Elizabeth, wife of Mr. Peter de Saar, of Vienna, and her god-daughter Eva-Maria de Saar, daughter of her late nephew Louis de Saar, of Oldenburgh, in Hungary. She reportedly lived to 99 years of age, though her stated birth date of leap-year's day would make her 98 at the time of her death. She was buried in Westminster Abbey with her husband.

Links with Ayrshire:

A 'Mrs Garrick of Covent Garden', was a member of the company that performed in Ayr on 30th October, 1815, for the opening of Ayr Theatre Royal.  This Mrs Garrick was primarily a singer and there is no evidence to support a relationship with David Garrick or his wife.

[Text based on the Encyclopædia Britannica and an article reproduced in wikipedia.]


Mrs Garrick
David Garrick and his Wife, 1757.   magnify  [Image in the public domain.]

Charles Murray,  1754-1821

Charles Murray was born about 1754 at Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, England. His father was secretary to the 'Young Pretender' and it is asserted that he was the youngster that was introduced to Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1763.  He recalls his father telling him, 'Son, you have seen your King.'

He received a medical education in France and was apprenticed to a surgeon on returning to London. However, by 1775 he had abandoned medicine in favour of the stage, making his acting debut at York under the assumed name of Raymur.  Subsequent appearances were in a variety of provincial towns and he became a great favourite at Norwich and Bath.  In 1796, he was at Covent Garden, playing the part of Shylock.

The name of Murray's first wife is unknown. It is believed Murray had at least one child by his first wife (name unknown) before her death in 1780.  Shortly afterwards he was in a relationship with actress Anne Acres.  It is not clear whether the couple were married but there were three children from the relationship; Maria, Harriet (born 16 April 1783) and William.

Later in his life, Murray appears to have settled in the Edinburgh area where his daughter, Harriet Siddons, and her husband, Henry Siddons, were lessees of The Theatre Royal in Shakespeare Place.  Murray's son, William Henry Murray, acted as theatre manager for the couple.  Playbills for the period 1809 to 1820 show a Mr Murray taking many of the leading parts at the Theatre Royal opposite Mrs Siddons.   (it is not clear whether this is the father or the son.)

Links with Ayrshire:

Commenting on the early seasons at the New Theatre (Theatre Royal) in Ayr, Morris notes "upon one occasion the entire Edinburgh Company, under the never-to-be-forgotten Mr. Murray, and the very talented Mrs. H. Siddons, made out an entire season."  It is presumed that he is referring to Harriet Murray Siddons and her father Charles Murray or her brother William Henry Murray, who were active in Edinburgh between 1809 and 1825.

[Text based, in part, on Murray, Charles (1754–1821), actor in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.]


Charles Murray (ca. 1797).    magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

Sarah Siddons,  1755 – 1831

Sarah Siddons was a British actress, probably the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. She was born Sarah Kemble in Brecon, the eldest daughter of Roger Kemble, an actor-manager whose travelling company included most members of his family. 

Sarah was the first of the twelve children of Roger Kemble and his wife, Sarah Ward.  Like her sisters, she was baptized into her mother’s religion as a protestant, while her brothers were baptized, in their father’s faith, as Catholics.  Seven of her siblings (four sisters and three brothers), including John Phillip Kemble, Charles Kemble, Ann Julia Hatton, and Stephen George Kemble, also followed family tradition and entered the acting profession.

Over the twenty year period of her association with Drury Lane, Siddons appeared with Garrick, her brother John Philip Kemble and Macready.

Links with Ayrshire:

Mrs. Siddons made her first appearance at the Dunlop Street Theatre, Glasgow in 1795. She was then at the zenith of her fame.  She also made appearances in Edinburgh, at the Theatre Royal.  There is no evidence that Sarah Siddons performed in Ayrshire.

However, Morris refers to "the entire Edinburgh Company, under the never-to-be-forgotten Mr. Murray, and the very talented Mrs. H. Siddons, made out an entire season" at the theatrical premises in the Sandgatehead (Theatre Royal).  It is presumed that he is referring to Harriet Murray Siddons, wife of Sarah's son, Henry Siddons (1774-1815).  John Moore, in his history of the Gaiety Theatre, claims that Sarah Siddons played Ayr Theatre Royal after her return to the stage in 1819; it is possible that he has misread Morris's text.

[Text based, in part, on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and other biographies of the actress and the Kemble family.]

Top    ~   Sarah Siddons in Scotland

Portrait of Mrs Sarah Siddons (1785).     magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

John Philip Kemble,  1757 – 1823

Born into a theatrical family on 1 February 1757, John Philip Kemble was the eldest son of Roger Kemble, actor-manager of a touring troupe. His elder sister Sarah Siddons achieved fame with him on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His other siblings, Charles Kemble, Stephen Kemble, Ann Hatton and Elizabeth Whitlock also pursued successful careers in the theatre.

Born at Prescot in Lancashire, John Philip was the second child of the family.  Roger Kemble.  His father was Catholic and Kemble was destined for the priesthood.  He was educated at Sedgley Park Seminary, and the English college at Douai.  At the end of the four years' course, he still felt no vocation for the priesthood, and returning to England he joined the theatrical company of Crump and Chamberlain, his first appearance being at Wolverhampton (1776) as Theodosius in Nathaniel

In 1778, Kemble joined the York company of Tate Wilkinson, appearing at Wakefield as Captain Plume in George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer; in Hull for the first time as Macbeth on 30 October, and in York as Orestes in Ambrose Philips's Distresset Mother. In 1781 he made his first appearance in Dublin, taking the role of Hamlet.

In 1787 he married Priscilla Hopkins Brereton, the widow of an actor and herself an actress.

