Stephens, Jane (DNB00)

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STEPHENS, JANE (1813?–1896), actress, born about 1813, seems to have kept a tobacconist's shop at 39 Liverpool Road, Islington, previous to her ‘first appearance,’ which took place on 8 Feb. 1840 at the Olympic Theatre, then under the management of Samuel Butler, as Betty in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Grubb.’ After playing other soubrette parts she went into the country for three years, and on her return to London was engaged for ‘boys and walking ladies’ by Phelps at Sadler's Wells. Here, with the exception of one season with Mrs. Warner at the Marylebone, she remained until 1852. In 1853, as Miss Stephens, she joined the company of Charles Mathews at the Lyceum, then in 1858, as Mrs. Stephens, that of Alfred Wigan at the Olympic, where under four different managements she remained many years. Not until she began to assume grandmotherly parts did she make any great hit. In June 1854 in a revival of ‘Hush Money’ she was Mrs. Crab, and in March 1857 supported Robson as a country servant in ‘Daddy Hardacre,’ Palgrave Simpson's rendering of ‘La Fille de l'Avare.’ On 27 May 1863 she won her first great success as Mrs. Willoughby in the ‘Ticket of Leave,’ Taylor's adaptation of ‘Leonard.’ On 31 Aug. 1867 she played, at the Adelphi, the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ on the occasion of Miss Kate Terry's retirement. At the Holborn in October 1867 she enacted a part in Robertson's unsuccessful ‘For Love.’ On the opening of the Globe Theatre on 28 Nov. 1865 she was the original Miss Pamela Grannet (a schoolmistress) in Byron's ‘Cyril's Success.’ On 23 Oct. 1869 she was, at the same house, Mrs. Mould in Byron's ‘Not such a Fool as he looks.’ On the opening of the Court Theatre on 25 Jan. 1871 she was the original Mrs. Scantlebury in Mr. Gilbert's ‘Randall's Thumb.’ Here also on 27 March 1872 she was Madame Valamour in ‘Broken Spelling,’ by Westland Marston and William G. Wills. Returning to the Olympic, she was on 4 Oct. 1875 Mrs. Daw in Albery's ‘Scrivener's Daughter.’ In Mr. Burnand's ‘Betsy’ (‘Bébé’), at the Criterion on 6 Aug. 1879, she was Mrs. Dirkett. At the Princess's on 10 Sept. 1881 she was Mrs. Jarvis in Mr. Sims's ‘Lights of London,’ and at the Prince's Theatre on 29 March 1884 was Miss Ashford in the ‘Private Secretary,’ Mr. C. H. Hawtrey's adaptation of ‘Der Bibliothekar’ of Von Moser. She played many other parts mostly of a similar nature. Her farewell to the stage was taken on 9 July 1889, at an afternoon performance at the Shaftesbury Theatre, in which she appeared as Mrs. Stonehenge Tattle in ‘Truth.’ She died of bronchitis at her residence on Clapham Common on 15 Jan. 1896, and was cremated on the following Monday at Woking. She was in her latter days a bright, cheery, amiable old lady, who seemed born to play the class of parts into which she drifted.

[Personal knowledge; Pascoe's Dramatic List; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Era, 18 Jan. 1896; Daily Telegraph, 18 Jan. 1896; Daily News, 20 Jan. 1896; Dramatic Notes; Sunday Times, various years; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vol. x. passim.]

J. K.