Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/190

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well performances at the Queen's Theatre, in which she played Juliet and Pauline in the ‘Lady of Lyons,’ preceded her departure for New York, where, at Niblo's Theatre, she performed for the first time 18 Nov. 1872. In America she was extremely popular, acting, in addition to other parts, Beatrice in ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ Lady Teazle, and Isabella in ‘Measure for Measure.’ America was revisited in 1874, 1876, and 1879, and she added to her repertory Viola in ‘Twelfth Night’ and Imogen. During an engagement at the Haymarket, beginning 17 Jan. 1876, she reappeared as Isabella, and was the first Anne Boleyn in Tom Taylor's play of that name. She played at the same house in 1878, in the course of which she acted Viola. Her Queen Isabella in the ‘Crimson Cross’ was seen for the first time, 27 Feb. 1879, at the Adelphi. This was her last original part. Her latest visit to America ended on 28 July 1880, and soon after her arrival in England she left for Paris, complaining of illness, but with no sign of disease. But she took farewell of one or two intimate friends, declaring in unbelieving ears that she should never return. On 15 Aug. 1880 she drank a glass of iced milk in the Bois de Boulogne, and was seized with a sudden attack, apparently gastric, from which she died the same day. Her remains were brought to London and interred in Brompton cemetery.

As a tragedian she has had no English rival during the last half of this century. Her Juliet was perfect, and her Isabella had marvellous earnestness and beauty. In Julia also she has not been surpassed. In comedy she was self-conscious, and spoilt her effects by over-acting. Her Viola was pretty, and her Rosalind, though very bright, lacked poetry. The best of her original parts were Amy Robsart and Rebecca. It is not easy to see how these could have been improved. She was thoroughly loyal, and quite devoid of the jealousy that seeks to belittle a rival artist or deprive her of a chance. In the popularity she obtained her antecedents were forgotten. Her social triumphs were remarkable, and but for her unhappy marriage it is certain that she would have added another to the long list of titled actresses. Many portraits of her have appeared in magazines and other publications. A miniature on ivory, a little idealised, but effective, belonged to the present writer.

[Personal knowledge; Smith's Old Yorkshire; Pascoe's Dramatic Notes; Scott and Howard's Life of E. L. Blanchard; Winter's Shadows of the Stage; Era Almanac; Times, 17, 18, 21, and 26 Aug. 1880; Athenæum, August 1880; Academy, August 1880.]

J. K.

NEILSON, PETER (1795–1861), poet and mechanical inventor, youngest son of George Neilson, calenderer, was born in Glasgow on 24 Sept. 1795. Educated at Glasgow High School and University, he received a business training in various city offices, and then joined his father in exporting cambric and cotton goods to America. In 1820, on returning from a visit to the United States, he married his cousin, Elizabeth Robertson. From 1822 to 1828 he was in America on business, and amassed a store of information, which he published on his return in ‘Six Years' Residence in America,’ 1828. The loss of his wife about this time turned his thoughts strongly towards religion, and poems on scriptural themes—‘The Millennium’ and ‘Scripture Gems’—which he published in 1834, interested Dr. Chalmers and Professor Wilson.

In 1841 Neilson settled in Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshire, where a maiden sister managed for him and his family of three daughters and one son. In 1846 he proposed improvements on the life-buoy, which the lords of the admiralty deemed worthy of being patented (Whitelaw, Memoir), but he shrank from the expense. Continuing his literary efforts, he wrote a remarkable little work on slavery, published in 1846, and entitled ‘The Life and Adventures of Zamba, an African King; and his Experiences of Slavery in South Carolina.’ Ostensibly only edited by Neilson, this work in some respects anticipated ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin.’ He also contributed to the ‘Glasgow Herald’ a series of practical articles on ‘Cotton Supply for Britain.’ On 8 Jan. 1848 he wrote a patriotic letter to Lord John Russell, suggesting iron-plated ships, and enclosing a plan of an invention by him. In 1855 he further corresponded on the subject with Lord Panmure and Admiral Earl Hardwicke, and apparently his proposals were adopted, though not formally acknowledged (ib.) After the building of the Warrior and the Black Prince according to his plan, Neilson suggested inside as well as outside plates, and summed up his views in ‘Remarks on Iron-built Ships of War and Iron-plated Ships of War,’ 1861. Shortly afterwards he published another pamphlet, on the defence of unfortified cities such as London. In his latter years he suffered from heart disease, and he died at Kirkintilloch on 3 May 1861, and was interred in the burying-ground of Glasgow Cathedral.

Neilson's ‘Poems,’ edited with memoir by Dr. Whitelaw, appeared in 1870. The pieces in this posthumous volume are vigorously conceived and marked by strong common-