Jennifer Carnell

Louisa Swanborough in Braddon's play The Loves of Arcadia, a photograph taken by Camille Silvy in 1860.

Louisa Swanborough was a member of the famous Swanborough theatre family. Their real surname was Smith.

Tutored as a young girl by a famous London actress, Louisa made her stage debut as Desdemona in Othello at the benefit of her brother W.H. Swanborough at the Theatre Royal in Reading. Following her success at Reading, Louisa joined a company in Southampton and spent nine months at the Theatre Royal at Liverpool. In March 1855 she travelled to London when J.B. Buckstone selected her to appear as Juliet opposite Charlotte Cushman playing Romeo at the Haymarket. She starred in many productions at the Haymarket, playing Helen in The Hunchback and Viola in Twelth Night. In November 1856 she left the Haymarket to work for Alfred Wigan.

With her family working with her, Louisa became the actress manager of the Strand Theatre, and also appeared in private productions for the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Louisa Swanborough was the producer of Mary Braddon's first play, The Loves of Arcadia (1860). It was performed at the Strand in March 1860. Acquainted with Braddon's literary patron, John Gilby, Swanborough also arranged Braddon's first meeting with the publisher John Maxwell in April 1860 at 122 Fleet Street, the office from which he ran the Welcome Guest magazine.

Miss Swanborough retired from the stage shortly after her marriage to the wealthy magistrate Major William Lyon. They divided their time between London and Goring Hall in Goring-by-Sea in Sussex. Their first son was born in March 1861, and Louisa announced that she was leaving the stage to concentrate on her family. Louisa and William Lyon had three sons: William, Fitzroy David Lyon (1862-1914) and Nathaniel.

Louisa Swanborough, circa 1860, an engraving after a photograph taken by Clarkington, Sponsalia of Regent Street, London.

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