Hodson, Henrietta (DNB12)

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HODSON, HENRIETTA (afterwards Mrs. Henry Labouchere) (1841–1910), actress, born at Upper Marsh, in St. Mary's parish, Westminster, on 26 March 1841, was eldest daughter of George Alfred Hodson, Irish comedian and singer (1822-1869), by his wife Henrietta Elizabeth Noel. Her father kept the Duke's Arms inn at Westminster (Reg. Births, Somerset House). Her two sisters, Kate (afterwards Mrs. Charles Fenton) and Sylvia, were also on the stage. As a girl Henrietta Hodson was entrusted by her parents for instruction in acting to Edmund Glover of the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, where she made her first appearance as a mute 'super' in 1858. At the end of nine months she was promoted to small parts. Early in 1860 she was acting at Greenock, and there first met Henry Irving. With the view of bettering their positions the two journeyed on speculation to Manchester, where they were engaged by Knowles for his Theatre Royal stock company, both making their first appearance in the city on 29 Sept. in 'The Spy ; or a Government Appointment.' In the autumn of 1861 Henrietta Hodson became a member of Mr. J. H. Chute's Bath and Bristol companies, and in both cities soon acquired popularity as a soubrette and burlesque actress. On 4 March 1863, at the opening of the Theatre Royal, Bath (newly built after destruction by fire), she played Oberon in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' ; the cast included Ellen Terry and Madge Robertson. Shortly afterwards she married Walter Richard Pigeon, a Bristol solicitor, and retired from the profession ; but on the early death of her husband she returned to the stage in her maiden name, which she used professionally to the last.

On 26 Dec. 1866 Henrietta Hodson made an auspicious first appearance in London at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, during the second season of H. J. Byron and Marie Wilton's management, as Prometheus in Byron's new extravaganza, 'Pandora's Box; or The Young Spark and the Old Flame.' In 1867 the Queen'a Theatre, Long Acre, was built by Samuel Lamon, and opened by a syndicate which included Henry Labouchere, then M.P. for Windsor. The responsible manager was Alfred Wigan. Miss Hodson joined the original company, which included (Sir) Charles Wyndham, (Sir) Henry Irving, J. L. Toole, Lionel Brough, and Ellen Terry. The new theatre opened on 24 Oct. 1867 with Charles Reade's 'The Double Marriage,' in which Miss Hodson appeared as Jacintha. On 8 Jan. 1868 she gave a pathetic rendering of Lucy Gamer in Byron's 'Dearer than Life,' and in the following April played Oliver Twist to Irving's Bill Sikes and Toole's Artful Dodger in Oxenford's dramatisation of Dickens's novel.

During 1868 she married Henry Labouchere, one of the proprietors of the Queen's Theatre, but she continued on the stage, where she fully maintained her reputation. Terminating her engagement at the Queen's in August 1870, she opened the Royalty on 3 Sept. for a season under her own management, appearing with acceptance in Reece's ' Whittington and his Sensation Cat' and other pieces, chiefly burlesques. In November she returned to the Queen's to play Ariel in a spectacular revival of 'The Tempest.' Henry Labouchere had then bought out the other lessees and the proprietor, and had assumed control of the theatre. Miss Hodson's technical knowledge and experience proved invaluable to her husband. Her sister Kate (acting as Miss Kate Gordon) joined the company as the principal soubrette. In April 1871 Miss Hodson made a new departure by appearing as Imogen in 'Cymbeline,' and, although somewhat lacking in dignity and passion in the earlier scenes, showed discretion and grace in the boy's disguise.

In the following October Henrietta Hodson entered upon a second period of management at the Royalty by reviving 'The Honeymoon,' with herself as Juliana. Here she inaugurated the system (frequently adopted since) of the unseen orchestra. In Dec. 1871 came a popular revival of 'Wild Oats,' compressed into three acts, with (Sir) Charles Wyndham as Rover and the manageress as Lady Amaranth. Miss Hodson won lavish praise in January 1874 for the naturalness of her acting as Jane Theobald in the new comedy 'Ought we to visit her?' although the conduct of one of the authors, (Sir) William Schwenck Gilbert [q. v. Suppl. II], at the rehearsals was highly distasteful to her. In July 1874 she concluded her management by appearing as Peg Woffington to the Triplet of the veteran Benjamin Webster. On 29 Nov. 1875, at the Amphitheatre, Liverpool, she was the first Clytie in Joseph Hatton's dramatisation of his novel of that title, and played the part at the Olympic in London on 10 Jan. 1876.

After other engagements she played, in January 1877, Cynisca in a revival of Gilbert's 'Pygmalion and Galatea' at the Haymarket, and during the rehearsal had a fresh dispute with the author, whose dictatorial control she attacked in a pamphlet-letter addressed to the profession [see under Gilbert, Sir William Schwenck, Suppl. II]. On 3 Jan. 1878 Miss Hodson appeared to signal advantage at the Queen's as Dolores, Countess Rysoor, in 'Fatherland,' her husband's adaptation of Sardou's 'Patrie.' Shortly afterwards she retired from the stage.

Thenceforth she was chiefly known as the tactful hostess at her husband's successive residences. Pope's Villa, Twickenham, and in Old Palace Yard, Westminster. In 1881 she was instrumental in introducing Mrs. Langtry to the stage, and in 1882 accompanied her to America, but made a quick return owing to a violent dispute with her protégée. In 1903 Labouchere acquired Villa Christina, near Florence, and thither Mrs. Labouchere retired. She died there suddenly of apoplexy on 30 Oct. 1910. She left a daughter, Dora, married, in 1903, to the Marquis Carlo di Rudini. Henry Labouchere died at the Villa Christina on 16 Jan. 1912.

An actress of individuality and high technical accomplishment, Henrietta Hodson was seen at her best in characters where she could mingle demureness with an underlying sense of fun and mischief. When pathos or sentimentality was demanded she was found wanting. Her art was somewhat too delicate and refined for burlesque, in which she showed a lack of animal spirits.

[Pascoe's Dramatic List; The Stage Door (Routledge's Christmas Annual, 1880); Ellen Terry's Story of My Life (with portrait of Miss Hodson); Belville St. Penley's The Bath Stage, 1892; The Bancrofts, 1909; Mrs. T. P. O'Connor, I myself, 1911; Michael Williams's Some London Theatres, 1883; The Stage of 1871, by Hawk's Eye; Strand Mag., May 1894, p. 517; Dutton Cook's Nights at the Play, 1883; Joseph Knight's Theatrical Notes, 1893; Daily Telegraph, 1 Nov. 1910; private information and personal research.]

W. J. L.