William Terriss



  • (William Charles James Lewin; 1847 - 97) British actor, popularlyknown as Breezy Bill for his swashbuckling style. Terriss spent part of his youth as a sheep farmer in the Falkland Islands before returning to Britain, where he became a successful actor at the age of 26. His legions of fans brought him constant presents, but Terriss always passed them on to the call boy or other behind-the-scenes workers. His daughter Ellaline became an actress and music hall performer.

    In the 1880s Terriss became well known playing alongside Irvingat the Lyceum, where he specialized in such dashing roles as Mercutio andLaertes. Irving was particularly fond of the younger actor, and would teasehim during rehearsals. "Bill, my boy," he said on one occasion,"what do those last two lines mean?" Terriss put off the answerfor a minute, then admitted, "So help me goodness, guv'nor, I'm blowedif I know what they do mean." Irving joined the cast in laughter:"No, I thought not." From 1885 he starred in melodramas at theAdelphi, which he also managed.

    Ironically, the much loved Terriss became the only actor tobe murdered outside a London theater. On 16 December 1897 he was stabbedto death as he made to enter the Adelphi by a jealous small-time actor,Richard Prince. Irving bitterly predicted, "Terriss was an actor.His murderer will not be executed." Prince indeed escaped thehangman to spend the remainder of his life in Broadmoor Asylum.