Powell, Mrs. (DNB00)
POWELL, Mrs. (fl. 1787–1829), previously known as Mrs. Farmer, and subsequently as Mrs. Renaud, actress, made her first appearance, under the name of Mrs. Farmer, at the Haymarket as Alicia in ‘Jane Shore’ in 1787 according to Wewitzer, and on 9 Sept. 1788 according to Genest. From the Haymarket she went to Drury Lane in the autumn of 1788, where she played Anne Bullen to the Queen Katharine of Mrs. Siddons, Virgilia in ‘Coriolanus,’ Leonora in ‘Revenge,’ &c. Next year she married a second husband, one Powell, who was prompter at Liverpool and afterwards at Drury Lane. The next season at Drury Lane opened on 12 Sept. 1789 with ‘Richard the Third.’ Kemble appeared as Richard, and ‘Mrs. Powell, late Mrs. Farmer,’ as Lady Anne. She remained at Drury Lane for several seasons, during which her name was constantly coupled with that of Mrs. Siddons in parts of importance. A rising and painstaking actress, she was capable of affording the principal support to the leading performer of the day, and enjoyed at the same time an invaluable opportunity of studying acting from the very best model. When in 1796 Mrs. Siddons declined the rôle of Edmunda in Ireland's ‘Vortigern,’ Mrs. Powell undertook it (2 April). On 2 May 1795, on the occasion of Mrs. Powell's benefit, Mrs. Siddons played Lady Randolph to her Young Norval, and at the performance for her benefit on 4 June 1802 Mrs. Powell essayed the rôle of Hamlet, with Mrs. Jordan as Ophelia. Mrs. Powell's long connection with Drury Lane lasted till 1811, and during the period she played very many important parts, including Alicia in ‘Jane Shore,’ Andromache in the ‘Distrest Mother,’ Almeria in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Mrs. Haller in the ‘Stranger,’ and Lady Macbeth. Her forte lay in the intenser rôles of tragedy. Tenderness and pathos were not at her command.
In the autumn of 1811 Mrs. Powell migrated to Covent Garden, where she opened as Lady Capulet on 9 Sept., and again supported Mrs. Siddons, who was playing her ‘last season.’ Her second husband, Powell, was apparently then dead, and in 1814 she married one Renaud. On 21 May 1814 she was announced as ‘Mrs. Renaud, late Mrs Powell,’ and at the close of the season 1815–1816 she terminated her London career. For two years she acted in the provinces, and in 1818 settled down in Edinburgh, where she had already acted in the summer of 1802. She opened under Murray and his sister, Mrs. H. Siddons, on 12 Feb. 1818. The parts for which she was chiefly cast were ‘heavy,’ those in which power and experience are the most necessary qualifications. Helen Macgregor in ‘Rob Roy’ and Meg Merrilies in ‘Guy Mannering’ are said to have been great impersonations in her hands. She also frequently assumed such rôles as Lady Macbeth, the Queen in ‘Hamlet,’ Volumnia, Lady Randolph, and Belvidera in ‘Venice Preserved.’ The parts she created in Edinburgh included Helen Macgregor, the Queen in the ‘Heart of Midlothian,’ Elspat in the ‘Antiquary,’ Lady Douglas in ‘Mary Stuart,’ and Janet in the ‘Twa Drovers.’ Her most valuable work, however, lay in the splendid support she was able to give Kean, Young, and other great London tragedians, who made starring visits to the Scottish capital. Mrs. Renaud displayed in her old age a rare dignity of bearing, correct elocution, and telling voice. About 1828 her health began to fail, and she appeared for the last time on 30 Sept. 1829, when she acted the Queen to Kean's Hamlet. On 4 June 1830 Murray gave her a benefit, at which she did not appear. Murray is said to have continued her salary to the day of her death, the date of which is not known.
[Genest's Historical Account of the Stage; playbills; private information.]