Mrs. Barrett came to America in the fall of 1796 to join Charles Powell’s company at Boston’s Haymarket Theatre alongside her husband, Giles Leonard Barrett, and their infant son, George Horton Barrett.[i] Born as a Miss Ranoe in England, she eventually married and changed her name to Mrs. Rivers, but performed in England under the stage name, Mrs. Belfield.[ii] She married Giles Leonard Barrett sometime before their arrival in America after he left his first wife for her.[iii] As Dunlap wrote, “Mrs. Barrett, however, “was a tall and commanding figure, and though neither young nor beautiful, possessed a countenance denoting mind, and her acting fulfilled the promise of her personal appearance.”[iv]
Her first role of note in America was in the tragedy The Gamester as Mrs. Beverley at the Haymarket, which she performed on and off for some time in various theatres afterwards.[v] She later reprised the character of Portia in the Merchant of Venice opposite her husband Giles as Shylock in January of 1797, which she had done opposite Macklin in England.[vi] Mrs. Barrett would go on to have a successful career in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, becoming known as a great tragedienne actress, with her main focus in roles portraying older women. Mrs. Barrett passed away in Boston some time in 1832, outliving her husband by almost 23 years.[vii]
[i] Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, and Edward A. Langhans. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800.Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973. 307. Print.
[ii] Highfill, 306.
[iii] Charles E. L Wingate. Shakespeare’s Heroines on the Stage. New York: T.Y. Crowell & Co, 1895. 262. Print.
[iv] George Clinton Densmore O’dell, and Princeton University. Annals of the New York Stage. New York: Columbia University Press, 1927. 39. Print.
[v] William Dunlap, and Tice L. Miller. A History of the American Theatre from Its Origins to 1832.Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. 217. Web.
[vi] Wingate, 262.
[vii] Highfill, 306.
By: Drew Smith