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Author photo. Photo by Window and Grove from Ellen Terry's <em>The Story of My Life</em>.

Photo by Window and Grove from Ellen Terry's The Story of My Life.

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Ellen Terry was born to a theatrical British family. She became a celebrated child actress after making her debut on the London stage at age nine in The Winter’s Tale. As she grew into a teenager, she played a variety of leading roles in Shakespeare and in English repertory. In 1864, at age 16, she left acting to marry G.F. (George Frederic) Watts, a painter nearly three times her age; he made several famous portraits of her. The marriage collapsed less than a year later. She returned briefly to the stage before leaving for Hertfordshire to live with Edward William Godwin, an architect and theatrical designer, who became the father of her two children. She returned to the stage in the 1870s and joined Sir Henry Irving's company as its leading lady. She and Irving worked closely together for many years as she developed and performed her acclaimed Shakespearean parts, such as Portia, Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, and Desdemona. She toured the USA and the world and appeared in a few silent films before retiring in 1922, considered the greatest actress in English history. She published her memoirs, The Story of My Life, in 1908.
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