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Frances Maria Kelly Papers: Finding Aid
mssHM 62598-62775  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Frances Maria Kelly Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1800-1883
    Bulk dates: 1816-1849
    Collection Number: mssHM 62598-62775
    Creator: Kelly, Frances Maria, 1790-1882.
    Extent: 221 items in 4 boxes and oversize folders.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: 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.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Frances Maria Kelly Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Purchased from Sotheby's, July 22, 1969.

    Biographical Note

    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.

    Scope and Content

    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. The correspondence in this collection deals with the social obligations and other concerns of an established actress in the 19th century Great Britain. Frances Maria Kelly corresponded with Dukes and Countesses as well as actresses and writers. This collection also includes Frances Maria Kelly's "Dramatic Recollections" a notebook filled with descriptions of her theatrical career.

    Related Materials in the Huntington Library


    The collection is arranged in the following 2 series: 1. Manuscripts and correspondence, 2. Ephemera.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Kelly, Frances Maria, 1790-1882 -- Archives.
    Essex, George Capel-Coningsby, Earl of, 1757-1839.
    Theater -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.


    Letters (correspondence) -- Great Britain -- 19th century.
    Manuscript drafts -- Great Britain -- 19th century.
    Ephemera -- Great Britain -- 19th century.
    Wills -- Great Britain -- 19th century.

    Alternate Authors

    Essex, George Capel-Coningsby, Earl of, 1757-1839.