Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ Harriet Siddons 1783 - 1844

Harriet Murray Siddons, 1783 - 1844

Harriet Murray Siddons (1783 - 1844) by John Hoppner RA (1758-1810).  Original in the Collection of the Detroit Institute of Art, a gift from the Estate of Alfred J. Fisher.  [The original image is out of copyright.] 

Actress and writer, Fanny Kemble gives her impression of Harriet Murray Siddons.

'. . . London life succeeded the calm, equable, and all but imperceptible control of my dear friend, whose influence over her children, the result of her wisdom in dealing with them, no less than of their own amiable dispositions, was absolute. In considering Mrs. Harriet Murray Siddons's character, when years had modified its first impression upon my own, my estimate of it underwent, of course, some inevitable alteration; but when I stayed with her in Edinburgh I was at the idolatrous period of life, and never, certainly, had an enthusiastic young girl worshipper a worthier or better idol.

She was not regularly handsome, but of a sweet and most engaging countenance; her figure was very pretty, her voice exquisite, and her whole manner, air, and deportment graceful, attractive, and charming. Men, women, and children not only loved her, but inevitably fell in love with her, and the fascination which she exercised over every one that came in contact with her invariably deepened into profound esteem and confidence, in those who had the good fortune to share her intimacy. Her manner, which was the most gentle and winning imaginable, had in it a touch of demure playfulness that was very charming, at the same time that it habitually conveyed the idea of extreme self-control, and a great reserve of moral force and determination underneath this quiet surface.

Mrs. Harriet Murray Siddons's manner was artificial, and my mother told me she thought it the result of an early determination, to curb the demonstrations of an impetuous temper and passionate feelings. It had become her second nature when I knew her, however, and contributed not a little to the immense ascendancy she soon acquired over my vehement and stormy character. She charmed me into absolute submission to her will and wishes, and I all but worshipped her.

She was a Miss Harriet Murray, and came of good Scottish blood, her great-grandfather having at one time been private secretary to the Young Pretender. She married actress Sarah Kemble Siddons's youngest son, Henry, the only one of my aunt's children who adopted her own profession, and who, himself an indifferent actor, undertook the management of the Edinburgh theatre, fell into ill-health, and died, leaving his lovely young widow with four children to the care of her brother, William Henry Wood Murray, who succeeded him in the government of the theatre, of which his sister and himself became joint proprietors.'

My admiration and affection for her were, as I have said, unbounded . . . '

[Fanny Kemble (1809-1893), first cousin of Henry Siddons, was a very successful actress and wrote several autobiographical works, including Record of a Girlhood in 1878.   This extract is based on an edition edited  by John van Wyhe.]


Harriet by Hopner

Harriet Murray Siddons, 1783 - 1844

Harriet Siddons (1783-1844), when Miss Murray, as Amanthis in A Child of Nature.  1801.  Henry Bone RA (1755-1834). Engraved by Alias, 2 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches. Publisher J. Roach.  A version of this photograph is in the Harvard Theatre Collection.   [The original image is out of copyright.] 

Harriet Murray Siddons, 1783 - 1844

Harriet Murray, was born in April, 1783, the daughter of Charles Murray, the actor. The engraving shows Harriet in the role of Amanthis.  The image is described as follows; Half-length portrait, wearing a necklace with a cross. With text: 'Graceful in action, and in thought refin'd; The looks of Heaven! and Heaven adorns her mind.' 

Obituary of Harriet Murray Siddons

The death 'of Mrs. Henry Siddons, the daughter-in-law of the great actress - and herself an exquisite actress in a certain range of parts.

Many will remember her as the most charming Viola, Ophelia, Perdita, Rosalind, Juliet, Portia, that ever trod the stage.

In private life, she was, perhaps, the most perfect example you can conceive, of what Coleridge calls 'ladyhood.' I know no other word which could express the rare combination of refinement, dignity, grace, with moral worth, and the loftiest principles of action - displayed consistently through the equal modest tenor of her whole life on and off the stage. No one, I believe, was ever brought within the sphere of her influence, that was not elevated and purified through the quiet, silent, gracious power of a character all made up of conscience and tenderness, without assumption and without effect.

Believe me, you may say something of her, with a conviction that it cannot be too much."

[From: The Living Age,  Volume 3, Issue 32,  21 December 1844.]





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