Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'

Gabrielle Ray – The Gentlewoman – Saturday 21st December 1912

Letter to “The Linkman.”


MY DEAR MARMADUKE, – On the occasions when my cousin Bill (whom I think you once met at the Bachelors’) wires to me from wherever his regiment is quartered, we usually dine rather scrumptiously, and then go to a musical comedy to digest for supper. Bill’s tastes, you perceive, are simple and military, but since he enjoys himself it isn’t for me to complain. Besides, I doubt whether musical comedy, with all its inanities, is much more dreary than the modern kind of photographic drama, with its endless vistas of middle-class dining rooms. In any case, thanks to Bill, during the last four or five years I have become quite a musical comedy expert, and there has been hardly any piece of importance produced, to which I have not been taken.

About a month ago, the time before last, we went, for instance, to “The Dancing Mistress.” Much of it, I admit, was almost unbearably stupid, but at least there was a certain amount of colour and “go,” some pretty frocks, and one performance which, in its particular class, could hardly have been excelled.

And now, my dear Marmaduke, I come to the lament which is really the point of this letter – a lament for the departure from the musical comedy stage of its rarest ornament. Last night Bill took me to “Gipsy Love” at Daly’s. I thought the piece better than most of its kind: the music was fairly pretty, the dresses and the staging quite pleasing, and there was a foreigner in the cast who played and sang with a distinction which contrasted with the prevalent tendency to squark. But when I remembered other operettas I had seen at this theatre, particularly “Les Merveilleuses,” I could not help being sad. I realised that there would never now be any more of those delightful moments – alas! all too short – when the tedium of the performance was relieved by a dancer of real genius. One never saw half enough of her, though, she was always in a poor part. I believe during the whole of her stage career she never had a chance to show what she could do; but her art triumphed over every obstacle. I had only to imagine her in the cast of “Gipsy Love” to realise acutely what the stage has lost, for, as a dancer, she was the lineal descendant of Kate Vaughan and Letty Lind. And now, of course, you have realised that I am speaking of Miss Gabrielle Ray.

The fact that I should feel like this about the idol of so many thousands of playgoing men is, I think, a perfectly clear indication that underneath her fascination as a woman there was in Gabrielle Ray a basis of real talent. Whenever she appeared one saw something that was perfect of its kind and completely individual, something that one could get nowhere else. And, though she herself was probably more imitated than any other woman on the English stage, she imitated no one. Obviously a born dancer, devoted to her art, she made the poor material too often given her by author and composer, delightful and charming. Always immensely popular, with a popularity that was genuine and not ephemeral, she was yet never adequately appreciated by the public in her character of artist. While the crowd adored her for her chic, her diablerie, the few to whom dancing, as an art, really matters saw in her something beyond this, perceived rarer and deeper qualities, which she shared only with the really great ballerinas of the age.

I was delighted to find that my view of Gabrielle Ray was shared by one of our greatest actresses, a woman of the keenest aesthetic perceptions, whom I met at luncheon recently. Many foreigners that I have met also, particularly Russians and Parisians, who, of course, in these ways are generally more educated than we are, have recognised at once her distinction and originality. Indeed, she has probably suffered far more from being an Englishwoman than if she were a singer. In any other country than ours her qualities would have been recognised by her managers, and she would have been given a chance of achieving success in something more worthy than musical comedy. Alas! that one should have to speak of her career in the past tense, though, of course, we must not forget that our loss has been another’s gain. My evenings with Bill have been shorn – so far as the theatre is concerned – of their happiest moments. Hail — and farewell!


Believe me to be,

Yours very truly,



The Gentlewoman  – Saturday 21st December 1912


September 3, 2020 Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Loder – The Sketch – Wednesday 10th August 1932

September 3, 2020 Posted by | Actress, Eleanor Curran, Eric Loder, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Sketch, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment