History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: Jane Austen, One of the Greater English NovelistsSarah Siddons
The Greatest English Tragic Actress
1755 – 1793 A.D.

Sarah Siddons was the daughter of Roger Kemble, a respectable manager of a small traveling theatrical company, whose circuit was in the midland and western parts of England. Sarah was the eldest child, and was born at Brecon, July 5, 1755. From her earliest childhood she was a member of her father’s company, and in a playbill dated February 12, 1767, her name appears in the production of Charles the First, assigned to the character of the Princess Elizabeth.

When only seventeen she formed an attachment to Mr. Siddons, who was a member of her father’s company, and after considerable opposition from her parents, she was married to him on November 26, 1773. She was shortly afterward recommended to Garrick by the Earl of Ailesbury, and the result was an engagement at Drury Lane, where she made her first appearance in the character of Portia. At the end of the season she was not re-engaged, and fir six years she played in the provinces, making her greatest successes in York and Bath; but her reputation grew so fast that in 1782 she was invited to return to Drury Lane. She accepted the offer and made her reappearance as Isabella in The Fatal Marriage. Her success was immediate and permanent, and from this time to her retirement she was the unquestioned queen of the stage. After her retirement from the stage, Mrs. Siddons gave occasional public readings, from Shakespeare and Milton. She died on June 8, 1831, and was buried in Paddington churchyard.

As an actress Mrs. Siddons stands unapproached [sic], so far as can be judged from her recorded criticism, in every line of her tragedy — her pathos, her rage, her despair, her suffering, her grief, all being perfect in expression and convincing in naturalness. Endowed by nature with a gloriously expressive and beautiful face, a queenly figure, and a voice of the richest power and flexibility, she worked assiduously to cultivate her mental and physical gifts until she reached the height of perfection which has probably never been surpassed by any player of any age or country.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.

Quote by History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: Sarah Siddons, The Greatest English Tragic Actress