Harriett Everard

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Harriett Everard as Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore

Harriett Everard (12 March 1844 – 22 February 1882) was an English singer and actress best known for creating the role of Little Buttercup in the Gilbert and Sullivan hit H.M.S. Pinafore. Her career was cut short by an onstage accident during a rehearsal, from which she never fully recovered.

Everard had a stage career of 20 years, although she died at the age of 37. She appeared in some of W. S. Gilbert's early plays before becoming part of Richard D'Oyly Carte's company at the Opera Comique, creating the role of Mrs. Partlett in The Sorcerer as well as the part of Little Buttercup.

Early life and career[edit]

Born Harriette Emily Woollams in Marylebone,[1][2] Everard made her first stage appearance in Exeter, at the Theatre Royal, in 1860, and spent a number of years performing light opera, burlesque, comedy, and pantomime, both in the provinces and in London. In her early years she was cast in soubrette roles (the theatrical paper The Era described her as "sufficiently arch and saucy"),[3] and in breeches roles in Christmas shows.[4]

Everard (left) in H. J. Byron's Dearer Than Life, 1868, with (seated) J. L. Toole, Lionel Brough and Henry Irving

By the mid-1860s, she was also cast in character roles, such as the domineering Queen Greymare in an 1866 adaptation of Offenbach's Barbe-bleue.[5] Nevertheless, in the same year she appeared in a breeches role, playing a young man in the Olympic's new burlesque Princess Primrose and the Four Pretty Princes.[6] In 1867, at the age of 23, she appeared as the first of W. S. Gilbert's long series of "elderly, ugly" women, in his second operatic burlesque, La Vivandière. In this piece, she played the fading Marchioness of Birkenfelt in the premiere production in Liverpool, and she was the only member of the cast to be re-engaged for the London production six months later.[7] In 1868, she appeared as "the clamorous landlady" in H.J. Byron's serio-comic play Dearer Than Life, starring J.L. Toole, with the young Henry Irving in a supporting role.[8] In 1869, she joined Mrs. John Wood's company at the St James's Theatre, in which the young Lionel Brough also appeared.[9] In 1870 she played one of the undergraduates in Gilbert's play The Princess.[10]

D'Oyly Carte and last years[edit]

Everard joined Richard D'Oyly Carte's company at the Opera Comique after numerous appearances throughout London. It was for him, in November 1877, that she created the part of Mrs. Partlett in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Sorcerer.[11] When The Spectre Knight by James Albery and Alfred Cellier was added to the programme in February 1878, she created the part of the First Lady-in-Waiting ("a capital Dueña", wrote The Examiner).[12]

Everard also created the role of Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore when it opened in May 1878, playing the role for the duration of the long run, until February 1880.[13] During the scuffle at the Opera Comique, early in the run of Pinafore, when Carte's former backers tried to seize the scenery and properties during a performance and were repelled by the backstage crew, Everard earned admiration for carrying on bravely with the show.[14]

Everard was next cast to play Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, when she became the victim of an accident during rehearsals for the piece. Rutland Barrington was a witness to the incident and later described it thus:

As a consequence, Everard missed the opening performance on 3 April 1880, being replaced as Ruth by Emily Cross. Although she was able to assume the role in June, her run did not last long – she turned the part over to Alice Barnett in July when the company returned to England from its New York production.[1]

Everard left the company at this point and continued to work for only the next several months; her last recorded appearance was as Aunt Priscilla de Montmorency in Frederick Marshall's comic opera Lola in January 1881.[15] She died in London little more than a year later, on 22 February 1882, at the age of 37, apparently having never completely recovered from the accident, although some sources report that she died of consumption.[16] Her husband, George William Darley Beswick, survived her.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Stone, David "Harriett Everard". Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 29 July 2008, accessed 13 December 2010
  2. ^ The Era spelled her first name thus in its obituary notice, 25 February 1882, p. 8
  3. ^ "Provincial Theatricals", The Era, 19 January 1862, p. 11; and "The Theatres, &c", The Era, 2 October 1864, p. 10
  4. ^ "Olympic Theatre", The Morning Post, 15 January 1866, p. 5
  5. ^ "Olympic Theatre", The Morning Post, 4 June 1866, p. 3
  6. ^ "The London Theatres", The Era, 21 January 1886, p. 10
  7. ^ Advertisement, The Liverpool Mercury, 13 June 1867, p. 1; and "Queen's Theatre", The Morning Post, 23 January 1868, p. 5.
  8. ^ "New Queen's", The Era, 12 January 1868, p. 11
  9. ^ "St. James's Theatre, The Era, 5 December 1869, p. 14
  10. ^ The London Theatres, The Era, 13 February 1870, p. 10
  11. ^ Rollins and Witts, p. 5.; she is listed as "Helen Everard"
  12. ^ "Music", The Examiner, 16 February 1878, p. 216
  13. ^ Rollins and Witts, p. 6
  14. ^ Article entitled "The Assault on The Opera Comique," at the Stagebeauty website
  15. ^ "The London Theatres", The Era, 22 January 1881, p. 7
  16. ^ a b The Era, 25 February 1882, p. 8


  • Ayre, Leslie (1972). The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion. London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-491-00832-5. 
  • Rollins, Cyril; R. John Witts (1961). The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. London: Michael Joseph, Ltd. 

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