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Davenport, Fanny

Davenport’s Life Sketch.

Fanny Davenport, who will appear at the Seattle opera-house on Wednesday and Thursday nights, furnishes the POST-INTELLIGENCER with the following sketch of her life: “I was born in London, Great Russell street, opposite the British Museum. The house is there still, and on my last visit I had a ‘wee’ drawing made of it, and of the room I was born in. From earliest childhood I dreamed of the stage and wrote plays as early as 10 years of age. For a time I was divided between dramatic and lyric art. Mme. Tietgems, the great operatic singer who was brought out by Mapleson, encouraged my mother to think I had a fine voice, and Mme. Celestes was most desirous of educating me for a singer. In consequence of my father’s large family, a desire to earn my own livelihood and relieve him of my support soon determined me. I chose the stage, which, since I was 14 years old, I have followed and supported myself. I was never an amateur. My love for dramatic art was my only dictator and the cause of my adopting the stage as a profession. My father encouraged me and believed in me from the start. The first one to advance me professionally was Mr. Augustin Daly, through whose excellent stage training I attributed much of my success. I determined when entering his stock company to be a star, and a successful one, within ten years. I succeeded in obtaining this position in eight, and have since realized all that I have planned to perform. I have done some little writing, as composition is my recreation. True dramatic artists are never satisfied. Without exception they are never seeking to do more and do better. Excelsior is their motto, or should be. Speaking of my preliminary training and rehearing, it was through, and as I began my career before the traveling system was introduced, and only stock companies were in existence, it was not a surface training, as artists are now given. I cannot say that I experienced much pleasure in going upon the stage. I went to earn my living with a firm determination to succeed and overcome all obstacles. I had no fear of a first night, but even now am often made ill with anxiety and an overwhelming desire to please the public. My first part as a girl was Mrs. Mildmay in “Still Waters Run Deep” at the little Tremont theater, Boston, with Wallack and Davenport’s combination. Rose Eytinge was leading lady. My second was in a high comedy rose—I have forgotten the name of the play. My third part and first appearance in Louisville was as Caroline in the “Black Crook.” Everyone present thought I made a wonderful debut for a girl of 14 in a woman’s part. The second received the same opinion. The third role I appeared in at Louisville was an enormous hit, with my singing, looks and chic manner the play ran six weeks—an immense run for a play in those days. From Louisville I went to Philadelphia, and while in Mrs. Drew’s theater there took part in the round of farces—Jane in “Wild Oats,” Boulotte in “Barbe Blou,” a comic opera. Many modern comedies were produced there at that time. I played soubrette parts, and Mrs. Drew played anything that was good at that time herself. Hence my limited list of parts there. From there I went to Daly’s, New York, where I played during eight years. About ten original parts in new plays, and all the old comedies-leading roles, such as Lady Teazle, Lady Gay, Lady Alice Hawthorne, Lady Townley, Miss Hardcastle, Rosalind, etc., etc. I was most successful in Lady Teazle, Rosalind, Frou-Frou, Nancy Sykes, Mabel Renfrew and Pasthinna, an old woman of 70 years. I like to play best any role I can improve in and that is full of human nature. I have no choice. There are enough funny incidents in my career to fill a book, but I have neither time nor space here to tell of them. I study in this way: If my role is an historical one I read all I can of the character and her times. If an Italian I imbibe Italian characteristics. I try to study scene by scene. In studying I always read aloud, and as I intend delivering speeches so I say them from the start.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/11/1891: 13. Print.

Davenport, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/11/1891, 13