Barnes, Charlotte Mary Sanford

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BARNES, Charlotte Mary Sanford

Born 1818; died 14 April 1863

Daughter of John and Mary Creenbill Barnes; married Edmond S.Connor, 1846

Charlotte Mary Sanford Barnes' success as a woman dramatist in the early days of the American theater was second only to that of Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie. It was a success that can be seen as the by-product of her parents' ambitions for her theatrical career.

The daughter of the well known and much admired acting pair, Mr. and Mrs. John Barnes, Charlotte was introduced to the public by her parents in her early teens. Thereafter she played with them often but received notices of the type that usually referred to her acting as "uninteresting" and "tedious." Her thorough training in the theater, however, brought her success as a playwright and her earliest attempt, the Last Days of Pompeii (1835), based on the novel by Bulwer Lytton, was followed two years later by the best of her plays, Octavia Bragaldi, or, The Confession.

Taken from a real-life incident in Kentucky (which was later to become William G. Simms' novel, Beauchampe), Octavia Bragaldi employed the format of the enormously popular romantic plays and recast the events in 15th century Italy. It won immediate success, played in almost every city in the U.S., and was later produced in London and Liverpool. The play offered a superb leading role which Barnes acted herself to great praise. After her marriage to the popular actor, E. S. Conner, the couple appeared together in Octavia Bragaldi many times.

Barnes published La Fitte, or, The Pirate of the Gulf in 1838. The Forest Princess (1844), a version of the Pocahontas and Captain John Smith story, capitalized on a current interest in Indian dramas. Toward the end of her career Barnes adapted two French melodramas, A Night of Expectations (1848) and Charlotte Corday (1851). The Captive (1850), which has come down in title only, may have been based on a monodrama entitled The Captive—A Scene in a Madhouse, which Barnes often performed in the early days of her acting career when she was appearing with her parents.

In 1848 Barnes published a collection, Plays, Prose and Poetry, which included the popular Octavia Bragaldi.


Durang, C., The Philadelphia Stage: From the Year 1749 to the Year 1855 (1855). Ireland, J. N., Records of the New York Stage from 1750 to 1860 (1866-67). Kritzer, A.H., ed., Plays by Early American Women: 1775-1850 (1995).


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