The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Sidney Frances Bateman, 1823-1881

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1823
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1881.01.13
Place of Death:


Sidney Frances Cowell Bateman was a playwright, actress and theatre manager. She was the daughter of Joseph Cowell, an English low comedian, who settled in America, and a Frenchwoman, who died when her daughter was an infant. She married the actor and theatre manager Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman on 10 November 1839 at St Louis in Missouri. They had eight children. Three of their daughters Kate, Isabel and Ellen were brought up on the stage and had successful childhood careers as the 'Bateman Children'.


On Bateman's death in 1875 she ran the Sadlers Wells Theatre, with Isabel as the leading lady. She managed it until her death on January 13, 1881. She was the first to bring to England an entirely American company with an American play, Joaquin Miller's The Danites.

Bateman wrote several plays, including the comedy Self, produced at the People's Theatre in St Louis on 6 April 1857, in which she and her husband had great success, and Geraldine, or the Master Passion, a tragedy performed in 1859 in Philadelphia. Both were extremely popular and lasted many years. Her husband was the original and very successful impersonator of John Unit in Self, and appeared before an English audience as David of Ruthin in Geraldine on 12 June 1865 at the Adelphi.

Bateman, nicknamed 'Colonel', and her husband moved to London in 1870. From 1871 to 1878 she managed the Lyceum Theatre with her husband, that is, until his death in 1875. Henry Irving was leading man and their daughter Isabel was the leading lady.

In August 1878 she gave up the lease of the theatre to Irving and bought a long lease of the old Sadler's Wells Theatre. She entirely rebuilt it, reopening it on 9 October 1879 with Rob Roy. She managed it until her death in 1881.

Bateman and her daughters appear to have been friendly with JW during the 1870s (#01793). In 1874/76 she was included in a list by JW that may have been a guest list for the private view of his 1874 Pall Mall exhibition or a subscription list for JW's Venice etchings as proposed in 1876 (#12714).


Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume 1607-1896, Chicago, 1963; Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford University Press, 1997; (accessed 2003).