Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ Maria Foote
(1797? -1867)

1.   Maria Foote

Maria Foote (1797?-1867)

1.   Maria Foote (1797?-1867), [Maria Stanhope, Countess of Harrington.] Portrait by an unknown English Artist,  ca. 1829.  (attributed is William Etty (1787-1849).  Oil on canvas, 894 x 693mm.
[Image in the public domain, from and original oil paining in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, acquired between 1903 and 1909 by Henry Walters.]

Description: An attractive woman is portrayed seated, clad in a black silk dress, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat adorned with a white plume. Her hair falls in close curls over her temples. The traditional attribution of this painting to Sir Thomas Lawrence is no longer accepted, although the original identification of the subject as Miss Foote appears in keeping with other representations of the actress. In 1831 Maria Foote (1797(?)-1867) married Charles Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Harrington, after pursuing a successful career on the stage. Among the painters to whom this portrait has most recently been attributed is William Etty (1787-1849).

Born 24 July 1797(?) at Plymouth to Samuel T. Foote (1761–1840) and a Miss Hart.  Her father claimed to be a descendant of Samuel Foote, a one-legged comic who held a lifetime patent at the Haymarket theatre in London. Forsaking a military career, Samuel T Foote became manager of the Plymouth theatre, and married a Miss Hart.   In July 1810 their daughter appeared as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at her father's theatre, where she also played as Susan Ashfield in Thomas Morton's Speed the Plough, and as Emily Worthington in George Colman's Poor Gentleman.

On 26 May 1814, Miss Foote appeared at Covent Garden Theatre as Amanthis in the Child of Nature by Elizabeth Inchbald. In this part, which suited her, she made a great success. Her second appearance was at the same theatre in the same character in the following season, 14 September 1814. On 6 December she was the original Ulrica in The King and the Duke, or Which is Which?, attributed to Robert Francis Jameson.  On 2 January 1815 she played Miranda in The Tempest, and 17 April 1815 was the original Adela in the Fortune of War, attributed to James Kenney. For her benefit, 6 June 1815, she appeared as Statira in Alexander the Great, William Henry West Betty acting, for that occasion only, Alexander. This was her first appearance in tragedy.

Subsquent roles included Fanny in The Clandestine Marriage, Hippolita in an alteration of the Tempest, Lady Percy in King Henry IV, Helena in the Midsummer Night's Dream, and many other parts, chiefly secondary, in old pieces and new, then followed.

However, her abilities proved to be limited although she had a reputation for beauty sufficient to secure her constant engagements at the patent theatres and in the country. She played with success in both Ireland and Scotland, and accompanied John Liston, Tyrone Power, and other actors to Paris, where they all acted with unsatisfactory results.

[This text draws substantially on material published in the Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.]


2.   Maria Foote

Maria Foote (1797?-1867

2.   Maria Foote, afterwards Countess of Harrington, as Maria Darlington in the farce of 'A Rowland for an Oliver' (1824) G. Clint, A.R.A., pinxt. Thos. Lupton. sculpt. —frontispiece, Devonshire Characters and Strange Events, Baring-Gould, S.

At Covent Garden she played every season up to 1824-5 inclusive, frequently in subordinate parts, but taking occasionally characters such as Miss Letitia Hardy in the Belle's Stratagem, Miss Hardcastle, and, for her benefit. Lady Teazle. She was the original Isidora in Barry Cornwall's Mirandola.

On 9 March 1826 she made her first appearance at Drury Lane Theatre, as Letitia Hardy.  She also she played Violante in the 'Wonder,' Rosalind, Virginia, Maria in A Roland for an Oliver, Imogen, and Maggy in the Highland Reel.

At Bath on 13 and 14 January 1826 she was the object of hostile demonstrations on the part of a portion of the audience.

Her singing and dancing and her way of accompanying herself on the harp, guitar, and pianoforte added to her popularity. She is said to have traversed England, Ireland, and Scotland every year for five years, in course of which she posted twenty-five thousand miles.

John Genest wrote that she was a very pretty woman and a very pleasing actress, but she never would have travelled about as a star if it had not been for circumstances totally unconnected with the stage (Account of the Stage, ix. 358-9).

A writer in the New Monthly Magazine for March 1821, variously stated to be Thomas Noon Talfourd, Thomas Campbell, and Horace Smith, wrote warmly concerning 'the pure and innocent beauty with which she has enriched our imaginations,' and, referring to her then anticipated departure, asks rhapsodically, 'Is comedy entirely to lose the most delicate and graceful of its handmaidens and tragedy the loveliest of its sufferers?' Talfourd speaks highly of the grace of her movements, and specially commends her singing of the song 'Where are you going, my pretty maid?'

[This text draws substantially on material published in the Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.]


3. Maria Foote

Maria Foote (1797?-1867)

3.   Miss Foote engraved by R. Cooper (fl. 1795-1836) from an original by Rose Emma Drummond. Stipple vignette ; 4 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.. Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection.

Foote was of medium height, her face oval, and her features expressive. She had an abundance of light brown hair.

By those most under her influence the character of her acting was described as fascinating.

In 1816, at Cheltenham, she formed a relationship with Colonel William Berkeley, by whom she had two children. An alleged promise of marriage made by him was not kept.

In 1824 Joseph 'Pea Green' Hayne then proposed to her and was accepted. He retracted, however, his offer, and as the result of an action for breach of promise of marriage had to pay £3,000 damages. These proceedings gave rise to pamphlet warfare, through which and through some opposition on the stage Miss Foote retained a measure of public sympathy.

A contemporary report of her return to the theatre on the 5th February 1825 at the Covent Garden Theatre described the scene:
'At length, at an advanced period of the first act, Miss Foote appeared. The utmost stillness prevailed in the house immediately previous to her expected entrée; she at length appeared, and was received with a burst of loud, continued, and enthusiastic acclamation, such as we never remember to have heard or known to have been equalled at any theatre. All the persons in the pit and, with scarcely an exception, in the boxes and other parts of the house, stood up and welcomed her return to the stage with the most marked and emphatic kindness. The waving of hats, handkerchiefs, was resorted to…  Altogether Miss Foote's reappearance has been most gratifying. She has been hailed as a favourite of the public, who has been basely lured from virtue, but who is not on that account treated as an alien from its path.'

Her theatrical career closed at Birmingham on 11 March 1831, and on 7 April of the same year she married Charles Stanhope, 4th Earl of Harrington. She died 27 December 1867.

[This text draws substantially on material published in the Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.]



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