Jimmy Hartley’s The Dramatic Life of Elizabeth Barry: Producer’s book marks First Biography of Overlooked “Most Famous Actress of the Late 17th Century”

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The Dramatic Life of Elizabeth Barry: Producer’s book marks First Biography of Overlooked “Most Famous Actress of the Late 17th Century”

Jimmy Hartley’s ‘The Dramatic Life of Elizabeth Barry’ is, surprisingly, the first published biography of a woman whose three decades on stage -and flings with aristocracy – defined the cultural shifts of the Restoration period. While her story is so compelling, Barry’s life has been overshadowed by contemporaries like Nell Gwyn. Numerous biographies have been written about Nell, but none about Elizabeth Barry. Now, three-hundred years after her death, historian Jimmy Hartley is giving Barry centre-stage again


United Kingdom – Elizabeth Barry’s revealing life story has surprisingly been kept out of the spotlight, amazing for a woman who spent over three decades as top star actress on the London stage, and was mistress to legendary poet Lord Rochester, plus many others claim the scandalmongers of the day.

Three-hundred years after her story ends, historian and producer Jimmy Hartley has published the first formal biography of a woman with her own unique place in British history.

Synopsis of ‘The Dramatic Life of Elizabeth Barry’:

This is the first full-length biography of Elizabeth Barry, an actress who succeeded in rising from poverty to become the intimate of Kings, the tutor of Queen Anne, mistress of the famous poet Lord Rochester, and theatre owner in the turbulent Restoration Age when the theatre was the dominant entertainment medium.

“Barry’s life has been overshadowed by contemporaries like Nell Gwyn, even though Barry’s career endured thirty-three years compared to Nell’s five,” explains Hartley, a former writer and producer for ITV. “She was one of the first women to win stardom as an actress after the Merry Monarch, King Charles II, decreed that women should act women’s parts. Before that, they played by prepubescent boys! And in this new but still male-dominated world she seized the opportunity to forge an additional career as a stage producer, theatre owner and playwright.”

Continuing, “I researched for thousands of hours to portray her distinctive, multi-faceted career, set against the turbulent background of the late Stuart era with its wars, plots, invasions and revolution. But Barry’s appeal and feisty character was not limited to her work behind theatre doors. Described as dark-haired, red-lipped, and bright-eyed she became the mistress of the famous poet, Lord Rochester, but on her terms. Rochester, a famous rake, who was reputed to seduce pretty girls for King Charles who apparently disliked innocent ignorance in his bed partners, was stricken to discover in his relationship with Elizabeth that she was in charge. It was Rochester who was chasing Elizabeth, not the other way round.”

With this biography of a supremely successful and strong-willed woman, Hartley is delighted to be filling a void in British history.

“It’s true when I say that there’s no existing biography of Barry, her life and her work – however unbelievable that may seem. It’s a shock considering she was described in the authoritative Cambridge Companion to the Restoration Stage as “the most famous actress of the late seventeenth century.” So, here it is, warts and all. It’s fascinating to say the least.”

‘The Dramatic Life of Elizabeth Barry’ is available now: http://amzn.to/1MwmyC8.


About the Author:

Jimmy Hartley brings to this study a deep understanding of show business and public relations based on many years’ experience in the entertainment industry.

He was a writer and producer in ITV in London and Anglia. He is a former Exhibitioner in History of Hertford College, Oxford, and holds an MA in History from Oxford University and the author of ‘Much Ado About Shakespeare’.


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