Terry, Dame Ellen Alicia

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Terry, Dame Ellen Alicia

Dame Ellen Alicia Terry, 1848–1928, English actress. Of a prominent theatrical family, she made her debut at nine as Mamillius in Charles Kean's production of The Winter's Tale. She played juvenile roles until her unsuccessful marriage, at 16, to G. F. Watts, the painter. She retired from the stage for six years, during which time she had two children, Edith Craig and Edward Gordon Craig, by E. W. Godwin. In 1878 she joined Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre as his leading lady. With him she toured the United States, later under the management of Charles Frohman. After 1902 she left Irving for an unsuccessful stint as manager of the Imperial Theatre, where her son, Edward, designed the sets. She also lectured on Shakespeare in England and in the United States. An actress of great beauty, she invested her verse speaking with spontaneity in such roles as Portia, Olivia, and especially Beatrice. In 1925 she was made Dame of the British Empire.

See her memoirs, ed. by E. Craig and C. St. John (1908, repr. 1969); her correspondence with G. B. Shaw, ed. by C. St. John (1931, repr. 1949); biographies by E. G. Craig (1932), R. Manvell (1968), C. Fecher (1971), and N. Auerbach (1989); study by M. Holroyd (2009).

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