Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Keeley, Mary Ann

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KEELEY, Mrs. MARY ANN (1805?–1899), actress, whose maiden name was Goward, was born in Orwell Street, Ipswich, on 22 Nov. 1805 or 1806. After acting in Norwich, York, and other country towns, she made her first appearance in London as Miss Goward, play ing at the Lyceum, 2 July 1825, Rosina in the opera of that name, and Little Pickle in the 'Spoiled Child.' Here and at Covent Garden she met Robert Keeley [q.v.], whom she married in the summerof 1829. On 28 Oct. 1825 Miss Goward made, as Margaretta in 'No Song, No Supper,' her first appearance at Covent Garden. Her name appears to Sophia in the 'Road to Ruin,' Norah in 'Norah, or the Girl of Erin,' Matilda in 'Three Deep,' Lucette in 'Shepherd's Boy,' and very many parts, original and other. In 1834 she was a comic support of the Adelphi, where in November 1838 she made a great success as Smike; and in 1839 one still greater as Jack Sheppard. With Macready at Drury Lane in 1842 she played Nerissa, Audrey, Mrs. Placid in Mrs. Inchbald's 'Every one has his Fault,' and Polly Pallmall in Jerrold's 'Prisoner of War.' (For her share in the management of various theatres, for many of her characters, and for her family, see art. Robert Keeley). Mrs. Peerybingle, Clemency Newcome, Maud in the 'Wife's Secret,' Jane in 'Wild Oats,' Rosemary in the 'Catspaw,' Maria in 'Twelfth Night,' in which she was seen at different theatres, were so many triumphs. Betty Martin in an adaptation so named of 'Le Chapeau de l'Horloger' of Madame Emile de Girardin, in which she was seen at the Adelphi (8 March 1855 ), was a comic masterpiece. As much may be said for her Mary Jane (February 1856) in Moore's 'That Blessed Baby,' and Frank Oatlands in 'A Cure for the Heartache.' Betsy Baker, Dame Quickly, Mrs. Page, and Miss Prue in 'Love for Love,' must also be mentioned. When, indeed, Mrs. Keeley in 1859 followed her husband into retirement, it was with the reputation of the finest comedian in her line of modern days. Her last professional appearance was at the Lyceum in 1859 as Hector in Brough's burlesque, 'The Siege of Troy.' She came frequently for benefits before the public in her old parts, and often delivered addresses by her friend, Mr. Joseph Ashby Sterry, and others. On 22 Nov. 1895 her ninetieth birthday was celebrated at the Lyceum by a miscellaneous entertainment, in which many leading actors took part. She preserved to the last an unconquerable vivacity. Mrs. Keeley died on 12 March 1899 at 10 Pelham Crescent, Brompton, the house in which thirty years previously her husband breathed his last. Her daughter, Louisa Mary, married Montagu Stephen Williams [q. v.] In her latest years she was fêted and caressed beyond the wont of womanhood by almost all people from the queen downwards, and her funeral at Brompton cemetery on 16 March was almost a public ceremonial.

[Personal knowledge; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; Dramatic and Musical Review; Pascoe's Dramatic List; Hollingshead's Gaiety Chronicles; Marston's Our Recent Actors; Montagu Williams's Leaves of a Life. 1890; Planché's Recollections; Men and Women of the Time, 14th ed.; Era, 18 March 1899; Athenæum, 18 March 1899.]

J. K.