Fitzwilliam, Fanny Elizabeth (DNB00)

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FITZWILLIAM, FANNY ELIZABETH (1801–1854), actress, daughter of Robert Copeland, manager of the Dover theatrical circuit, was born in 1801 at the dwelling-house attached to the Dover theatre. When an infant of two or three years she was brought on the stage as one of the children in the 'Stranger.' After one or two similar experiments she played, when twelve years of age, the piano at a concert in Margate. Three years later, as Norah in the 'Poor Soldier,' she began a career as leading actress at the Dover theatre. Her first appearance in London took place at the Haymarket, at which house she played in 1817 Lucy in the 'Review,' Cicely in the 'Beehive,' and the page (Chérubin) in 'Follies of a Day' ('Le Mariage de Figaro'). Thence she proceeded to the Olympic, where she played the Countess of Lovelace in 'Rochester.' Engaged by Thomas Dibdin [q. v.] she went to the Surrey, where she replaced Mrs. Egerton [q. v.] as Madge Wildfire in the 'Heart of Midlothian.' In June 1819, in Dibdin's Florence Macarthy,' she is said to have displayed 'distinguished merit' (Theatrical Inquisitor, xiv. 468). As Fanny in 'Maid or Wife,' by Barham Livius, she made, 5 Dec. 1821, her first appearance at Drury Lane, where, 9 Feb. 1822, she was the original Adeline in Howard Payne's 'Adeline or the Victim of Seduction.' On 2 Dec. 1822 she married Edward Fitzwilliam [q, v.] After playing in Dublin and in the country, at the Coburg, the (old) Royalty, and other theatres she was engaged at the Adelphi, appearing 10 Oct. 1825, in a drama called ' Killigrew.' On 31 Oct. 1825 she was the original Kate Plowden in the 'Pilot,' Fitzball's adaptation of the novel by Fenimore Cooper. Sne was also the original Louisa Lovetrick in the 'Dead Shot,' and 21 Oct. 1830 Bella in Buckstone's 'Wreck Ashore.' She played in other dramas of Buckstone and attained high popularity. In 1832 she undertook the management of Sadler's Wells, to which house she transferred the Adelphi success, the 'Pet of the Petticoats,' a ballad burletta. At the Adelphi in 1835 she gave, on the Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, a monologue entitled 'The Widow Wiggins.' She went in 1887 with Webster to the Haymarket, and shortly afterwards started for America, opening at New York as Peggy in the 'Country Girl.' On 4 Nov. she played twelve nights in Boston, and Wemyss, ex-manager of the Chestnut Street Theatre, who saw her, predicted that she would make more money in the United States than any actress, with the exception of Fanny Kemble, who had visited them (see his Theatrical Biog. p. 263, ed. 1848). The prediction appears to have been fulfilled, since America was revisited. She played with Buckstone in New Orleans ana went with him to Havannah. After visiting many country towns in England she returned to the Adelphi and played, September 1844, in the 'Belle of the Hotel’ and what is called a monopolylogue. Her Nelly O'Neil in Buckstone's ‘Green Bushes,’ 27 Jan. 1845, and her Starlight Bess in his ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ 11 March 1847, raised her reputation to its height. A few years later she returned to the Haymarket, where she played Nan in ‘Good for Nothing,’ Margery in the ‘Rough Diamond,’ and Dorinne in a version of ‘Tartuffe.’ At this house she continued to act until the Saturday before her death. On Monday, 11 Sept. 1854, she was seized with cholera, and died at six that evening. She was buried on the Thursday following at Kensal Green. She was a good actress of the Mrs. Jordan school. Elliston said her Lady Teazle was, on account of the rusticity she displayed, the best he had seen. She was unequalled in country girls, Irish peasants, &c. Her acting had much sweetness and womanliness. She had studied singing under Mrs. Bland [q. v.], and her rendering of ballads and of bravura songs, which she sang with John Reeve, was excellent. A French chanson, ‘Portrait Charmant,’ which she sang in Dibdin's ‘Harlequin Hoax,’ enjoyed extreme popularity. She had also great imitative faculty. She was light-complexioned, with blue eyes, and was below the middle height. She left two children—a son, a musical composer, Edward Francis [q. v.], and a daughter, Kathleen, who attained some reputation as an actress. Her brother was also on the stage. Had she lived she would within a month have married Buckstone.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Biography of the British Stage, 1824; Oxberry's Dramatic Biography, vol. i.; Cole's Life and Times of Charles Kean; Tallis's Drawing-Room Table-Book; Era Almanack; Era newspaper, 17 Nov. 1854; Dramatical and Musical Review; Theatrical Times; works cited.]

J. K.