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Elizabeth Farren (c. 1759 – 23 April 1829) was an English actress of the late 18th century. The renowned sculptor Anne Seymour Damer was passionately in love with Mary Berry, who lived with her sister in Twickenham. Mary never allowed Anne’s advances to stray beyond the preliminaries and kept her suitor at arm’s length, as a friend only. Anne turned her attentions to actress Elizabeth Farren, the future Countess of Derby, and their affair was lampooned in satirical street pamphlets, with ribald speculation that Anne did a lot more for Elizabeth sexually than her husband ever could. Anne Seymour Damer was the subject of a number of political satires in the XVIII century. After her husband's death, she developed a close friendship with Mary Berry and her home in Strawberry Hill became associated with a sapphic set including the actresses Kitty Clive and Elizabeth Farren. One satire, entitles A Sapphic Epistle, by Jack Cavendish, referred to a Mrs D...r and claimed: Strawberry Hill at once doth prove, Taste, elegange, and Sapphic love, In gentle Kitty. Another referred to Elizabeth Farren before her marriage to Lord Derby, observing: superior to the influence of MEN, she is supposed to feel more exquisite delight from the touch of the cheek of Mrs D...r, than the fancy of any novelties which the wedding night can promise with such a partner as his lordship.
Both of Farren's parents were actors and as a child she acted with her mother and sisters in juvenile parts. She first appeared on the London stage in 1777 as Miss Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer and the following year appeared at Drury Lane which, along with the Haymarket theatre became her primary venues for the rest of her acting career. She had over 100 characters in her repertoire including Shakespeare and various contemporary comedies and dramas. She was often compared to Frances Abington, who was her only real rival. Her last appearance was in April 1797, two months before her marriage to Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby. They had a son and two daughters.
Elizabeth, née Farren (1759–1829), Countess of Derby c.1788 Anne Seymour Damer (1748–1828) National Portrait Gallery, London
On 1 May 1797 she married Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby (1752–1834) by whom she had a son and two daughters. She died on 23 April 1829 at Knowsley Park, Lancashire.
She had a short sentimental attachment to John Palmer and was admired and followed by Charles Fox. Lord Derby reportedly treated her with more respect than was sometimes given to ex-actresses. Hazlitt speaks of "Miss Farren, with her fine-lady airs and graces, with that elegant turn of her head and motion of her fan and tripping of her tongue" (Criticisms and Dramatic Essays, 1851, p. 49). Richard Cumberland (Memoirs, ii. 236) mentions her style as "exquisite." George Colman the younger (Random Recollections, 1. 251) says of "the lovely and accomplished Miss Farren" that "No person ever more successfully performed the elegant levies of Lady Townly." Tate Wilkinson credits her with "infinite merit" (Wandering Patentee, iii. 42). Boaden (Life of Siddons, ii. 318) says that after her retirement comedy degenerated into farce. Horace Walpole spoke of her as the most perfect actress he had ever seen, and Mrs. Siddons, on the day of Farren's marriage, commiserated the loss of "our comic muse."
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