The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Lillian Adelaide Neilson

Lillian Adelaide Neilson

A carte-de-visite portrait of the English actress Lillian Adelaide Neilson (1847-1880), who played several Shakespearean roles while on four U.S. tours. She is seen here as the eponymous heroine of Amy Robsart, a play based on Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth.

Some biographies state that she was born in Saragossa [Spain] in 1850 to a Spanish father and mother of English extraction, but others that her real name was Elizabeth Ann Brown and that she was born in Leeds on 3 March 1847. She was apparently the daughter of an actress and her childhood was passed in poverty and menial work. She made her début on the stage, aged fifteen, in 1865 at a theatre in Margate [Kent] as Julia in The Hunchback. Later that same year she appeared as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Royalty Theatre in London. She made her American début on 18 November 1872, again as Juliet, at Booth’s Theatre, New York. She returned to America several times during the 1870s.

She died suddenly at the Continental Hotel in Paris on 15 August 1880, at about the age of thirty-three. A subsequent post mortem stated death was caused by blood loss due to a rupture in the broad ligament near the left fallopian tube. Adelaide Neilson is buried in Brompton Cemetery in London, her grave marked by a sculptured cross of white marble bearing the inscription ‘Gifted and Beautiful—Resting’.

Photographer unidentified.


Code: 124659
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