Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.
When Noel Coward wrote that song, the profession of acting had acquired a certain cachet of glamour. Actresses, however, were still not respectable, and the stage-door Johnnies could still hope for the ultimate reward if they wined and dined their favourites.
Society had become much more integrated by then, but the middle classes were offended by theatrical morals and the bohemian lifestyle. This attitude did not much affect the male of the species, of course, although the well-born young man about town would encounter strong opposition if he attempted to take to the stage. An actor, however, might be accepted into exclusive circles, where his female counterpart would be firmly kept out.
Even when I trod the boards in the late sixties and seventies, there was a faint whiff of disapproval and suspicion. I remember my grandmother, on hearing I was an actress, saying to me, “But wouldn’t you rather be a secretary?” to which the short answer was “No!” What she meant was that I really ought to be doing something rather more respectable.
As the 19th century wore on, some actresses made the successful jump from stage to respectability, burying the past as “Lady” Someone or Other, but these were few and far between.
However, in the 18th century, my historical period, any female who set foot on the boards could kiss goodbye to any hope of respectability. All actresses then either got married or assumed married names, because that gave them a slight advantage and room for doubt. Sarah Siddons was probably one of the few actresses who were genuinely respectable and did not fall victim to “vice”.
To be honest, Society was not really to be blamed. The acting lifestyle provided endless opportunities for dalliance, secret assignations, intimate moments and the opportunity to enrich oneself at the expense of a generous protector. The temptation to stray was endemic, as the famous Perdita Robinson bore witness with her affair with the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent.
My heroine from Adoring Isadora knows full well what it would mean to plunge into a theatrical career, but this does not prevent her from hankering after the professional stage and making secret plans to take up a theatrical career. Isadora is hopelessly naïve, however, for she has no real idea of what such a life would mean, weaving dreams of success as a tragedienne taking the Ton by storm.
When the new head of the family, Viscount Roborough, appears, she is brought swiftly down to earth. Not that Isadora gives up easily. But questions concerning the probable earnings of an actress daunt her; nor can she ignore the potential for scandal that would come back on the family should she carry out her design.
I have to wonder if the taint of wickedness has an appeal in terms of glamour. Despite all these disadvantages, ever since women were at last allowed to appear in the theatre, replacing the young boys who had played female roles in Shakespeare’s time, the lure of the stage has always drawn the naïve, the reckless, the rebellious and the ambitious, as well as the genuinely talented.
About Adoring Isadora
Isadora’s secret plan to save her family is frustrated by the arrival of the Errant Heir, with plans of his own. As Isadora prepares to thwart him, Lord Roborough’s friendliness and warmth undermines her determination—until she discovers he is a hardened gamester.
As Roborough struggles to recover a wasted inheritance and counter Isadora’s attempts at sabotage, he is both intrigued and infuriated by her mercurial temperament. Bitterly hurt by her lack of trust, he despairs of a happy outcome.
Will the truth serve to effect a reconciliation? Or will Isadora’s outrageous plot signal the end of all hope?
About the Author
Elizabeth Bailey grew up in Africa with unconventional parents, where she loved reading and drama. On returning to England, she developed her career in acting, theatre directing and finally writing. Elizabeth has 18 novels published by Harlequin Mills & Boon and recently began a Georgian historical crime series of which the first two books were published by Berkley (Penguin US). But since she still loves romance, Elizabeth is delighted with the opportunity to publish her work independently.
All interesting thoughts, Elizabeth. I wrote a play about JM Barrie and he married an actress. Mary couldn’t have been very comfortable as his wife because he was always pursuing his leading ladies. I think even today the public perception of acting is skewed. Soap actors talk about the confusion that exists in people’s minds, between their character and their real personality. Anne Stenhouse.
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As a child the name I had been given was a difficult one to wear as kids loved to mock it and me.
It’s nice to see it here – by way of Dolly’s blog – in a published book. I’ll return to read a lot more of your posts.
Reblogged this on Inside the Mind of Isadora and commented:
A wonderful author has written a book that has a character with my name. I’m on my way to get a copy by way of Amazon. I think everyone should. After all, Isadora, is a character that is always fascinating; both in following me on my blog and in this book.
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