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MAUD EVELYN CRAVEN JEFFRIES, ACTOR, with STRONG AUSTRALIAN CONNECTION [USA]

The address side of this postcard has the N.S.W. red 1d ‘Shield’ stamp postmarked with a duplex NEWCASTLE/OC 11/ 12.15 P.M./05/ N.S.W with the barred numeral ‘55', and it was sent to a Hobart, Tasmania address (Figure 1).

The picture side of the postcard shows Miss Maud Jeffries, in her acting role costume, the card being one made by Talma & Co., Melbourne and Sydney copyright (Figure 2).

Maud Evelyn Craven Jeffries (1869-1946), actress, was born on 14 December 1869 at Willow Farm, near Lula, Mississippi, USA, daughter of James Kenilworth Jeffries, cotton planter, and his wife Elizabeth Field, née Smith. At Miss Higbee's school in Nashville, Tennessee, she took part in amateur theatricals. In 1889 she went to New York where she played bit parts for a year. On 4 December 1890 she made her London début in Wilson Barrett's production of The People's Idol. With a speed that she found disconcerting she became his leading lady. Returning to U.S.A. she created the part of Mercia in Barrett's melodrama, The Sign of the Cross, at St Louis on 28 March 1895 and next year took it to London where her 'grace, ? spiritualized beauty and ? air of youthful innocence' were admired.

Barrett’s company visited Melbourne and Sydney in 1897-98, and Maud Jeffries starred in established favorites as Claudius, The Manxman, Virginius, The Silver King and a production of Hamlet that divided the critics. On her return to London she played two more seasons with Barrett before joining Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s company.

By an arrangement between J.C. Williamson and H.B. Tree, a company headed by Julius Knight and Maud Jeffries visited Australia in 1903-06. In their first production, a dramatization of Tolstoy's novel Resurrection, which opened at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on 12 September 1903, her performance as Katusha was described as 'a very great triumph', 'an excellent combination of realism and restraint'. It was followed by a romantic drama, Monsieur Beaucaire, and The Eternal City, a melodrama in which she played a courtesan.

 After a short Sydney season the company returned to Melbourne with a new play, The Darling of the Gods, followed by revivals. From June 1904 to February 1905 the Knight-Jeffries company toured Australia and New Zealand. At Papanui, Christchurch, on 25 October 1904, Maud Jeffries married James Bunbury Nott (1878-1934), an Australian.

Despite rumours of her imminent retirement Maud Jeffries completed her touring engagements with Williamson in Melbourne and on tour. When Knight contracted typhoid fever in Sydney in May 1905, Maud's husband played Monsieur Beaucaire to her Lady Mary Carlyle, a partnership which drew repeated curtain-calls. The company gave its final performance in Adelaide on 4 May 1906 and disbanded, to the regret of its large audiences.

 A tall woman with fine features, expressive eyes and long brown hair, Maud Jeffries was acclaimed by critics for her versatility, grace, sincerity, good taste and restraint. She visited U.S.A. before settling on her husband's property, Bowylie, Gundaroo, New South Wales, where she chose a secluded life, devoted to her garden and her son born in 1908. She returned to the stage only once in a charity performance of Pygmalion and Galatea in Sydney in August 1910. She died of cancer at Gundaroo on 26 September 1946 and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley N.S.W. cemetery. She is seen in a non-acting role picture in Figure 3.

Acknowledgment: This paper relies heavily on the entry in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography, from which Figure 3 was obtained.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
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