Sarah Siddons and Sir Thomas Lawrence: Correspondence

Scope and Content

A series of letters dealing with the love-affair between Sir Thomas Lawrence and the daughters of Mrs Siddons, 67 folios. Most are addressed to Mrs (Penelope S.) Pennington, the remainder being her replies. The correspondents are T. Lawrence, Mrs Pennington, Mrs Siddons, and Miss S. Siddons.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was born in Brecon on 5 July 1755, the daughter of Roger Kemble, actor and manager. She acted at a young age in the company of William Siddons, whom she married in 1773, and she went on to enjoy a successful career on the stage. She died in London on 8 June 1831.

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) was born in Bristol on 4 May 1769. He displayed an early talent for drawing, and helped to support his family from an early age through his work. He entered the schools of the Royal Academy in London in 1787, and became principal portrait-painter to the king in 1792. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1794, and became its president in 1820. He died on 7 January 1830, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. Lawrence had affairs with Maria Siddons and Miss Sarah Siddons, to both of whom he proposed marriage.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by C. Fairfax Murray, 1918.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entries on Sarah Siddons in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, Vol. XVIII (London, 1909), pp. 195-202, and on Sir Thomas Lawrence in Vol. XI (London, 1909), pp. 719-726.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Custodial History

The letters were preserved by Mrs Pennington. In 1904 they were in the possession of O.G. Knapp. They were later acquired by C. Fairfax Murray.


The majority of the letters are printed and published in O.G. Knapp, An artist's love story, 1904. At the head of each letter is a pencilled reference to the page in the book on which they are printed.