Kemble took his final leave of the stage in the part of Coriolanus on 23 June 1817. His retirement was probably hastened by the increasing popularity of Edmund Kean. Many of the remaining years of his life were spent abroad, and he died at Lausanne on 26 February 1823.

Links with Ayrshire:

There is no available evidence of any association with Ayrshire..

[Text based on, Encyclopedia & Reference Resource and Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition,]


John Philip Kemble as Hamlet 1801.   magnify   [Image in the public domain.]

George Stephen Kemble, 1758 – 1822

George Stephen Kemble, was born 21 April 1758 in Kington, Herefordshire, third child of the actor manager Roger Kemble.  Stephen became a successful actor, writer and theatre manager in his own right.

The second son of Roger Kemble, brother of Charles Kemble, John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons. He married prominent actress Elizabeth Satchell (1783). His niece was the actress and abolitionist Fanny Kemble.  Kemble's son Henry was also an actor.

Stephen Kemble became a very successful theatre manager notably in the original Theatre Royal, Newcastle, a position he held for fifteen years (1791–1806). He brought members of his famous acting family and many other actors out of London to Newcastle. (Stephen's sister, Sarah Siddons was the first London actor of repute to break through the prejudice which regarded summer 'strolling', or starring in the provincial theatres, as a degradation.)  Kemble guided his theatre through many celebrated seasons and the Newcastle audience regarded itself as 'in a position of great theatrical privilege.'

Stephen Kemble quickly branched out and began to manage other theatres: Theatre Royal, Edinburgh (1794–1800); Theatre Royal, Glasgow (1795); Chester; Lancaster; Sheffield (1792); Berwick-upon-Tweed (1794); theatres in Northumberland; Alnwick; where he builds a theatre (1796) and rural areas on the theatre circuit. From Newcastle, Kemble ran the Durham circuit (1799), which included North Shields, Sunderland, South Shields, Stockton and Scarborough. He also managed theatres at Northallerton, Whitehaven, Paisley (1814), the Northampton Theatre, the theatre at Birmingham and the Theatre Royal, Dumfries. For a short time in 1792, actor Charles Lee Lewes assisted Stephen Kemble in the management of the Dundee Repertory Theatre.

Links with Ayrshire:

There is no direct evidence of any close association with Ayrshire although he managed the Theatre in Paisley.  It is probable that many of the actors who appeared in Ayr, notably Johnston, had links with Kemble and his various theatres.

[Text based on material in the Dictionary of National Biography volume 30.]


George Stephen Kemble, 1808.     magnify    [Image in the public domain.]

Harriet Pye Esten, 1765 - 1865

Harriet Pye Bennett (1765 - 1865) was born illegitimately in 1765 at Bristol.  She was the daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Pye and Agnes Maria Bennett, the popular novelist, authoress of 'Juvenile Indiscretions'.

She married Lieutenant James Esten, purser of a man-of-war and son of James Esten and Elizabeth Dixon, at Graveney, Surrey, on February 24, 1784.  The historian of the Green-Room tells us that 'they lived together some years in a domestic And happy state, and two little ones were the fruits of their mutual fondness.'  James Esten ventured in some undertakings which proved unsuccessful; his finances were ruined, and his wife was necessarily returned to her mother.

Her husband being unable to support her, Mrs. Esten turned to the stage, making her first appearance at Bath for Diamond's benefit as Alicia in 'Jane Shore,' on June 19, 1786.  Aided by her beauty, she made a very favourable impression upon the Bath audience, and in the next year she secured an engagement at Bristol. Here her benefit on July 2, 1787, happened to coincide with a sailing match, whereupon the actress, in an address to the public, complained of the manager fixing her benefit on a bad night.

Throughout her theatrical career she seems to have been of a somewhat combative disposition, never afraid of self-assertion.  A successful engagement in Dublin followed and on Jan. 19, 1790, she appeared at Edinburgh as Juliet.  Jackson records, 'Her reception was as flattering as her most sanguine expectation a could have formed. . . .and she was adopted by general voice as the theatrical child of Scotland.'

She and Douglas Hamilton, 8th Duke of Hamilton were associated around 1795.  Later in her life she married Major John Scott-Waring.  She died on 29 April 1865 at the age of 100, in Kensington, London.

Links with Ayrshire:

There is no evidence of any close association with Ayrshire although she managed the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh and competed with Stephen Kemble..

[Text based on Eagan to Garrett: Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers .. By Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim.]


Harriet Pye Esten 1804    magnify    [Image in the public domain.]

Jane Austen

In her letter to Cassandra Austen, Jane describes her difficulty in attending a performance by Mrs Siddons

Roger Kemble and Marriage

Henry Siddons - a critical opinion.

Mrs Siddons in Edinburgh

1784 brought the advent of Mrs. Siddons in Edinburgh. Her first appearance was made on 22nd May, 1784, in Venice Preserved . . .

Stephen Kemble, Esten and Jackson

Jackson, the patentee at the Theatre Royal, having become bankrupt, Mr. Stephen Kemble came forward.  .  

John Phillip Kemble in France

Mr. Kemble devoted the year 1802 to the pleasures of travel

Dr Johnson and Mrs Siddons

When Mrs. Siddons visited Doctor Johnson, he paid her two or three very elegant compliments when she retired.

Sarah Siddons

Mrs. Piozzi said that ‘the Earl [of Errol], dressed in his robes at the coronation, and Mrs. Siddons, in the character of Murphy's Euphrasia, were the noblest specimens of the human race she ever saw.'

John Phillip Kemble

The actor-manager John Philip Kemble, once married, only once strayed.

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