This collection contains the papers of Frances Maria Kelly (1790-1882), a popular actress on the 19th century British stage,
and includes 176 manuscript and correspondence items and 45 items of ephemera.
Frances Maria Kelly was born to Mark Kelly and Mary Jackson Kelly in 1790. Mary was
already the young widow of an actor when she married Mark. Mark was a frustrated
actor who could not support his family and finally abandoned them. Frances Maria
Kelly's half sister, Anne (from Mary's first union), was an actress and singer until
she married actor Charles Mathews whose biography she eventually wrote. Frances
Maria Kelly acted in small parts at the age of ten while being taught and guided by
her uncle, Michael Kelly. After more training for her acting and her voice she
became better known and respected and, even as a child, began contributing to her
family's finances. During her esteemed career she developed close acquaintances with
Charles Dickens, the Duke of Devonshire, and the Earl of Essex. She maintained a
close friendship with Charles Lamb who proposed marriage to her in 1819. She refused
him and never married. In 1829, Frances Maria Kelly came to have a
daughter—illegitimate or adopted, it's still not clear. Her daughter, Mary
Ellen Greville lived with Frances Maria until the actress's death in 1882 and became
the executrix of her estate. After Frances Maria had retired from the stage in the
1830s she opened The Royal Dramatic School and Theater with the plan to support and
encourage young actors. The school was never a financial success and in 1849 Frances
Maria Kelly was forced to give it up. She lived out the rest of her life in relative
poverty and died just before receiving the monetary prize associated with the
Literary Fund award conferred on her by Queen Victoria.
221 items in 4 boxes and oversize folders.
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