The New Student's Reference Work/Rachel

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Ra′chel, properly Elisa Rachel Felix, the great French tragic actress, was born of Jewish parents at Mumpf, in the Swiss canton of Aargau, March 24, 1820. She had her first lessons in singing at Paris about 1830, when her parents took up residence in that city, and in 1838 appeared as Camille in Les Horaces in the Thèâtre Français. From this time she shone without a rival; and the furore excited in Paris in 1848 by her recitation of the Marseillaise will continue to connect her name with the Revolution of that year. In 1849 she made the tour of the French provinces, and afterwards visited London, St. Petersburg, Berlin and other great cities of Europe, everywhere meeting enthusiastic admiration and applause. In 1855, while on a professional visit to America, her health gave way, and she returned home utterly prostrated, her death taking place at Cannes, near Toulon, Jan. 3, 1858. As an artist, within the limits prescribed by her genius, Rachel has never been surpassed. No language can give an idea of the force and intensity which characterized her rendering of passion. Her Phèdre, by common consent her masterpiece, was the incarnation of agony, not to be forgotten by anyone who ever heard it. "She does not act — she suffers," a fine critic has observed of her. But in spite of her great genius she was never tenderly loved, being grasping and avaricious. She left a large fortune, besides the amounts lavished upon her family during her life.