Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Craven, Louisa

CRAVEN, LOUISA, Countess of (1785?–1860), actress, came of a theatrical family. Her father, John Brunton, son of a soap dealer in Norwich, was at one time a grocer in Drury Lane. He appeared at Covent Garden, 11 April 1774, as Cyrus, and, 3 May 1774, as Hamlet. He then played at Norwich and at Bath, becoming ultimately manager of the Norwich theatre. Louisa, the youngest of six sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth (Mrs. Merry), eclipsed her in reputation, was born, according to the statement of various biographers, in February 1785. Her birth may probably be put back two or three years. She displayed at an early age capacity for the stage, and on 5 Oct. 1803 made at Covent Garden her first appearance, playing Lady Townley in the ‘Provoked Husband’ to the Lord Townley of Kemble. On 2 Nov. she played Beatrice in ‘Much Ado about Nothing.’ These débuts are favourably noticed in the ‘Theatrical Inquisitor’ for November 1803, where she is described as ‘extremely handsome and striking,’ and her features are said to be ‘expressive of archness, vivacity,’ &c. Her name also appears in this season to Marcella in the ‘Pannel,’ a farce founded by John Philip Kemble on Bickerstaff's ‘'Tis well it's no worse,’ 21 Dec. 1803. Between this date and December 1807 she played Julia in the ‘School of Reform,’ Miss Mortimer in the ‘Chapter of Accidents,’ Celia in ‘As you like it,’ Rosara in ‘She would and she would not,’ Alithea in the ‘Country Girl,’ Lady Anne in ‘Richard III,’ Irene in ‘Barbarossa’ to the Achmet of Master Betty, Dorinda in the ‘Beaux' Stratagem,’ Marianne in the ‘Mysterious Husband,’ Hero in ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ Angelina in ‘Love makes a Man,’ Ismene in ‘Merope,’ Anne Bullen in ‘Henry VIII,’ Volante in the ‘Honeymoon,’ Donna Olivia in ‘A bold Stroke for a Husband,’ Miranda in the ‘Tempest,’ Leonora in the ‘Revenge,’ Harriet in the ‘Jealous Wife,’ Marian in the ‘School for Prejudice,’ &c. She was also the original of various characters in forgotten pieces of Manners, Morton, and Dimond. On 21 Oct. 1807 she played Clara Sedley in Reynolds's comedy ‘The Rage.’ This is the last appearance recorded in Genest. She left the stage in December 1807, and married, 30 Dec. 1807, William, seventh baron and first earl of Craven of the second creation. After the death of her husband, 30 July 1825, she lived in privacy, and died, almost forgotten, 27 Aug. 1860. Her beauty, of which she had a remarkable share, was no small part of her stage property. She was, however, sprightly and natural. Her brother, who appeared at Covent Garden 22 Sept. 1800 as Brunton the younger, was with her during her entire stay at the theatre. She was aunt to Miss Brunton, afterwards Mrs. Yates.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror, 1808; Thespian Dict. 1805; Mrs. Mathews's Tea Table Talk, 1857; Our Actresses, by Mrs. C. Baron Wilson, 1844; Burke's Peerage, 1887; Gent. Mag. September 1860.]

J. K.