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O'Neill, Eliza

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The very talented actress Eliza O’Neill was born in 1791 in Drogheda, the daughter of the manager of the theatre there and his wife (née Featherstone). She made her first stage appearance as a child at her father’s theatre and subsequently acted in Belfast and Dublin. At Dublin she earned acclaim as Jane Shore and Juliet. In 1814 she was engaged at Covent Garden, where she made her debut as Juliet on 6 October. She was a great success and was extravagantly hailed as the new Mrs Siddons. She remained a favourite at Covent Garden for five years, excelling as Lady Teazle, Mrs Oakly and Lady Townly in comedy and acclaimed in tragic roles like Juliet and Belvidera. In 1819 she was betrothed to William Wrixon Becher, a wealthy member of the Irish Parliament. She made her farewell from the stage at Covent Garden on 13 July 1819 as Mrs Haller in “The Stranger” and on 18 December of that year married Becher, who subsequently inherited a baronetcy from an uncle. Lady Becher died on 29 October 1872. She possessed beauty, grace and simplicity and was highly praised by Hazlitt. Though a great tragic actress, she fell short of transcendent genius. (DNB)
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