Louisa Ruth Herbert (1831 – 1921) was a well-known Victorian-era English stage actress and model for the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Louisa Ruth Herbert
Ruth Herbert, portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Died1921 (aged 89–90)
Occupation(s)London stage actress, theatre manager, artists' model
Spouse(s)Edward Crabb, Mr. Rochfort

Actress edit

She was the daughter of a West Country brass founder. She was also known as Mrs. Crabbe, having married Edward Crabb, a share and stock dealer, which gave her a certain measure of respectability generally lacking in actresses in the Victorian era. By the mid-1850s, she was no longer living with her husband. She embellished the surname Crabb with a final "e" but used her maiden name as a stage name.

She had performed at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow in 1855[1] before she made her London stage debut on 15 October 1855 at the lower-class Royal Strand Theatre.[2] She also acted at the Olympic Theatre before moving on to St. James's Theatre, London.

Her early roles were in comedy and burlesque productions and she drew eyes with her beauty. She drew favorable reviews with her performance as the lead in Tom Taylor's Retribution at the Olympic. One of her well-known roles was the lead in an 1863 stage production of the sensation novel Lady Audley's Secret at St. James's Theatre. Author Mary Elizabeth Braddon said Herbert gave her favorite performance as Lady Audley.[3]

She later managed the St. James's Theatre, London from 1864 to 1868. She hired the then little-known Henry Irving as her leading man and assistant stage manager at the theatre.[4][5] One of the plays that she commissioned there was W. S. Gilbert's first successful solo play, Dulcamara, or the Little Duck and the Great Quack (1866).[6]

Artist's model edit

Portrait of Ruth Herbert, 1859

She first posed for Rossetti's painting 1858 painting Mary Magdalen at the Door of Simon the Pharisee. Rossetti called her a "stunner," one of the beautiful women he sought out as models for his art. As he was waiting for her to arrive, he wrote his friend William Bell Scott of his enthusiasm for her:

"I am in the stunning position this morning of expecting the actual visit at 1/2 past 11 of a model whom I have been longing to paint for years – Miss Herbert of the Olympic Theatre – who has the most varied and highest expression I ever saw in a woman's face, besides abundant beauty, golden hair, etc. Did you ever see her? O my eye! she has sat to me now and will sit to me for Mary Magdalene in the picture I am beginning. Such luck![7]

Herbert went on to sit often for Rossetti in 1858 and 1859. Rossetti and Herbert did not stay in regular contact past 1860, though he based a future work on the drawing and painting he had done of her previously.[8]

Herbert bequeathed several of the drawings made of her by Rossetti to her son, Major A.B. Crabbe, and they were sold at auction at Christie's in 1922.[9]

Later life edit

Herbert later married again and published a cookbook called The St. James's Cookery Book in 1894 under her married name, Louisa Rochfort.[10][11]

Notes edit

  1. ^ Surtees (1973), "Beauty and the Bird: a new Rossetti Drawing", The Burlington Magazine
  2. ^ "Head of a Woman, called "Ruth Herbert" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)".
  3. ^ Hughes, Clair (2005). Dressed in Fiction, Berg, p. 84, ISBN 1-84520-172-8
  4. ^ "Rubbish Removal & Waste Collection in London & the UK | RecycleZone". 25 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Library and IT home".
  6. ^ Crowther, Andrew. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan, p. 60, The History Press Ltd (2011) ISBN 0-7524-5589-3
  7. ^ Haskins (1993), p. 350
  8. ^ "Head of a Woman, called "Ruth Herbert" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)".
  9. ^ Rossetti Archive.org
  10. ^ Clarke, Janet, Catalogue Forty-Three, Three Hundred Years of Food and Wine
  11. ^ Rochfort, Louisa (1894), The St. James's Cookery Book, London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd.

References edit

  • Haskins, Susan (1993). Mary Magdalen. Konecky and Konecky. ISBN 978-1-56852-496-2.
  • Surtees, Virginia (1973). "Beauty and the Bird: a new Rossetti Drawing" in The Burlington Magazine.

External links edit