Ernest Thesiger



Ernest at the Malvern Festival, 1934

“...the heat at Chenonceaux was unbearable. My companion [William Ranken] was busy painting in the courtyard of the hotel, where the wisteria hung in fragrant festoons, but I drifted down to the river where I thought it might be cooler.  The wide stretch of water looked very inviting, and not a soul was in sight. So I threw off my clothes and prepared for a bathe.  My inherent modesty forbade my plunging in without anything on at all, so I plaited a wreath of wild roses and put it round my head.”

“He paints and acts and, the two times I have met him, has been very amusing in rather an affected way.  On this occasion I began to try to get at his point of view as regards his work but he seemed rather alarmed at being taken seriously.”

"Ernest, whom some of us remember as the least enterprising of Slade students.  His only deed of daring in those days was an occasional stunt on model's throne in imitation of Sarah Bernhardt....He was a character, and popular; but nobody imagined he would one day get a wound in a real battle and be able to forget about it immediately afterward."

“A considerable audience, or congregation, met for the Sunday performance of Sir John Vanbrugh’s ‘Provok’d Wife’ in the King’s Hall, Covent Garden.  If not ‘mostly players,’ the gathering at least proved that the Stage is quite ready to give up its day of rest to the drama.  Miss Doris Keane was there, intent as a schoolgirl; and Mr. Ernest Thesiger was much too interested to let his volubility, which overflowed between the acts, run away with him during the performance proper.”

“In ‘London Assurance,’ I was given the leading part of Sir Harcourt Courtley,  with Ernest Thesiger playing Dazzle. It was my first encounter with Mr. Thesiger, and his keen sense of humour I found a severe challenge to the solemnity of the occasion.  At an early rehearsal of ‘Play Of The Wether’ during a coffee break, I remarked to him that I found Mr. Heywood's early English very difficult to understand. He replied, ‘I beg you not to try; you will only ruin your performance. Actors should never enquire too deeply what they are talking about!’  I had many an amusing conversation with this elegant and eccentric dilettante, whose interests included painting (innumerable portraits of Bernard Shaw) and tatting with Queen Mary at Marlborough House.”

“He was often waspish and sometimes malicious (though less so as he grew older) but he was also very courageous...He was an extraordinary and rather touching character,  an actor of unique imagination, with a most beautiful perfection of speech and period style.”         

F.S. Kelly, diary entry, December 22, 1908

The Sketch, December 15, 1915

The Sketch, January 22, 1919

Walter Fitzgerald, Fifty Years of Strutting and Fretting

John Gielgud, Distinguished Company

Ernest Thesiger, Practically True, 1927

“His hobbies are painting, needlework, particularly tapestry, and flying.”

Notable Personalities, 1927

Beverley Nichols, The Sketch, May 26, 1926