The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Hon Lewis Wingfield as 'Miss Yellowleaf'

Hon Lewis Wingfield as 'Miss Yellowleaf'

The Honourable Lewis Wingfield, seen here as he appeared on 25 April 1865 at the Concert Rooms in Dublin in an amateur revival for charity of the perennial staple The Bengal Tiger, in which he played Miss Yellowleaf, an ‘old maid fortune-huntress,’ according to one review of an earlier production.

Born on 25 February 1842, Wingfield was the son of Richard Wingfield, 6th Viscount Powerscourt in the Peerage of Ireland. He was educated at Eton and Bonn and was originally intended for the diplomatic service. He chose the stage, however, and in 1865 he made his debut playing the goddess Minerva, who in F C Burnand’s burlesque Ixion was portrayed as an elderly spinster.

Advertisements singled out his performance for special mention, touting it as a ‘great success’. According to a review in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (12 August 1865):

'The principal attraction of the cast, however, has been the first appearance on the stage as a professional actor of the Hon Lewis Wingfield, a brother [sic] of Viscount Powerscourt, and an amateur of acknowledged reputation. This accession to the corps dramatiques has been very favourably received; he is young, has a most decided sense of the humorous both in character and action, as well as fancy, and despite certain redundancies of gesture, &c. which time and practice will wear off, will eventually become a useful actor in parts of the Robsonian stamp.'

At least one playgoer, however, was unimpressed:

'As for the Hon Lewis Wingfield, who dressed his thin figure in petticoats and spoke falsetto as Minerva – every man to his taste! His great success was an idiotic dance in petticoats that might stand for something in competitive examination for admission into the Earlswood Asylum, but as a gentleman’s first bid for the honours of the English stage was a distressing sight to see.' (Henry Morley, The Journal of a London Playgoer from 1851 to 1866, London: Routledge, 1891).

Less than a fortnight later he was appearing in a production of Hamlet at the Haymarket, where one critic thought he ‘impersonated Roderigo precisely as a school girl in male attire would have performed it’ (The Sporting Times, 26 August 1865). However, he soon abandoned his theatrical aspirations for a varied career as an artist, doctor and author. By 1871 he was tending the wounded of Paris during its two sieges.

Photographed by the Southwell Brothers of London.


Code: 122094
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