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Marie LONGMORE (1844-1912) - Victorian actress & singer

  Chapter 2 - Marie's early career  

I've not been able to discover very much about the early life of Marie LONGMORE. By 1851 her father had allegedly died, though exactly where and when it has not been possible to ascertain as no death has been registered nor, as far as I am aware, has a burial been recorded. Here is a transcript of part of the 1851 Census for Darlaston, Staffordshire:-

I have not been able to establish whether there was any relationship between these two widows, other than a purely business one of lodging house & client. But if this latter is the case, what was Eleanor doing in Darlaston? The town only ever had one theatre, the Queens Hall in Willenhall Street, formerly the Primitive Methodist Sunday School, and this theatre did not come into being until many years later. It is possible, I suppose, that Louisa Lingard was at one time a performer herself, but so far I have been unable to find any evidence of this.

At some point after this, Marie's mother met James PICKLES, and married him in 1854, and their daughter Jane (Marie's half-sister) was born in Aberdeen. By the time of the 1861 Census, Eleanor & James together with their young daughter are lodging at Todmorden in Yorkshire, and Marie has started to work as a theatrical dancer in Scotland. Here she is lodging with Peter DONALD & his family (a general dealer in waste materials) at 4 Cotton Street in the parish of Abbey at Paisley in Renfrewshire. Also lodging at the same address are other theatricals - Walter CARSBER (a scenery painter) and William F. WILLIAMS (a comedian).
However, it's not until 27th September 1864 in the Manchester Times that the name of Marie LONGMORE makes its first appearance in the English press:-

I have not discovered another sighting of Marie until the appearance of an advertisement for the song mentioned in Part 1 of this biography in 'The Era' newspaper dated 19th March 1965. Marie's next documented appearance was once again at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester, and the 'Manchester Times' dated 22nd April 1965 gave this review:-

The first notice of Marie's availability for engagements that I have come across was in 'The Era' dated 1st June 1865. The address given (actually 36 Pimblett Street) appears to be that of a family that catered for a number of lodgers, not just theatrical people.

Marie's first appearance at Birmingham's Theatre Royal - a city that in 1871 was to become her home until her death over 40 years later - was reported in 'The Era' dated 24th December 1865. The cast included Ada Harland, who was to make her name with the Lydia Thompson Burlesque Troupe, both in the United Kingdom and in the U.S.A.

The production was the Christmas pantomime "Sinbad the Sailor" and here is the full review of the show taken from the 'Birmingham Daily Post' dated 27th December 1865:-

May I especially draw your attention to paragraph number three, here outlined in red, for Mr Frederick William Humphries was to become the husband of Marie nearly six years later. But more about Frederick and his family in a later chapter.

In April 1866 the Management of the Birmingham's Theatre Royal decided to celebrate the 302nd anniversary of Shakespeare's birth with a production of his play 'As You Like It'. Accordingly they enlisted the services of Miss Helena Faucit (later to become Lady Martin) in the part of Rosalind. The 'Birmingham Dail Post' of 26th April 1866 stated that she was "perhaps the only living actress still capable of doing full justice to the ideal excellence of Shakespeare's comedy heroines". Marie played the part of Audrey - "humorously loutish and awkward".

By the following month Marie was once again at Liberty as this clipping from 'The Era' dated 13th May shows:-

I have no details of how Marie spent the summer of 1866, but 'The Era' of 14th October 1866 conatins the following announcement:-

I have yet to find a review for her Prince of Wales production and presume that she was performing in the Isle of Man during the early part of the following summer as the this announcement appeared in 'The Era' dated 23rd June 1867:-

'The Era' dated 18th August 1867 contained this review of productions at the Theatre Royal, in one of which Marie was a performer:-

It would appear that Marie stayed in Brighton for the pantomime season as the following review appeared that winter in 'The Era' dated 5th January 1868:-

'The Era' dated 14 April 1868 tells us that Birmingham's Theatre Royal was at that time staging "Grand Duchess", a three act opera by Offenbach. Marie was not involved in this production, but the evening was rounded off by a musical farce called "Family Jars", written by the English playwright Joseph Lunn (1784-1863). This very popular play, for which the libretto is still available today, had its first performance at the Haymarket Theatre in London on 26th August 1822 and there were productions of it throughout the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic. At one point it was being performed simultaneously at Park & Barton's Theatres in New York City and at the Haymarket Theatre in London. But on this occasion the chief performers were Miss Marie Longmore and a Mr Storie.

By 17th May 1868 Marie was once again advising of her availability from Whitsunide:-

but on the same day 'The Era' was reviewing the drama "Nobody's Child" and Marie received a favourable mention:-

'The Era' dated 14th June 1868 informs us that Marie has a week at the Theatre Royal, Manchester:-

Only a matter of a few weeks later, Marie's career was to move upwards a few notches. Here's a surviving playbill from Mrs Swansborough's Royal Strand Theatre dated 10th August 1868:-

The production was a "New and Original Grand Historical Burlesque Extravaganza" - William Brough's 'Field of the Cloth of Gold'. In it Marie plays the part of Earl Darnley - "a banished English Peer - his Character shamefully misrepresented at first; but having full justice done at last by the Miss-representing it being".

Click here to examine the playbill more closely...Use your Back Button to return

Here's a further announcement from 'The Era' dated 18th October 1868. As you can see, the actors' lot was a very busy one with the comedy 'Sisterley Service' preceding the main item and the farce 'Marriage at Any Price' to round off the evening's entertainment.

The same announcement was repeated on 1st November 1868. I presume that at some time after that date Marie returned to Birmingham's Theatre Royal to appear in the Christmas pantomime 'Robinson Crusoe'. In 1869 Marie's career was really taking off as by the 3rd April 1869 the 'Birmingham Daily Post' reported that she was on the high seas heading for the United States of America:-

Before we conclude this chapter, let us just take a few moments to consider the nature of Marie's first transatlantic crossing. To put us in the mood, here is a postcard depicting the very vessel upon which she sailed:-

The illustration is by courtesy of the Norwegian Heritage Collection -

The ship was new, built at Tod & MacGregor's Glasgow yard in 1868, and left on its maiden voyage, Liverpool-Queenstown-New York, on 21st March1869. Maybe Marie was on that maiden voyage. The vessel was a mere 2911 gross tons, 354.4 feet long & with a breadth of 42.5 feet. Whilst she was at that time the largest ship of the Inman Line fleet, she was by no means the most luxurious. The ship was about two thirds of the size of the current Southampton to Isle of Wight car ferry and had a capacity of 400 steerage passengers (mostly emigrants), but the journey took ten days. Hardly a comfortable journey!

Chapter 3 - Life in America - will follow soon......