Smithson, Harriet

BORN 18 Mar 1800, Ennis, Clare - DIED 3 Mar 1854, Paris: 12 rue Saint Vincent, Montmartre
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Cimetière de Montmartre, 20 Avenue Rachel (division 20 (Berlioz grave))

Harriet Smithson was the daughter of a theatre manager and a minor actress. Harriet first appeared on the stage at the Cron Street Theatre in Dublin on 27 May 1814. In 1817 she went to England where she first appeared at Drury Lane on 20 Jan 1818. She was moderately successful.

In 1827 she appeared at the Odéon Theatre in Paris Sheridan's "The Rivals". In September she played Ophelia next to Charles Kemble's Hamlet and the audiences were impressed by her performance. In 1829 she returned to London and her Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" was praised. She continued her acting in Paris and inspired Hector Berlioz to his "Symphonie Fantastique". He sent her letters although they had never met in person. She ignored these letters until she was invited to attend his symphony "Lélio". She realised it was about her and sent him a congratulation. They met and quickly became lovers. Although their families objected they married on 3 Oct 1833 at the British Embassy in Paris. Franz Liszt was a witness. Their son Louis was born on 14 Aug 1834.

As Berlioz became increasingly successful she became increasingly jealous. She also suffered from bad health. Berlioz started an affair with the singer Marie Recio. She left their house in 1843 but he continued to support her financially. She suffered from paralysis and could hardly move at the time of her death in 1854.

She was buried at the Cimetière Saint-Vincent. When that cemetery was redeveloped Berlioz had her remains transferred to the Montmartre cemetery next to Marie Recio, who had died in 1862. Berlioz was buried in the same grave in 1869.

• Husband: Berlioz, Hector (1833-1854, Paris: British Embassy)

Related persons
• cooperated with Kemble, Charles

9/12/1832The "Symphonie Fantastique" and "Le Retour à la vie" by Berlioz are performed at the Conservatoire in Paris. His friend Franz Liszt was in the audience and so was his future wife Harriet Smithson. [Berlioz, Hector][Liszt, Franz]
3/10/1833Berlioz marries the actress Harriet Smithson. The wedding took place at the British Embassy in Paris. Liszt was among the witnesses. [Berlioz, Hector][Liszt, Franz]
17/12/1836Last appearance on the stage of Harriet Smithson 


The grave of Hector Berlioz at the Cimetière Montmartre, Paris.
Picture by Androom (20 Feb 2016)


Clare People: Harriet Smithson Berlioz
The Hector Berlioz Website: Berlioz and Liszt
The Hector Berlioz Website - Berlioz Biography
Harriet Smithson - Wikipedia

Smollet, Tobias

Published: 28 Jan 2018
Last update: 19 Apr 2022