Warner, Mary Amelia (DNB00)

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WARNER, MARY AMELIA (1804–1854), actress, the daughter of a Dublin chemist named Huddart, who, with his wife, Ann Gough of Limerick, took late in life to the stage, was born in Manchester in 1804. Huddart acted thrice at Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, and then, as ‘a gentleman from Dublin,’ made at Covent Garden as Othello his first appearance in London and fourth on any stage. After playing at Greenwich for her father's benefit, Mary Huddart became at the reputed age of fifteen a member of Brunton's company at Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, and Birmingham. In 1829 she was acting in Dublin, and on 22 Nov. 1830, as Miss Huddart from Dublin, appeared at Drury Lane, playing Belvidera in ‘Venice Preserved’ to the Pierre of Macready, to whose recommendation she owed her engagement by Polhill and Lee. She had previously been seen in London at the Surrey and Tottenham Street theatres. Among the parts played in her first season were Emma in Knowles's ‘William Tell,’ Alicia in ‘Jane Shore,’ and Constance in ‘King John.’ She was also the original Queen Elswith in Knowles's ‘Alfred the Great.’ She then returned to Dublin, and played leading business under Calcraft. In 1836, under Bunn's management, she was again at Drury Lane, where she supported Edwin Forrest in ‘Lady Macbeth,’ Emilia, and other characters, and was the original Marian in Knowles's ‘Daughter,’ then called ‘The Wrecker's Daughter.’ Her success in the character last named led to her engagement at the Haymarket for the first production in London of the ‘Bridal,’ an adaptation by Knowles of the ‘Maid's Tragedy.’ In this she played, 26 June 1837, Evadne, Macready himself assuming Melantius. She also played Portia to Phelps's Shylock, and Helen McGregor to his Rob Roy. Near this period she married Robert William Warner, the landlord of the Wrekin Tavern, Broad Court, Bow Street, a place of resort for actors and literary men.

In the autumn of 1837 Mrs. Warner joined Macready at Covent Garden, where she stayed two years, supporting him in many Shakespearean parts and gaining in reputation. She was the original Joan of Arc in Serle's play of that name. She had been prevented by illness from playing at Covent Garden the heroine of Talfourd's ‘Athenian Captive,’ but took the part at the Haymarket on 4 Aug. 1838. Mrs. Warner accompanied Macready to Drury Lane, and was on 29 April 1842 Queen in ‘Hamlet,’ and on 10 Dec. the original Lady Lydia Lynterne in Westland Marston's ‘Patrician's Daughter.’ In 1843 she acted with Samuel Phelps [q. v.] in Bath, and on 27 May 1844, with him and T. L. Greenwood, began the memorable management of Sadler's Wells, opening as Lady Macbeth, and speaking an address by T. J. Serle. In the course of the first season she was seen as Emilia, Mrs. Haller, Mrs. Oakley, Gertrude in ‘Hamlet,’ Lady Allworth in ‘A New Way to pay Old Debts,’ Queen Margaret in ‘Richard III,’ Portia, Mariana in the ‘Wife,’ Evadne, Constance, Lady Frugal in Massinger's ‘City Madam,’ Queen Katharine in ‘Henry VIII;’ a new character in Serle's ‘Priest's Daughter,’ and probably some other parts. On 21 May 1845 she took an original part in Sullivan's ‘King's Friend,’ and played during the season 1845–6 Julie in ‘Richelieu,’ Mrs. Beverly, Belvidera, Isabella, Elvira in ‘Pizarro,’ Hermione, Lady Randolph, Clara Douglas in ‘Money,’ Alicia in ‘Jane Shore,’ and many other parts. She then retired from the management of Sadler's Wells, and, in a spirit of apparent rivalry, undertook that of the Marylebone Theatre, which opened on 30 Sept. 1847 with the ‘Winter's Tale.’ She took, not too wisely, parts such as Julia in the ‘Hunchback,’ Lady Teazle, and Lady Townley in the ‘Provoked Husband,’ for which her years began to disqualify her. She revived in November the ‘Scornful Lady’ of Beaumont and Fletcher, altered by Serle, playing in it the Lady; and in April 1848 the ‘Double Marriage’ of the same author, playing presumably Juliana. Retiring with a loss, it is said, of 5,000l., she supported Macready at the Haymarket during his farewell performances. On 28 July 1851 Sadler's Wells was opened for a few nights before the beginning of the regular season to give Mrs. Warner an opportunity of playing her best known characters before starting for America. What proved to be her last appearance in England was made in August as Mrs. Oakley in the ‘Jealous Wife.’ She met with great success in America. Signs of cancer developing themselves, she came to England, underwent an operation, and revisited New York. Unable to fulfil her engagement, she returned to London a hopeless invalid. On 10 Dec. 1853, in part through her husband's fault, she went through the insolvency court. A fund, to which the queen and Miss (afterwards Baroness) Burdett-Coutts contributed, was raised, and a benefit at Sadler's Wells brought her 150l. Charge of her children, a boy and a girl, was taken respectively by Macready and Miss Burdett-Coutts. After enduring prolonged agony, Mrs. Warner died on 24 Sept. 1854 at 16 Euston Place, Euston Square.

Mrs. Warner was an excellent actress, standing second only in public estimation to Helen Faucit (Lady Martin) and Mrs. Charles Kean. She was equally good in pathos and in tragic emotion. Her chief success was obtained as Evadne. Dickens spoke of her in that character as a ‘defiant splendid Sin.’ In Emilia and the Queen in ‘Hamlet’ her rather lurid beauty was effective. Her Lady Macbeth lacked something, but her Imogen won general recognition. Both energy and intensity were at her disposal, though she was open to the charge of ranting. A portrait of her, showing a long thin face, is in Tallis's ‘Dramatic Magazine,’ and a second as Hermione is in Tallis's ‘Drawing-room Table Book.’

[Era newspaper, 1 Oct. 1854; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Macready's Reminiscences; Westland Marston's Our Recent Actors; Morley's Journal of a London Playgoer; Dramatic and Musical Review; Hist. of the Dublin Theatre; Era Almanack, various years; Clark Russell's Representative Actors.]

J. K.