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Ira Frederick Aldridge (1807?–1867) by Henry Perronet Briggs, c. 1830 [as Othello] National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Aldridge, Ira Frederick (1807?–1867), actor, was probably born on 24 July 1807 in New York city, the son of Daniel Aldridge, a lay preacher. Little is known of his mother, Lurona, who died when he was a youth. He was the first major African-American actor, although virtually all of his appearances were in ...

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Dion Boucicault (1820–1890) by London Stereoscopic Co., c. 1865–70 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Boucicault, Dion [real name Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot] (1820–1890), playwright and actor, was born on 27 December 1820 at 28 Middle Gardiner Street, Dublin. He was the fifth and final child of Samuel Boursiquot (1769–1853) and his wife, Anne Maria (1795–1879), the daughter of ...

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Carton, Claude [real name Richard Claude Critchett] (1856–1928), actor and playwright, was born at 46 Finsbury Square, London, on 10 May 1856. He was the younger son of George Critchett (1817–1882), ophthalmic surgeon, and his wife, Martha Wilson, daughter of Captain Nathanael Brooker RN...

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Ada Cavendish (1839?–1895) by unknown photographer © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Joseph Knight

revised by J. Gilliland

Cavendish [married name Marshall], Ada (1839?–1895), actress, born by some accounts in 1839, by others in 1847, was a pupil of Walter Lacy, and made her first appearance in London at the New Royalty Theatre on 31 August 1863, as Selina Squeers in a burletta called ...

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Susanna Centlivre (bap. 1669?, d. 1723) by Peter Pelham, 1720 (after D. Fermin) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Centlivre [née Freeman; other married name Carroll], Susanna (bap. 1669?, d. 1723), playwright and actress, was probably the Susanna baptized on 20 November 1669 at the parish church of Whaplode, Lincolnshire, the daughter of William Freeman of Holbeach and his wife, Anne...

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Davis [Davies; married name Paisible], Mary [Moll] (c. 1651–1708), actress and royal mistress, was said to be 'a bastard of Collonell Howard, my Lord Barkeshire' (Pepys, 9.24), a phrase which is more likely to refer to Thomas Howard (...

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Thomas John Dibdin (1771–1841) by William Owen Copyright 2004 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Abbott Lawrence Fund

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Dibdin, Thomas John (1771–1841), playwright and actor, was born at 5 Peter Street (now Museum Street), Bloomsbury, London, on 21 March 1771, the second of the two illegitimate sons of Charles Dibdin (bap. 1745, d. 1814) and the actress and dancer Harriet Pitt (1748?–1814)...

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See Ritchard, Cyril Joseph

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Farley, Charles (1771–1859), actor and theatre producer, was born in London. He is said by John Doran to have appeared on stage at Covent Garden as early as 1782, but the first documented record of him is as Prince Edward in Richard III...

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Eleanor Gwyn (1651?–1687) by Gerard Valck, c. 1673 (after Sir Peter Lely, c. 1670) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Gwyn, Eleanor [Nell] (1651?–1687), actress and royal mistress, was born, according to a contemporary horoscope, on 2 February 1651. Her parentage remains obscure, as does her place of birth. Nell had a sister named Rose and her mother was Helena (d...

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Joseph Haines (d. 1701) by unknown engraver, pubd 1720 [on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, delivering the epilogue to The Unhappy Kindness, or, A Fruitless Revenge by Thomas Scott, 1697] Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection

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Haines, Joseph (d. 1701), actor and writer, was the child 'of mean Parents' and also the son of 'Sir Thomas Hayns', according to the sometimes fanciful Life of the Late Famous Comedian, Jo. Hayns (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans...

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Maker: Chris Capstick

Gordon Cameron Jackson (1923–1990) by Chris Capstick, 1978 Rex Features

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John Philip Kemble (1757–1823) by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801 [as Hamlet] © Tate, London, 2004