The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Kate Vaughan

Kate Vaughan

A carte-de-visiteportrait of the British dancer and actress Kate Vaughan. According to her DNB entry: ‘In point of grace, magnetism, and spirituality, Kate Vaughan was the greatest English dancer of her century. She owed little to early training and much to innate refinement and an exquisite sense of rhythm. A woman of varied accomplishments, she was a capable actress in old comedy.’

Born Catherine Candelon or Candelin in or about 1852, she was the elder daughter of a musician who played in the orchestra of the Grecian Theatre in London’s City Road. After some preliminary training at a dancing academy, she made her debut with her sister Susie as the Sisters Vaughan in 1870 at the Metropolitan music hall. Success in a number of burlesques soon followed. On 1 December 1873 W. E. Gladstone attended a performance of Antony and Cleopatra at Drury Lane, and commented, ‘Miss K. Vaughan in the ballet, dressed in black and gold, danced marvelously’ (Diaries). At the same house, at Christmas 1875, she played the leading character of Zemira in Edward Blanchard's pantomime Beauty and the Beast, displaying abilities as a burlesque actress of an arch and refined type.

A notable seven years' association with the Gaiety began on 26 August 1876, when Vaughan appeared as Maritana in H. J. Byron's extravaganza Little Don Caesar. Her last performance at the Gaiety was as Lili in Burnand's burlesque drama Blue Beard (12 March 1883).

On 3 June 1884 Vaughan became the second wife of Colonel the Hon. Frederick Arthur Wellesley (1844–1931), the third son of the first Earl Cowley. Her absence from the stage was, however, short-lived and in the summer of 1885 she danced at Her Majesty's in the spectacular ballet Excelsior. Although she only appeared for two minutes nightly, she proved a great attraction. Thereafter from reasons of health she abandoned dancing for old comedy, in which she showed unsuspected talent and was well received in a number of productions over the following years. At Terry's Theatre on 30 April 1894 she returned to burlesque as Kitty Seabrook in Arthur Branscombe's extravaganza King Kodak, but her old magic had departed. In 1896, after a testimonial performance at the Gaiety, she went to Australia for her health. She was divorced by her husband the following year. In the summer of 1898 she had a short season at Terry's Theatre in her old-comedy characterizations. In 1902 her failing health necessitated a visit to South Africa, but a theatrical tour which she opened at Cape Town proved unsuccessful. She died at Johannesburg on 21 February 1903.

Photographed by Fradelle and Marshall of London.


Code: 126729
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