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Edward Askew Sothern

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Edward Askew Sothern

by W. & D. Downey
albumen carte-de-visite, 1870s
3 5/8 in. x 2 3/8 in. (93 mm x 59 mm) image size
acquired, 1963
Photographs Collection
NPG Ax46232

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • W. & D. Downey (active 1855-1940), Photographers. Artist associated with 937 portraits.

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Events of 1870back to top

Current affairs

William Edward Forster's Education Act is passed, making provisions for education for all under-13s. It demonstrated the balance in Gladstone's first ministry between progressive reform and conservativism by spreading literacy, whilst maintaining the status of Church schools.
The Married Women's Property Act gives wives rights over their own earnings.

Art and science

The Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet, based on Shakespeare's play and written with the aid of composer Mily Balakirev, debuts in Moscow, conducted by Nikolai Rubenstein.
W. G. Grace becomes cricket captain of Gloucestershire, marking the start of a successful decade for the club in which they won three 'Champion County' titles.


Isaac Butt, an Irish MP at Westminster, forms the Home Rule Association.
The Franco-Prussian war breaks out between France and a coalition of German states led by Prussia. Provoked by the candidacy of German Prince Leopold Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen for the Spanish throne, France declared war in July after Bismark published the deliberately provocative Ems telegraph, in which the French were represented in an offensive light on the issue.

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Simon K Reed

05 May 2017, 17:39

The son of John Sothern, a wealthy merchant, colliery proprietor and ship-owner, Edward was born at the celebrated ‘Aigburth Priory’ in Liverpool on 1 April 1826. He initially worked as a clerk in a shipbroker’s office; although his father wanted him to join the medical profession or become a Minister he had no real interest in either.
His first appearance on stage was in 1848 at the St. Helier Theatre, Jersey under the name of Douglas Stewart.
Sothern travelled to America in 1852, first playing Dr. Pang loss in The Heir at Law in Boston, Massachusetts, with John Lacy's company at the National Theatre. He then played at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston and at Barnum's American Museum in New York. In 1854, he joined the company at Wallack's Theatre. In the early part of his career, Sothern's 2nd wife, Frances Emily Stewart (Fanny) often performed with him. By 1856, he had begun using his own name (Sothern) on stage. He had become associated with Laura Keene's company in New York by 1856. He finally gained attention at Wallack's Theatre in New York starring as Armand in Camille. The critic Clement Scott noted that while Sothern was "as handsome a man as ever stood on the stage", he was not naturally suited to romantic roles
It was here on 12 May 1858 that he first appeared in the role for which he is best remembered, Lord Dundreary in Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, a farcical comedy whose plot is based around the introduction of an awkward, boorish American to his aristocratic English relations. Sothern’s character became famous for his exaggerated sideburns (Dundreary whiskers) and for his ‘Dundrearyisms’, twisted aphorisms such as ‘birds of a feather gather no moss’. The play’s most notorious performance was on 14 April 1865 at Ford’s Theatre, Washington D.C. during which Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
Sothern first appeared as Dundreary in London at the Haymarket Theatre on 11 November 1861, where he played the part 496 nights. His first Paris outing as Lord Dundreary was on 8 July 1867.
At the height of his career Sothern was earning a phenomenal amount, which was as well given his extravagant lifestyle. Although he played many other roles during his career, he will always be remembered as Lord Dundreary. Sothern (Ned to his friends) was a devoted huntsman and fisherman and close friend to the 8th Duke of Beaufort who often accompanied him on fishing excursions to the Restigouche River in Canada. He was much sought after by fashionable society from Royalty downwards for his wit and charismatic personality.
Sothern died on 21 January 1881 at 1 Vere Street, Cavendish Square, London and was buried on 27 January at Southampton cemetery.

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