Mrs Patrick Campbell

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For other people named Patrick Campbell, see Patrick Campbell (disambiguation).
Mrs Patrick Campbell
Born Beatrice Stella Tanner
9 February 1865
Kensington, London, England, UK
Died 9 April 1940 (age 75)
Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France
Other names Mrs Pat
Occupation Actress
Years active 1888–1935

Patrick Campbell (1884–1900; his death)

George Cornwallis-West (1914-1940; her death)

Mrs Patrick Campbell (9 February 1865 – 9 April 1940), born Beatrice Stella Tanner and known informally as "Mrs Pat", was an English stage actress.[1]

Early life and marriages[edit]

Campbell was born Beatrice Rose Stella Tanner in Kensington, London, to John Tanner (1829–1895) and Maria Luigia Giovanna 'Louisa Joanna' née Romanini (1836–1908), daughter of Count Angelo Romanini. She studied for a short time at the Guildhall School of Music. During her first marriage, from which she took the name by which she is generally known, she gave birth to two children, Alan "Beo" Urquhart and Stella. Her first husband died in the Boer War in 1900.[1]

Fourteen years later, Campbell became the second wife of George Cornwallis-West, a writer and soldier previously married to Jennie Jerome, the mother of Sir Winston Churchill. Notwithstanding her second marriage she continued to use the stage name "Mrs Patrick Campbell".[1]

Stage career[edit]

Mrs Patrick Campbell

Beatrice Tanner made her professional stage debut in 1888 at the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool, four years after her marriage to Patrick Campbell. In March 1890, she appeared in London at the Adelphi, where she afterward played again in 1891–93. She became successful after starring in Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's play, The Second Mrs Tanqueray, in 1893, at St. James's Theatre where she also appeared in 1894 in The Masqueraders. As Kate Cloud in John-a-Dreams, produced by Beerbohm Tree at the Haymarket in 1894, she had another success, and again as Agnes in The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith at the Garrick (1895).

Among her other performances were those in Fédora (1895), Little Eyolf (1896), and her notable performances with Forbes-Robertson at the Lyceum in the rôles of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet, and Lady Macbeth (1895–98) in Macbeth. Once established as a major star, Campbell assisted in the early careers of some noted actors, such as Gerald Du Maurier and George Arliss.[2]

In 1900, "Mrs Pat", having become her own Manager/Director, made her debut performance on Broadway in New York City in Heimat by Hermann Sudermann, a marked success. Subsequent appearances in New York and on tour in the United States established her as a major theatrical presence in America. Campbell would regularly perform on the New York stage until 1933. Other performances included roles in The Joy of Living (1902), Pelléas et Mélisande (1904; as Melisande to the Pelleas of her friend Sarah Bernhardt), Hedda Gabler (1907), Electra (1908), The Thunderbolt (1908), and Bella Donna (1911).

Illustration for Pygmalion, depicting Mrs Campbell as Eliza

In 1914, she played Eliza Doolittle in the original West End production of Pygmalion which George Bernard Shaw had expressly written for her.[3][4] Although forty-nine years old when she originated the role opposite the Henry Higgins of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, she triumphed and took the play to New York and on tour in 1915 with the much younger Philip Merivale playing Higgins. She successfully played Eliza again in a 1920 London revival of the play.[5][6]

A couple of "Mrs Pat"'s later significant performances were as the title role in the 1922 West End production of Henrik Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler[7] and Mrs. Alving in the "Ibsen Centennial" (1928) staging of Ghosts (with John Gielgud as her son Oswald).[8] Her last major stage role was in the Broadway production of Ivor Novello's play A Party where she portrayed the cigar-smoking, pekinese wielding actress "Mrs. MacDonald" — a clear takeoff on her own well known persona — and made off with the best reviews. In her later years, Campbell made notable appearances in films, including One More River (1934), Riptide (1934), and Crime and Punishment (1935). Her tendency, however, to reject roles that could have vitally helped her career in later years caused Alexander Woollcott to declare "...she was like a sinking ship firing on the rescuers".[9]

Relationship with George Bernard Shaw[edit]

From a portrait by Hugh de T. Glazebrook

In the late 1890s Campbell first became aware of George Bernard Shaw — the famous and feared dramatic critic for The Saturday Review — who lavishly praised her better performances and thoroughly criticised her lesser efforts. Shaw had already used her as inspiration for some of his plays before their first meeting in 1897 when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade "Mrs Pat" to play the role of Judith Anderson in the first production of his play The Devil's Disciple.[10] Not until 1912, when they began negotiations for the London production of Pygmalion, did Shaw develop an infatuation for "Mrs Pat" that resulted in a passionate, yet unconsummated, love affair of mutual fascination and a legendary exchange of letters.[11] It was Campbell who broke off the relationship [12] although Shaw was about to direct her in Pygmalion. They remained friends in spite of the breakup and her subsequent marriage to George Cornwallis-West, but Shaw never again allowed her to originate any of the roles he had written with her in mind (e.g. Hesione Hushabye (Heartbreak House), the Serpent (Back to Methuselah), etc.).[13] When Anthony Asquith was preparing to produce the 1938 film of Pygmalion, Shaw suggested Campbell for the role of Mrs Higgins but she declined.[14]

In later years, Shaw refused to allow the impoverished Campbell to publish or sell any of their letters except in heavily edited form, for fear of upsetting his wife Charlotte Payne-Townshend and the possible harm that the letters might cause to his public image.[15] Most of the letters were not published until 1952, two years after Shaw's death.

