Rousby, Clara Marion Jessie (DNB00)

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ROUSBY, CLARA MARION JESSIE (1852?–1879), actress, fourth daughter of Dr. Dowse, inspector-general of hospitals, was born in 1852, or perhaps two or three years earlier, at Parkhurst in the Isle of Wight. Her father was an Irishman, and her mother a Welshwoman. After Dr. Dowse's retirement he lived in Plymouth, where his daughter went much to the theatre, and where she met, and early in 1868 married, with Roman catholic rites, Mr. Wybert Rousby, a Jersey manager and actor of some repute in the provinces. Husband and wife were seen acting in Jersey by Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., and recommended by him to Tom Taylor [q. v.], by whom they were induced to come to London. In Taylor's adaptation of ‘Le Roi s'amuse,’ entitled ‘The Fool's Revenge,’ they made at the Queen's Theatre, Long Acre, their first appearance in London on 19 Dec. 1869, Mrs. Rousby as Fiordelisa, and Mr. Rousby as Bertuccio (Triboulet). Mrs. Rousby's youth and good looks won speedy recognition, and she was immediately and generally known as ‘the beautiful Mrs. Rousby,’ obtaining considerable social popularity. Her artistic equipment scarcely extended beyond good looks and a musical voice, backed up by a pleasant girlishness and naturalness of style. On 22 Jan. 1870 she was at the Queen's the original Princess Elizabeth to the Courtenay of her husband in Taylor's historical adaptation from Mme. Birch-Pfeiffer, ‘'Twixt Axe and Crown.’ The gentle and graceful aspects of the character she fully realised, and she exhibited some power in the stronger scenes, without, however, showing the nobler aspects of the heroine Elizabeth's character. On 10 April 1871 she was, at the Queen's, Joan of Arc in Taylor's play so named. In this she looked very handsome in armour, and came on the stage on horseback. Her impersonation of the character was lacking in dignity. A scene in which she was shown tied to the stake, the faggots being lighted, caused by its painful realism much protest. On 13 Nov. 1873, at the Princess's, she was the first Griselda in Miss Braddon's play so called. On 23 Feb. 1874, at the same house, she was the original Mary Stuart to the John Knox of her husband, in W. G. Wills's ‘Mary Queen of Scots.’ At the Olympic, on 21 Feb. 1876, she reappeared as Mary Stuart in ‘The Gascon, or Love and Loyalty,’ an adaptation from the French of Barrière, by W. Muskerry. In addition to these parts, she played at the Queen's, in February 1871, Rosalind in ‘As you like it,’ in April 1873, at Drury Lane, Cordelia to her husband's Lear, and in May 1876 Mariana in a revival of the ‘Wife’ of Sheridan Knowles. In Jersey, where her husband was lessee of the theatre, she played, in addition to the parts named, Ophelia and Desdemona. She also acted with her husband in Wales and in the north. Her last performance was at the Queen's, as the heroine of ‘Madelaine Morel,’ an adaptation from the German of D. E. Bandmann, first produced on 20 April 1878, and speedily withdrawn after giving rise to some scandal and to legal proceedings. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Rousby, whose health had been seriously impaired, left England, under medical advice, for Wiesbaden, where she died, on 19 Sept. 1879. As an actress she never acquired firmness of touch.

[Personal knowledge; private information; Sunday Times, various years; Era, 27 April 1879; Pascoe's Dramatic List; Dutton Cook's Nights at the Play; Scott and Howard's E. L. Blanchard; Era Almanac, various years; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ix. 18, 33, 231.]

J. K.