‘And one man in his time plays many parts (And so does a woman!).’
So read the slogan Dame Ellen Terry composed for her jubilee programme in 1906. Over her 81 years and 65-year career, the doyenne of Shakespearean theatre in the Victorian era would assume many a role on and off stage: child star and beloved actress of the nation; independent woman and wife, lover and mother.
Smallhythe Place was Ellen’s country retreat – peaceful and charming, it’s not hard to see how she fell in love with it at first sight. In this guidebook, Veronica Isaac tells the story of the actress’s life through the rooms and collections that remain here today: memorabilia from the stage, including her exquisite costumes; her books and scripts – once piled through the house – with her notes still scrawled in the margins; the tranquil garden in which she dressed up in costume to amuse her grandchildren.
It also reveals the stories of her relationships and family ties, including her long partnership and relationship with Henry Irving and the biographies of her children Edward Gordon and Edith (‘Edy’) Craig, both of whom followed her into the world of theatre. It was Edy, an early pioneer of the suffrage movement in England, who turned Smallhythe Place into a museum and memorial to her mother.
Featuring a foreword by Michael Holroyd, this guidebook is an essential and beguiling introduction to the life and work of Dame Ellen Terry.
About the author: Veronica Isaac is a dress historian, with a particular specialism in the dress and theatre costume of the 19th and early 20th century. She currently works as a museum curator and lecturer and recently completed a PhD thesis investigating the personal and theatrical dress of the actress Ellen Terry (1847–1928). Her doctoral research was carried out at the University of Brighton, and in collaboration with the Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Smallhythe Place.
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