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Murrays in the Theatre


Harriet Murray SIDDONS

Harriet MURRAY, was born 16 April 1783.  She was the daughter of Charles MURRAY, the Actor.  The photo at right shows Harriet in her role as Amanthis as engraved by Alias after Bone.  The photo is from the Harvard Collection.

In 1802, she married Henry SIDDONS who was the son of William SIDDONS and the famous actress Sarah Kemble SIDDONS.  (More information on the family of William SIDDONS and actress Sarah KEMBLE can be found at the KEMBLE Genealogy Page.)  Henry SIDDONS died on 12 April 1815 in Edinburgh and Harriet MURRAY SIDDONS died on 24 Oct 1844.  Both are buried in the Greyfriars cemetery.

(Actress Fanny KEMBLE, cousin of Henry SIDDONS, gives her impression of Harriet Murray SIDDONS below.)

Children of Henry SIDDONS and Harriet MURRAY:

i.  Sarah SIDDONS who was born about 1803.  She was married to William Patrick GRANT.

ii.  Elizabeth Harriet SIDDONS who was born about 1804.

iii.  Henry SIDDONS who was born about 1812.  In 1834, he was married to Harriot Emma SIDDONS.  Harriot was born about 1810 and died in 1856.  Henry SIDDONS died in 1850.  A daughter, Sarah SIDDONS was born in 1842 to this couple.

iv.  William SIDDONS who was born about 1814.

Obituary of Harriet Murray SIDDONS
Volume 3, Issue 32
21 December 1844

The death "of Mrs. Henry Siddons, the daughter-in-law of the great actress - and herself an exquisite actress in a certain range of parts.  Many will remember her as the most charming Viola, Ophelia, Perdita, Rosalind, Juliet, Portia, that ever trod the stage.  In private life, she was, perhaps, the most perfect example you can conceive, of what Coleridge calls "ladyhood."  I know no other word which could express the rare combination of refinement, dignity, grace, with moral worth, and the loftiest principles of action - displayed consistently through the equal modest tenor of her whole life on and off the stage.  No one, I believe, was ever brought within the sphere of her influence, that was not elevated and purified through the quiet, silent, gracious power of a character all made up of conscience and tenderness, without assumption and without effect.  Believe me, you may say something of her, with a conviction that it cannot be too much."

The painting at right of Harriet Murray SIDDONS is by Hoppner and was given to the Detroit Institute of Art by the Estate of Alfred J. Fisher.

Fanny KEMBLE (1809-1893), first cousin of Henry SIDDONS, was a very successful actress and wrote several autobiographical works including RECORD OF A GIRLHOOD in 1878.  Selected portions of that work are quoted below as edited and with acknowledgement of John van Wyhe, Ph.D.

". . . London life succeeded the calm, equable, and all but imperceptible control of my dear friend, whose influence over her children, the result of her wisdom in dealing with them, no less than of their own amiable dispositions, was absolute. In considering Mrs. Harriet Murray SIDDONS's character, when years had modified its first impression upon my own, my estimate of it underwent, of course, some inevitable alteration; but when I stayed with her in Edinburgh I was at the idolatrous period of life, and never, certainly, had an enthusiastic young girl worshipper a worthier or better idol.

"She was not regularly handsome, but of a sweet and most engaging countenance; her figure was very pretty, her voice exquisite, and her whole manner, air, and deportment graceful, attractive, and charming.  Men, women, and children not only loved her, but inevitably fell in love with her, and the fascination which she exercised over every one that came in contact with her invariably deepened into profound esteem and confidence, in those who had the good fortune to share her intimacy.  Her manner, which was the most gentle and winning imaginable, had in it a touch of demure playfulness that was very charming, at the same time that it habitually conveyed the idea of extreme self-control, and a great reserve of moral force and determination underneath this quiet surface.

"Mrs. Harriet Murray SIDDONS's manner was artificial, and my mother told me she thought it the result of an early determination, to curb the demonstrations of an impetuous temper and passionate feelings.  It had become her second nature when I knew her, however, and contributed not a little to the immense ascendancy she soon acquired over my vehement and stormy character.  She charmed me into absolute submission to her will and wishes, and I all but worshipped her.

"She was a Miss Harriet MURRAY, and came of good Scottish blood, her great-grandfather having at one time been private secretary to the Young Pretender.  She married actress Sarah Kemble SIDDONS's youngest son, Henry, the only one of my aunt's children who adopted her own profession, and who, himself an indifferent actor, undertook the management of the Edinburgh theatre, fell into ill-health, and died, leaving his lovely young widow with four children to the care of her brother, William Henry Wood MURRAY, who succeeded him in the government of the theatre, of which his sister and himself became joint proprietors.

". . . Mrs. Harriet Murray SIDDONS held a peculiar position in Edinburgh, her widowed condition and personal attractions combining to win the, sympathy and admiration of its best society, while her high character and blameless conduct secured the respect and esteem of her theatrical subjects and the general public, with whom she was an object of almost affectionate personal regard, and in whose favour, as long as she exercised her profession, she continued to hold the first place, in spite of their temporary enthusiasm for the great London stars who visited them at stated seasons.  " Our Mrs. SIDDONS," I have repeatedly heard her called in Edinburgh, not at all with the slightest idea of comparing her with her celebrated mother-in-law, but rather as expressing the kindly personal goodwill and the admiring approbation with which she was regarded by her own townsfolk, who were equally proud and fond of her.  She was not a great actress, nor even what in my opinion could be called a good actress, for she had no natural versatility or power of assumption whatever, and what was opposed to her own nature and character was altogether out of the range of her powers.

"On the other hand, when (as frequently happened) she had to embody heroines whose characteristics coincided with her own, her grace and beauty and innate sympathy with everything good, true, pure, and upright made her an admirable representative of all such characters.  She wanted physical power and weight for the great tragic drama of Shakespeare, and passion for the heroine of his love tragedy; but Viola, Rosalind, Isabel, Imogene, could have no better representative.  In the first part Sir Walter SCOTT has celebrated (in the novel of "Waverley") the striking effect produced by her resemblance to her brother, William Henry Wood MURRAY, in the last scene of Twelfth Night; and in many pieces founded upon the fate and fortune of Mary STUART she gave an unrivalled impersonation of the "enchanting queen" of modern history.

"My admiration and affection for her were, as I have said, unbounded . . . "