Famous quote[edit]

Campbell was infamous for her sharp wit. Her best-known remark, uttered upon hearing about a male homosexual relationship, was "My dear, I don't care what they do, so long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses,"[16] although this remark has been attributed to others as well.


She died on 9 April 1940 in Pau, France, aged 75 of pneumonia.[1] Her death was one of the few deaths of a personal nature that George Bernard Shaw ever noted in his personal diaries.[17]


A note book belonging to Campbell is housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections Department. Several collections of Campbell's correspondence, including her letters to Shaw (MS Thr 372.1), are part of the Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University.


Her father John Tanner (1829–1895), a descendant of Thomas Tanner, Bishop of St Asaph,[18] was a Consul and merchant who "managed to get through two large fortunes",[19] in part through losses in the Indian Mutiny.

Her mother 'Louisa Joanna' Romanini was one of the eight daughters of Angelo Romanini of Brescia and Rosa née Polinelli of Milan. Angelo had joined the Carbonari and, as a result, had to leave Italy and he and his family travelled over Eastern Europe aided by a firman from the Sultan of Turkey. Six of his eight daughters, all under eighteen, married Englishmen.[20]

Her first husband Patrick Campbell (1855–1900) was the son of Patrick McMicken Campbell (1826–1896), a banker who was the Chief Manager of the Oriental Bank Corporation; and his first wife Montgomerie Anne née Kerr (1836–1869) (after her death he married her cousin, Alicia Anne Kerr).

Patrick and Beatrice first met at a card party at the house of Mrs Gifford in Dulwich[21] and eloped within four months to marry at St Helen, Bishopsgate.[22] Patrick's health was poor and in 1887 he was ordered by his doctor to take a sea voyage.[23] He was to stay away for six and a half years in Australia and then Mashonaland, he found some work but never sent enough back for her and the children to live on. When he returned in 1893 she saw that "his health and energies were undermined by fever, failure, and the most bitter disappointments",[24] whereas she was by then a successful actress. In mid-March 1900 Patrick returned to South Africa to join Lord Chesham's Yeomanry; he was killed in a charge at Boshof on 5 April,[25] the action in which Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil died.

Their son Alan Urquhart 'Beo' Campbell (1885–1917) became a Naval Cadet in 1898 at HMS Britannia and was about to take his naval entrance exams when his father died in 1905. He left the navy that year and went to Oxford[26] and later worked as an actor. In 1908, on tour with his mother he met Helen Parker Bull (1885–1981),[27] they married in 1909 in Quincy Illinois, and divorced in 1915. He re-joined the RNVR at the outbreak of war, became a Lieutenant Commander, was awarded the Military Cross and bar.[28] On 30 Dec 1917 he was killed by a shell while serving in the Royal Naval Division at La Vacquerie on the Cambrai front.

Their daughter Stella also joined her mother on stage; and toured with her in the USA then "made up her mind to marry a man [Beatrice] scarcely knew, who had lived in Africa for many years".[29] She left for Kenya in early 1911 to marry Mervyn Worcester Howard Beech (1881–1923).[30]

In 1909 she produced His Borrowed Plumes by Lady Randolph Churchill whose husband, George Cornwallis-West, was "seriously attracted to me".[31] They married on 6 April 1914, the day after the decree absolute of his divorce.[32]



  1. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Campbell, 75, Famous Actress". New York Times. 11 April 1940. Retrieved 29 June 2008. Mrs. Patrick Campbell, famous actress, died last night in Pau, according to word received here to day. She had taken leading roles in plays of Shakespeare, Shaw and Barrie, and on several occasions had toured America. 
  2. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 179–181, 183
  3. ^ Huggett (1969), pp. 20–27
  4. ^ Peters (1985), p. 307
  5. ^ Huggett (1969), pp. 183–187
  6. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 364–367
  7. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 379–382
  8. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 397–398
  9. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 422–425
  10. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 139–140
  11. ^ Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell: Their Correspondence edited by Alan Dent, 1952 Alfred A Knopf
  12. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 330–333
  13. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 404–407
  14. ^ Huggett (1969), pp. 2–3
  15. ^ Peters (1985), pp. 369–378
  16. ^ Dent (1961), p. 78
  17. ^ Peters (1985), p. 462
  18. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 1
  19. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 2
  20. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 3
  21. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 29
  22. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 35
  23. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 37
  24. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 120
  25. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 192
  26. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 382
  27. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 299
  28. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette (PDF). 13 Feb 1917. p. 1539. 
  29. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 309
  30. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 311
  31. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 307
  32. ^ Campbell (1922), p. 373


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