Elizabeth O'Neill

O'Neill, Elizabeth (Lady Becher), a celebrated actress, was born in Drogheda in 1791. Her father was manager of a small theatrical company. About 1812, says the Athenaeum, "father and daughter were doing very ill in Dublin, half-starving, while they waited for luck, when it came to the latter all of a sudden. Miss Waldstein, the theatrical heroine of the hour, refused to act unless at an advanced salary. The manager was in despair, when he heard of the priceless pearl that was to be had for nothing. Miss O'Neill was forthwith attached to the Dublin Theatre, where she excited such sensations of delight, that the Irish capital was beside itself. Forthwith, Covent Garden obtained her services. In October 1814, Miss O'Neill made her debut as 'Juliet,' and London acknowledged a new charm.

Her grace, sweetness, delicacy, refinement, were things that London playgoers had long been strangers to. In her first season she ran through a line of characters which filled the town with admiration and poor Mrs. Siddons with disgust... She may be said to have united the old stage with the new, She played, as the great Mrs. Barry did, 'Belvidera,' 'Isabella,' 'Monimia,' and 'Calista.' She was also the 'Bianca' of Milman's 'Fazio' and the original heroine of Sheil's stilted and now forgotten plays, but plays which included in their caste Young, Charles Kenible, Macready, and Miss O'Neill. Her last season was the last in which Mrs. Siddons acted, that lady returning to the stage for a night, to play 'Lady Randolph' for her brother Charles's benefit."

In December 1819, after a theatrical career as brief as it was brilliant, she relinquished a profession at which she was said to be making £12,000 a year, and married Mr., afterwards Sir William W. Becher, of Ballygiblin, County of Cork. The statement that after her marriage she was ashamed of her old calling, and never referred to it — ignoring even the passages in plays in which she had been most effective — is probably exaggerated. She died at Ballygiblin, 20th October 1872, aged 81, having survived her husband twenty-two years. In private life she was as remarkable for her benevolence and practical kindness as during her professional career she was for her talents.


7. Annual Register. London, 1756-1877.

15. Athenaeum, The—Principally referred to under No. 233.

39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial: Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.