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Davenport, Fanny

There is a quiet little house in Forty-fifth Street, New York, which the passers-by scarcely notice, yet in it is living a lady, who, within a few years, has attained a prominence upon the stage which has made her pleasant, cheery features known to all the intelligent theatre-goers of the city. Prominent as her position is, [Fanny Davenport] has not yet passed the number of years which indicates that she can be called “old maidish.” The freshness of her youth has continued until to-day, and her naïveté is as it was when, in her early days, she adored Dickens, and wept over the sorrows of Little Nell. In her enthusiasm she wrote him a long letter, full of thanks for the pleasures which the great reader and writer of nature had given her. It was only when she had reached her tenth year that she received, as a Christmas present from her father E.L. Davenport, a copy of Dickens’s works, which held up life to her as in a mirror. She said in her letter that she was the daughter of an actor and actress; and her heart was touched by the sad story of Dora’s love life, and was made strong by the infallible earnest truth of Little Dorrit. Her faith in the success of her future life gave her the boldness to say she would have “a play made from all his books, and never play any parts but the beautiful character he had created.” On the arrival of Mr. Dickens in America, among his first letters he wrote the following: “If the Miss Davenport receiving this is the Fanny Davenport who wrote a long letter some years ago to Mr. Dickens, will she give him the opportunity of thanking her for the child’s gift he has never forgotten.” Miss Davenport keeps this terse letter among her choicest treasures­–close to the diamonds which have excited both the envy and admiration of her enthusiastic audiences. There is little doubt that Miss Davenport, who is not a mere child of the stage, ornamented for display, holds this letter of Dickens as among her chiefest jewels.

Fanny Davenport is now twenty-seven years old; was born in London, England, at the time her father was making a most successful tour with Anna Cora Mowatt. Almost from her cradle her mind has been associated with the lives and performances of actors and actresses. Commencing her career she did not imagine all the applause of the public, and the trophies of victory from the critics of the press, were to be gained simply by a pretty face. It is doubtful even if she has a consciousness of the beauty which enchants so many. Her course has been one of conscientious, hard, industrious labor, and a firm determination to earn praise, not simply to win it [. . .] Her first appearance was the Howard Athenæum, in Boston, and when she took the part of the child in “Metamora,” she was well received and her pertness and prettiness admired. Her head was not turned; she became a close student; and, step by step, she has ascended the ladder until few rungs remain between her and a world-wide fame.

The Aldine 1/1/1877: 361-362. Print.

Davenport, The Aldine, 1877, 361-362.