Dorothea “Dorothy or Dora” Jordan

Ann RadcliffeDorothea “Dorothy or Dora” Jordan
Irish Actress
1762 – 1816 A.D.

Dorothy Jordan, known as Mrs. Jordan, an Irish Actress. She made her début in Dublin when she was fifteen, and after various visissitudes as a provincial actress, she appeared in 1785 at Drury Lane, London, as Peggy in The Country Girl. She speedily won great popularity, exhibiting decided talent in comedy and musical farce, and during a period of twenty-five years was the favorite comedy actress of her time.

Mrs. Jordan’s domestic life was brilliant rather than happy. After being the successive companion of Daly, her first manager, and Sir Richard Ford, whose name she bore for some years, and by whom she had four children, she became in 1790 the mistress of the Duke of Clarence, subsequently King William IV. During her long connection with him, she bore him ten children, all of whom took the name of Fitzclarence and were ennobled. In 1811 the intimacy was terminated by the duke, an ample provision made for her and the children she had borne him.

Some years later she retired to France where she is said to have died of a broken heart in 1816, though there is a suspicion that she lived for seven years afterward in England under an assumed name. A Statue of her, by Chantry, was erected by William IV, after his succession.

As an actress in comedy Dorothy Jordan can have had few equals, and no woman of the stage was ever more extravagantly praised by the eminent critics of her time. Hazlitt spoke of her as “the child of nature whose voice was a cordial to the heart, to hear whose laugh was to drink nectar.” Leigh Hunt considered her the first actress of the day, and Charles Lamb’s praise is not less high. Byron declared her superb, and Mathews the elder called her “an extraordinary and exquisite being, as distinct from any other being in the world as she was superior to all her contemporaries in her particular line of acting.” Sir Joshua Reynolds delighted in a being “who ran upon the stage as a playground, and laughed from sincere wildness of delight,” and preferred her to all actresses of his time.

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Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.