Edwin, Elizabeth Rebecca (DNB00)

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EDWIN, ELIZABETH REBECCA (1771?–1854), actress, was the daughter of an actor named Richards, who, with his wife, was engaged at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin. At this house, when eight years old, she appeared in Prince Arthur and other juvenile characters, including a part written specially for her by O'Keefe in his lost and forgotten farce, 'The Female Club.' She also, for her benefit, played Priscilla Tomboy in 'The Romp,' an abridged version of Bickerstaffe's 'Love in the City.' She left the stage for a time to be educated. After playing in the country she appeared at Covent Garden 13 Nov. 1789, as Miss Richards from Margate, in 'The Citizen' of Murphy. The following year she joined at Hull the company of Tate Wilkinson, playing with great success in comedy. In the line of parts taken by Mrs. Jordan, Wilkinson declares her the 'very best' he has seen, surpassing her predecessor in youth and grace. 'Her face,' he says, 'is more than pretty, it is handsome and strong featured, not unlike Bellamy's; her person is rather short, but take her altogether she is a nice little woman' (Wandering Patentee, iii. 127). She married John Edwin the younger [q. v.] in 1791, and she joined with her husband the mixed company of actors and amateurs assembled by the Earl of Barrymore at Wargrave. She appeared with her husband at the Haymarket, 20 June 1792, as Lucy in 'An Old Man taught Wisdom.' Subsequently she passed to the private theatre in Fishamble Street, Dublin, opened by Lord Westmeath and Frederick Jones. In October 1794 she had rejoined Tate Wilkinson, appearing in Doncaster with her husband. With him she visited Cheltenham, and 14 Oct. 1797, still in his company, made, as Mrs. Edwin from Dublin, her first appearance in Bath, playing Amanthis and Roxalana. Here, in Bristol, or in Southampton, where she became a special favourite, she took the leading characters in comedy and farce. In 1805, while in Dublin, she lost her husband. At the recommendation of T. Sheridan she was engaged for Drury Lane. Before she reached the theatre, however, it was burnt down, and on 14 Oct. 1809, as Widow Cheerly in 'The Soldier s Daughter,' she appeared with the Drury Lane company at the Lyceum. The chief characters in comedy were at once assigned her, and 3 Feb. 1810 she was the original Lady Traffic in 'Riches, or the Wife and Brother,' extracted by Sir James Bland Burgess from Massinger's 'City Madam.' At Drury Lane she remained for some years. She was selected to recite, 3 July 1815, the verses of the manager Arnold in commemoration of Waterloo. She then returned to Dublin, to Crow Street Theatre, and, engaged by R. W. Elliston [q. v.], appeared, 16 Nov. I818, at the Olympic, speaking an opening address by Moncrieff. The following year she accompanied her manager to Drury Lane. Mrs. Edwin was also seen at the Haymarket, the Adelphi, the Surrey, and other London theatres, and played at Scarborough, Weymouth, Cheltenham, &c. At a comparatively early age she retired from the stage with a competency. This was greatly diminished by the dishonesty of a stockbroker, whom she entrusted with money for the purchase of an annuity, and who absconded to America with between eight and nine thousand pounds. This compelled her to return again to the boards. On 13 March 1821 she played at Drury Lane the Duenna in Sheridan's comic opera, this being announced as her first appearance in a character of that description. With rare candour she owned herself too old for the part in which she was accustomed to appear. She appeared at Drury Lane the following season. For very many years she lived in retirement, and, all out forgotten, died at her lodgings in Chelsea 3 Aug. 1854. Mrs. Edwin was a pleasing comedian, in the line of Mrs. Jordan, who behaved with consideration to her, and whose equal she never was. In 'Histrionic Epistles,' 12mo, 1807, attributed to John Wilson Croker [q. v.], she is the subject of a severe attack. She had the reputation of delivering an address or epilogue with especial grace and fervour. She was below the middle height, fair, and with expressive features. Careful in money matters she barely escaped the charge of parsimoniousness. Portraits of her by De Wilde as Eliza in 'Riches' and Albina Mandeville in 'The Will' are in the Mathews collection at the Garrick Club. A painting of her, formerly at Evans's supper rooms, is in the possession of Mr. J. C. Parkinson. The reticence concerning her christian name uniform among writers on the stage is broken by the author of 'Leaves from a Manager's Note-book' in the 'New Monthly Magazine,' who speaks of her as Elizabeth Rebecca.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Monthly Mirror, February and March 1810; Tate Wilkinson's Wandering Patentee, 1795; Mrs. C. Baron Wilson's Our Actresses, 1845; Williams's Dramatic Censor for 1811; Era newspaper, 13 Aug. 1854.]

J. K.