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Grey, Ellen


Ellen Grey made her professional acting debut on May 29, 1854 when she played Bianca in Fazio (Odell VI: 308). Before this performance, Grey may have worked as an amateur actress with the Brooklyn Dramatic Association. She performed a leading role in a version of Byron’s Sardanopolis at the Bowery in 1854. After a three year absence, she returned to the Bowery in 1857 to appear in Australia, or, the Fate of a Bushranger. Grey was also a member of the cast of Brougham’s "hippodramatic spectacle" on May 11, 1857, which was Brougham’s last show at the Bowery before he left (Odell VI:554). Her return to the theater in the 1864-1865 season is one of the few available biographical details about Grey’s later career (Odell VII: 663).

It is possible that Ellen Grey knew Walt Whitman in Brooklyn before she came to New York as an actress. She has often been cited as the likely author of the mysterious "Ellen Eyre" letter Whitman received at Pfaff’s (E. Miller, “Walt Whitman” 67). Other historians have indicated that Grey may have had a love affair with Whitman. Whitman kept a picture of her in his home at Camden until his death (D. Reynolds 375).