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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 662

Mrs. Patrick Campbell letters to Bertha von Zastrow and other papers


Letters from British actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell (official stage name of Beatrice Rose Stella Tanner Campbell) to actress Bertha von Zastrow.


  • 1902-1939 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


1 linear feet (2 boxes)
Autograph manuscript letters primarily from Campbell to Bertha von Zastrow describing Campbell's theatrical performances, travel, finances, and family. Many letters are concerned with Campbell's performances and society life and include newspaper clippings, several photographs, playbills, fliers, and programs. Of particular interest are Campbell's letters concerning her early experiences in Hollywood and her thoughts on the socio-political situation leading up to the Second World War.

Includes third-party letters concerning both women and a final series of biographical materials on Campbell, consisting of clippings, obituaries, reviews, and photographs.

Biographical / Historical

Beatrice Rose Stella Tanner Campbell (1865-1940) was a prominent British actress. She was the sixth and final child of John Tanner (1831-1893), a successful contractor with the British East India Company, and Maria Luigia Giovanna Romanini (1835-1940), the daughter of an Italian exile, Count Angelo Romanini. Educated haphazardly with a mix of governesses and schools across Europe, she excelled in music. It was a course of study she abandoned, however, upon becoming romantically involved with a neighbor, Patrick Campbell. The two eloped in 1884, Campbell pregnant with her first child, Alan Urquhart. Following the birth of a second child, a daughter named Stella in 1886, Patrick Campbell’s demotions at work and dwindling salary prompted him to go abroad and seek work in Australia and South Africa. The money sent home, however, was insufficient to maintain the family; Campbell decided to generate income for herself on the stage. Despite disapproval from her family, she made her debut as Mrs. Patrick Campbell in Liverpool, 1888, and played in a string of minor successes until an 1893 role as Paula in The Second Mrs. Tanqueray launched her career and garnered high praise in the press.

The following year, the family flush with his wife’s success, Patrick Campbell returned to England in poor health and poorer fortunes. His condition ensured that his wife would continue on the stage to support the family in the comfort to which they had become accustomed. She performed in generally well received plays by Henrik Ibsen, William Shakespeare, Victorien Sardou, François Coppée, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Maurice Maeterlinck. At the end of the century, Campbell began her own management company, and following the death of her husband in the South African War, she toured with it throughout Europe and America. She continued her stage career, dabbling in Hollywood productions and lecturing on acting and voice until the end of her life in 1940, when she passed away in France. Campbell is particularly remembered for her role as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, a part written for her by George Bernard Shaw, with whom she also had significant correspondence.

Bertha von Zastrow was the daughter of a Hungarian-born actress who performed under her maiden name, Bertha Gross, and Hermann von Zastrow. Von Zastrow came to the United States from Germany at the age of two with her mother in 1887 and settled in Warren, Pennsylvania, where they lived until 1900. From Warren, they moved to New York City, where they lived together until the mother’s death in 1938.

Von Zastrow apparently never married. In her letters, Campbell inquires after and offers her good wishes to a man named Paul whose assistance was sometimes enlisted through von Zastrow for several tasks on behalf of Campbell. Paul may have lived with von Zastrow and her mother for some years.

Von Zastrow was politically active, particularly in the women’s suffrage movement, and had a role on the Executive Committee of the German-American Suffrage Association along with Mrs. Charles Knoblauch, 1875-1950 (Mary Bookstaver) and Katherine Sophie Dreier, 1877-1952, who was the Committee’s chairperson. Von Zastrow also acted, which is probably how she and Campbell met. The two played together in some productions. The women were certainly friendly, but von Zastrow also seemed to take on the role of assistant to Campbell and was sometimes compensated for it. Money and the “pinch of poverty” felt by both women at different points throughout their correspondence was a common topic. Von Zastrow’s finances were particularly strained in the years prior to the Second World War, and she suffered ill health during those years as well. Von Zastrow lived in New York City until at least 1954.


Arranged into the following series:
  1. I. Letters from Mrs. Patrick Campbell to Bertha von Zastrow.
  2. II. Other letters.
  3. III. Biographical miscellany on Mrs. Patrick Campbell.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Gift of Frederick R. Koch, AB 1955; received: 1985 January.

Related Materials

Other collections of Campbell’s correspondence are also held by the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Theatre and Performance, and University of Chicago Special Collections. A letter from Campbell, listed under the name Stella West, to Bertha von Zastrow is part of the Katherine S. Dreier/Société Anonyme Papers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Emilie L. Hardman
Link to catalog
Campbell, Patrick, Mrs., 1865-1940. Mrs. Patrick Campbell letters to Bertha von Zastrow and other papers, 1902-1939: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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