Ellen Terry (1847–1928) was a leading Victorian actress whose career spanned seven decades. Born into a theatrical family, Terry made her stage debut in 1856 at the age of nine. Her reputation was established by her 24-year acting partnership with actor-manager Henry Irving, who staged renowned productions at London’s Lyceum Theatre and toured North America. Terry was most celebrated for her roles in Shakespearean comedies, and was a cult figure among artists and writers including the Pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde.
This programme and souvenir was produced for the ‘Ellen Terry jubilee commemoration’ to celebrate her 50 years on stage between 1856 and 1906. Held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London on the afternoon of 12 June 1906, leading actors and entertainers performed a suite of performances including recitals, songs and tableaux vivants. Terry appeared as Beatrice in a performance of Act I of Much Ado About Nothing together with an impressive 24 members of her family. All these cast members are identified in the programme by a red leaf symbol printed next to their names in the cast list. The jubilee was a success and raised £6,000 for Terry, who was now approaching her 70th birthday.
The programme features ornate design and illustrations by Walter Crane, and reproductions of paintings of Terry throughout her career. At the back of the programme is the ‘souvenir’, which does not survive in all copies. The ephemeral sheet is printed with the programme, a portrait of Terry, union jacks and gold crowns. It is likely that it was meant to be removed from the programme and pinned on to walls.
Ellen Terry appearances in Wise Children by Angela Carter
Angela Carter opens Wise Children, her 1991 novel about twins, music hall and Shakespeare, with an Ellen Terry quote. Carter paraphrases, ‘How many times Shakespeare draws fathers and daughters, never mothers and daughters’, from Terry’s memoirs (The Story of My Life, 1908) as one of the novel’s three epigraphs.
The influence of the great and famous Shakespearean actress is felt throughout the novel, most notably in the character of Estella 'A Star Danced' Hazard, mother of Melchoir and Peregrine. Carter casts Estella as a seasoned Victorian Shakespearean actress who was born in 1870 and, like Terry, made her stage debut as a child in Charles Kean’s The Winter's Tale. Estella’s catchphrase, ‘A star danced and she was born’, was associated with Terry after her celebrated performance of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. The phrase was repeatedly used to describe the actress, and Terry even used it to autograph photographs of herself as Beatrice.
- Full title:
- Souvenir Programme given by the Theatrical & Musical Professions as a Tribute to Miss Ellen Terry on the occasion of her Jubilee ... June 12th 1906
- estimated 1906, London
- Ephemera / Illustration / Image
- Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Walter Crane, Bernard Partridge
- Usage terms
Walter Crane: This material is in the Public Domain.
Bernard Partridge: This material is in the Public Domain.
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Greg Buzwell
- Literature 1950–2000, Art, music and popular culture
Legitimacy and illegitimacy, high and low culture, north versus south London, everything in Wise Children has duality at its heart. Greg Buzwell examines Angela Carter’s last novel, the story of Dora and Nora Chance, the Hazard acting dynasty, and a life lived in the public gaze.
- Article by:
- Kate Webb
- Literature 1950–2000, Gender and sexuality, Art, music and popular culture
Kate Webb introduces Angela Carter's Wise Children, which uses Shakespeare, carnival and Hollywood to challenge distinctions between high and low culture and explore the relationship between energy and disorder.
- Article by:
- Clare McManus
- Shakespeare’s life and world, Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage
In Shakespeare's day, female parts were played by male actors, while more recently, actresses have taken on some of his most famous male roles such as Hamlet and Julius Caesar. Clare McManus explores gender in the history of Shakespeare performance.
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