Mabel Beardsley

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Mabel Beardsley (1871-1916), Victorian actress and sister of Aubrey Beardsley Mabel-Beardsley-(1871-1916).jpg
Mabel Beardsley (1871-1916), Victorian actress and sister of Aubrey Beardsley

Mabel Beardsley (24 August 1871 – 8 May 1916) was an English Victorian actress and elder sister of the famous illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, who according to her brother's biographer, "achieved mild notoriety for her exotic and flamboyant appearance". [1]



Mabel was born in Brighton on 24 August 1871. [2] [3] Her father, Vincent Paul Beardsley (18391909), was the son of a tradesman; Vincent had no trade himself, however, and instead relied on a private income from an inheritance that he received from his maternal grandfather when he was 21. [4] Vincent's wife, Ellen Agnus Pitt (18461932), was the daughter of Surgeon-Major William Pitt of the Indian Army. The Pitts were a well-established and respected family in Brighton, and Beardsley's mother married a man of lesser social status than might have been expected. Soon after their wedding, Vincent was obliged to sell some of his property in order to settle a claim for his "breach of promise" from another woman who claimed that he had promised to marry her. [5]

Mabel and her family were living in Ellen's familial home at 12 Buckingham Road at the time of her brother Aubrey Beardsley’s birth. The number of the house in Buckingham Road was 12, but the numbers were changed, and it is now 31. [6] In 1883, her family settled in London, and in the following year, she appeared in public playing at several concerts with her brother Aubrey. Speculation about Aubrey’s sexuality includes rumors of an incestuous relationship with Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried. [7] [8]

In 1902, she married fellow actor George Bealby Wright, [1] then about 25 years old, who acted under the name George Bealby. [9]

She died on 8 May 1916, [10] and is buried in St. Pancras Cemetery, London. [11]

Friend of W.B. Yeats

Yeats' biographer David Pierce notes of Mabel that:

"According to Yeats, in reference to the Rhymers' Club, she was 'practically one of us'; later, she used to attend Yeats's Monday evenings at Woburn Buildings. From 1912, when she was diagnosed as suffering from cancer, until her death in 1916, Yeats was a frequent visitor to her bedside and composed a series of poems on her titled 'Upon a Dying Lady'". [12]

W.B. Yeats' poem "Upon a Dying Lady" is about Mabel. [13]

Media portrayals

In 1982 Playhouse drama Aubrey, written by John Selwyn Gilbert, Mabel was portrayed by actress Rula Lenska.


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  1. 1 2 Aubrey Beardsley, Henry Maas, John Duncan, W. G. Good, The letters of Aubrey Beardsley, Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1970, ISBN   0838668844, 9780838668849, 472 pages, page 394
  2. Matthew Sturgis, "Aubrey Beardsley: A Biography", New York Times online
  3. "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch, accessed 5 April 2012, Mabel Beardsley (1871).
  4. Sturgis, p. 8
  5. Sturgis, p. 10
  6. Sturgis, Matthew (1998). Aubrey Beardsley: A Biography. Harper Collins. pg. 3. ISBN   978-0-00-255789-4.
  7. "Beardsley and the art of decadence by Matthew Sturgis", reviewed by Richard Edmonds in The Birmingham Post (England), 21 March 1998. At, retrieved 5 Apr 2012.
  8. Latham, David, ed. (2003). Haunted texts: studies in Pre-Raphaelitism in honour of William E. Fredeman. University of Toronto Press. p. 194. ISBN   978-0-8020-3662-9.
  9. Malcolm Easton, Aubrey and the dying lady: a Beardsley riddle, Publisher: Secker and Warburg, 1972, 272 pages, pages xx and 219
  10. David A. Ross, Critical Companion to William Butler Yeats, Publisher: Infobase Publishing, 2009, ISBN   1438126921, 9781438126920, 652 pages, page 270
  11. Mabel Beardsley Wright at, retrieved 5 Apr 2012
  12. David Pierce, Yeats's worlds: Ireland, England and the poetic imagination, Publisher: Yale University Press, 1995, ISBN   0300063237, 9780300063233, 346 pages, page 320
  13. David J. Piwinski, The Explicator, Vol. 42, 1983, via Questia
  14. Henry Maas, John Duncan, W.G. Good, The Letters of Aubrey Beardsley, Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1970, ISBN   0838668844, 9780838668849, 472 pages, page 347