It's fortunate that this duenna of the English theatre had life and loves enough to justify assembling such a copiously detailed biography. Her associates were a roster of the era's finest and the author provides an intimate look at a charmed circle of the artistocratic as well as an overview of the theatre itself from province to West End. Ellen Terry was part of a theatrical dynasty, made her debut at eight, and substantiated her reputation by age sixteen, when she made an offstage entrance into society as the wife of George Frederick Watts, the eminent portraitist some thirty years her senior. The marriage lasted only ten months and she almost immediately had an affair with Edwin William Godwin, a young architect. Two illegitimate children and six years of poverty later, she returned to the stage to which she dedicated herself, avoiding for the most part emotional entanglements. There were to be two marriages of convenience and close relationships with mentors Henry Irving and George Bernard Shaw. An ""instinctual actress,"" she never achieved the depth of a Duse or the flamboyance of a Bernhardt. And she is occasionally upstaged here by her friends. Nevertheless this is a well etched theatrical period piece.