A Strange Eventful History

Eleanor Bron reads from Michael Holroyd's biography of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, two greats of the Victorian stage.

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Ellen Terry's early life was spent in the shadow of her talented elder sister.

In order to escape the gossip and rivalry of life on the stage, she married the eminent artist George Frederick Watts.

But the marriage between the vivacious young teenage bride and the ageing hypochondriac bridegroom was soon to break down, and Ellen ran off with an architect friend of Oscar Wilde.

Only when her debts begin to mount was she tempted back to the stage.

Eleanor Bron reads Michael Holroyd's biography of Victorian stage greats Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

'Fallen' Ellen runs off.

Michael Holroyd's biography of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

Michael Holroyd's biography of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. 'Fallen' Ellen runs off.

Eleanor Bron reads Michael Holroyd's biography of Victorian stage greats Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. 'Fallen' Ellen runs off.

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Henry Irving was born John Brodribb, a sickly child with a pronounced speech impediment and a disappointment to his parents.

But after a trip to see Hamlet, he decided that his future lay on the stage.

Turning his back on his parents, the determined young man embarked upon the long process of transforming himself into one of the greatest actor-managers in theatrical history.

Weakly John Brodribb's transformation into Victorian stage great Henry Irving.

Eleanor Bron reads Michael Holroyd's biography.

Weakly John Brodribb's transformation into Victorian stage great Henry Irving. Eleanor Bron reads Michael Holroyd's biography.

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Irving's blood-and-thunder melodramas and versions of Shakespeare proved huge hits at the Lyceum Theatre.

After a triumphant tour of the United States, his relationship with Ellen deepened and a romance was rumoured.

But the course of their relationship was to change with the death of the father of Ellen's two illegitimate children.

After an American triumph, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry grow closer - until a death alters their romance.

Read by Eleanor Bron.

Henry Irving and Ellen Terry grow closer - until a death alters their romance.

After an American triumph, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry grow closer - until a death alters their romance. Read by Eleanor Bron

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Despite Ellen's fears that the role of Lady Macbeth was beyond her capabilities, her performance was perhaps her greatest ever role.

But after Macbeth, her relationship with Irving became more and more distant and her roles less and less demanding.

The Lyceum suffered failure after failure, with Irving seemingly out of touch with contemporary trends as he ignored the work of modern playwrights such as Ibsen, Shaw and Wilde.

The fortunes of the great theatre began to look very precarious.

Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth is a controversial success, but her relationship with Henry Irving cools off.

Read by Eleanor Bron.

Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth is a success, but her relationship with Henry Irving cools off.

Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth is a controversial success, but her relationship with Henry Irving cools off. Read by Eleanor Bron.

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In his old age, Irving embarked upon a tour of Britain, in which he seemed to literally be dying on stage in front of his public.

After a performance of Becket, his end finally came, and the nation mourned the passing of the great tragedian.

Ellen, however, was determined to carry on.

After an unlikely marriage to an American 30 years her junior, her career continued successfully for another 20 years.

Suffering a stroke on stage, Henry Irving dies - but Ellen Terry battles on.

Eleanor Bron concludes Michael Holroyd's biography.

Suffering a stroke on stage, Henry Irving dies - but Ellen Terry battles on. Eleanor Bron concludes Michael Holroyd's biography.