Angel in a pink dress under a pink glass ceiling

“You may try, but you cannot imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, 1876 There are two glass ceilings for female writers and artists, arranged one on top of the other, a crystal palace of prejudice […]

Facing the world (4) through Perdition

“I’m killin’ time, bein’ lazy” (Listen to Marilyn being irresistibly lazy) Acedia as a psychological condition was once prevalent among monks, nuns and other people in solitary professions. The creeping spiritual sickness was known as the noonday demon. By the early 20th century, it had spread to the cocktail set. Acedia can be camp. There’s […]

The one where Rachel rattles the teacups

It’s Rachel with a “sh”, not Rachel with a “ch”. Her full name was Elisa-Rachel Félix, but she was known to everyone by her professional stage name, Mademoiselle Rachel, or simply Rachel. She was the biggest international theatre star of the mid-nineteenth century. Birthday, smurfday, but today is as good a day as any to […]

Don’t be an actor, my son, not even a comical one

AN ACTOR’S TRAGEDY “Though the world is so full of a number things, I know we should all be as happy as….” from ‘Make ’em Laugh’ sung by Donald O’Connor, Singin’ in the Rain, 1952, music by Brown, lyrics by Freed, indebted to Cole Porter’s ‘Be a Clown’, sung by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

“Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” SARAH SIDDONS (1755 – 1831) Part Eight: Out of clay Self-portrait by Sarah Siddons, plaster bust c 1820 © Victoria and Albert Museum At first, her mother’s death robbed Cecilia’s life of purpose. Two years later, she found a new […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

 “Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” SARAH SIDDONS (1755 – 1831) Mrs Siddons as The Tragic Muse, Melpomene, with the figures of Pity and Terror behind her, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1784. Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California. Image: Wikipedia PART SEVEN – […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

“Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” SARAH SIDDONS (1755 – 1831)  Fanny Kemble (1809 – 1893) transatlantic actress, writer, abolitionist and feminist, in a print by Richard James Lane after drawing by Lawrence, published 1829 -1830. She was the fourth woman in her family to be […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

“Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” SARAH SIDDONS (1755 – 1831) The Gipsy Girl by Thomas Lawrence, oil on canvas, 1794 © Royal Academy of Arts, London A disturbing piece of erotica by Lawrence, for which Maria Siddons, aged fifteen, has been suggested as the model. […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

“Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” SARAH SIDDONS (1755 – 1831) Mrs Siddons as Mrs Haller by Thomas Lawrence, 1796-8 oil on canvas © Tate Gallery London. The painting was bequeathed to the Tate in 1868 by Mrs Siddons youngest child, Cecilia. PART FOUR – In […]

In this world and the next: a tragedy of gender and celebrity

Sarah Siddons as Zara in Congreve’s tragedy ‘The Mourning Bride’, engraving by after painting by Thomas Lawrence, 1783. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum. “…she did look so beautiful! It is a part I like to see her act extremely.” Sally Siddons, writing in a letter on February 8th, 1799, about her mother as Zara. […]