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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 350 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ADELAIDE NEILSON (1846—188o), English actress, whose real name was Elizabeth Ann .Brown, was born in-Leeds, the daughter of an actress, and her childhood and early youth were passed in poverty and menial work. In 1865 she appeared in Margate as Julia in The Hunchback, a character with which her name was long to be associated. For the next few years she played at several London and provincial theatres in various parts, including Rosalind, Amy Robsart arid Rebecca (in 1 vanhoe), Beatrice, Viola and Isabella (in Measure for Measure). In 1872 she visited America, where her beauty and talent made her a great favourite, and she returned year after year. She died on the 15th of August 1880. Miss Neilson was married to Philip Henry Lee, but was divorced in 1877.
End of Article: ADELAIDE NEILSON (1846—188o)

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A little more detail on her bio Adelaide Neilson was the child of a strolling actress, named Browne, and was born, out of wedlock, in, or near, the city of Leeds, England, about 1847. Her birthday was March 3. In childhood she bore the name of Elizabeth Bland, her mother having become the wife of a mechanic named Bland, resident at Skipton, in Yorkshire. Her girlhood was passed in the village of Guiseley, where she worked in a factory and as a nurserymaid. When she was about fifteen years old she left her home and made her way to London. Various romantic tales have been recorded in print concerning her way of life at that time: all of them are untrue. When she had become auspiciously known as an actress the inventive faculty of the advertiser was employed to make a narrative of her origin and proceedings, and the public was apprised that she was the child of a Spanish father and an English mother; born at Saragossa; reared in affluence; educated in France and Italy; taught seven languages; and, finally, embarked in a theatrical career, because of impoverished fortune combined with irrepressible genius. The fact is that she was a nameless, untutored English girl, a waif and a wanderer, and that her early experience was commonplace and unhappy. Soon after she reached London she obtained employment, because of her beauty, as a member of the ballet at one of the theatres,and in that way she began her professional career. In the spring of 1865, after having received some instruction from the veteran actor, John Ryder, she appeared at Thorne's Theatre, in Margate, long a training-school for novices, where she made a favorable impression. In the July following she was brought out at the New Royalty Theatre, London, in the character of Juliet. Her achievement was not considered extraordinary, but it attracted some favorable attention, and she was thus enabled to proceed in practice of the art to which she had determined to devote her life. Among the parts that she acted, during the period of her novitiate, were Gabrielle de Savigny, in "The Huguenot Captain", by Watts Phillips ; Victorine, in a play bearing that name; and Nelly Armroyd, in "Lost in London". Phillips was pleased with her acting; so was Joseph Knight, one of the most considerate and kindly critics associated with the London press; and so was the expert dramatist, Dr. Westland Marston; and all of them exerted a friendly influence to promote her professional advance- ment. To Doctor Marston, in particular, she was indebted for practical counsel and guidance. In 1868 she had become an experimental trayelling star, acting Rosalind, Bulwer's Pauline, and Knowles' Julia; but she was not at first successful in her ambitious endeavor, and during the next three or four years she strove with circumstance as best she might, sometimes acting in metropolitan stock companies, and sometimes taking a position of more prominence. One of the expedients that she early adopted was that of a dramatic recital, given at St. James' Hall, London. Long afterward she repeated that recital in America, with brilliant effect. Some of the parts that she played, at various London theatres, were: Lillian, in Doctor Marston's "Life for Life"; Madame Vidal, in "A Life Chase", by John Oxenford and Horace Wigan; and Mary Belton, in "Uncle Dick's Darling". In 1870 she gained a conspicuous success as Amy Robsart, a part that admirably suited her, in a play based on Sir Walter Scott's novel of "Kenilworth"; and in 1871 she obtained critical admiration as Rebecca, in a play based on Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe". By that time she had proved herself an auspicious power in the dramatic world, and, after making a successful tour of British cities and giving a series of farewell performances in London, she came to America—making her first appearance in this country on November 18, 1872, at Booth's Theatre, New York, as Juliet. Her subsequent American tours were made in 1874, 1876 and 1879, and they were prosperous, so that she not only achieved distinction on our stage, but accumulated a considerable fortune. The parts that she acted in America were Juliet, Rosalind, Viola, Beatrice, Imogen and Isabella, from Shakespeare; and Amy Robsart, Julia, Pauline and Lady Teazle, from other authors. She was on the stage about fifteen years. She had been wedded, about 1864, to Mr. Philip Henry Lee, the son of a clergyman resident at Stoke-Bruerne, Northamptonshire; but the marriage proved unfortunate, and in 1877 she obtained a divorce from her husband; nor did she again wed,—the affirmation, made some time later, of her marriage to Mr. Edward Compton, an English actor, proving untrue. She died sud-denly, under peculiarly afflicting and melancholy circumstances, at Paris, on August 15, 1880, at about the age of thirty-three, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery, London, where a sculptured cross of white marble marks her grave.
I have a hand tinted photo of Miss Neilson as Amy Robsart, it is in an old victorian photo album that I found in a skip recently. There is also one of Mdme Adelina Patti. Signed P Vant
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