The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Lydia Thompson 'in Spanish dress'

Lydia Thompson 'in Spanish dress'

Born Eliza Hodges Thompson on 19 January 1838 in the parish of St Paul’s, Covent Garden, Lydia Thompson first appeared on stage in 1852 at the age of fourteen in the dance chorus at Her Majesty’s Theatre. She gained fame in Thomas Selby’s The Spanish Dancers, in which she caused a small sensation with her parody of the Spanish dancer Perea Nina.

From 1855 she was touring Europe and in 1868 she began appearing before American audiences. After a well-publicised arrival, her first appearance was at Wood’s Museum and Metropolitan Theatre in New York on 28 September 1868. What had been intended as a six-month tour eventually lasted six years and Lydia Thompson didn’t return to Britain until 1874. The sex symbol of the nineteenth century made her last appearance in burlesque in 1888, by which time her voice was not what it had once been. By 1899 her financial circumstances were straightened enough for a benefit to be held for her the Lyceum Theatre. Her last stage appearance was in 1904.

Lydia Thompson died in London on 17 November 1908.

Photographed by the Southwell Brothers of London and entered at Stationers’ Hall on 3 October 1862. The form accompanying the image only mentions that Lydia Thompson is seen here ‘in Spanish dress’.


Code: 124472
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