The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Mrs Rousby

Mrs Rousby

A carte-de-visite portrait of the actress Mrs. Rousby (1848-1879), seen here dressed as Joan of Arc.

Born Clara Marion Jesse Dowse on 13 October 1848 at Parkhurst barracks on the Isle of Wight, the daughter of an Army medical department inspector general, Mrs. Rousby was one of the most successful and beautiful actresses of the 1870s.

On 19 January 1867 she married the actor-manager William Wybert Rousby of Jersey at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Plymouth. She first appeared on the stage in London on 20 December 1869 at the Queen's Theatre as Fiordelisa in Tom Taylor's adaptation of The Fool's Revenge and soon became known as 'the beautiful Mrs. Rousby'. Throughout the 1870s she had a string of successes, including Rosalind in As You Like It and Cordelia in King Lear. Other famous roles in which she made an impression were Mary Stuart and Joan of Arc. She last appeared on the stage as the heroine of D.E. Bandmann's Madelaine Morel at the Queen's Theatre on 20 April 1878. The following month she appeared in court, having brought a charge of assault against the play's author, who had 'struck and wrenched' her arm during rehearsals.

Mrs Rousby died of consumption in London [some sources say Wiesbaden] on 19 April 1879.

According to one report of her death: 'The fame she gained nine or ten years ago, however, was clouded in later life by repeated misconduct and neglect of her husband. The flattery of admirers turned her vain little head' (The Daily Gazette, Middlesborough, 22 April 1879).

According to another newspaper: 'Flatterers and excitement turned her head. One evening she was missing alike from the stage and from her home. Repeated absences and repeated forgivenesses told, and at last there came a life-long separation from her husband and her one surviving child. Her malady was strong, and its progress steady. When her husband and herself met a year ago in a judge's chambers to discuss the custody of their child, she had changed almost beyond recognition. Her pitiful fracas with Herr Bandmann, and her repeated accidents while recklessly horse-riding, brought her name again and again before the public; but she was never more to return to the pinnacle of popularity from which she had so fallen, and which her strong nerve, intellectual capacity, and fatal beauty qualified her to fill' (Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 23 April 1879).

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 124543
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