Dorothy Jordan

Definition

Theater

  • (1762 - 1816) Irish-born English actress who excelled inboisterous tomboy roles and breeches parts. She was equallywell-known for having 15 illegitimate children, 10 of them fatheredby the future William IV when he was the Duke of Clarence. The dukewas often in financial difficulties, and Dorothy would send him moneywhen she was touring the provinces. When the government eventuallyinsisted that he break off their liaison, she received a handsomepayoff.

    Herself the illegitimate daughter of an actress, Dorothy madeher debut in 1779 at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, using the stagename Miss Francis. When, three years later, she became pregnant, sheadopted the name Mrs Jordan.

    In 1785 she was employed by Sheridan to understudy Sarah Siddonsat Drury Lane. Thereafter she appeared in a succession of comic rolesin works by Shakespeare, Congreve, Farquhar, and Sheridan himself.The critic William Hazlitt said "her smile had the effect ofsunshine". She was also a favourite with British artists. GeorgeRomney painted her in the role of Priscilla Tomboy in the musicalfarce The Romp.

    When Mrs Jordan was beginning rehearsals at a provincial theaterfor a play called The Wonder, someone pointed out her leadingman. "Oh, I can't act with him," she moaned, "he'stoo little!" As she walked away the actor gave her a reproachfulglance that she never forgot. Years later Mrs Jordan asked to be introducedto the most famous and fashionable actor of the day, Edmund Kean.They met in the green room of the Drury Lane Theatre. "Greatheavens!" she exclaimed, "the little man with the eyes!"

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