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Death of Lola Montes.


January/February 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 25, 1861.



Lola Montes, one of the most remarkable and versatile women of the present age—whose life is a romance—whose career presents the various phases of a countess and a public lecturer, of a king’s favorite and a dancer in a second-class theater, died in New York a few days ago.  The Post furnishes the following sketch of her singular career:

The real name of Lola Montes was Maria Dolores Lorrissey Montes.  Was she born in Seville in 1818, in Montrose in 1820, or in Limerick in 1824?  Was her father a Spaniard or a creole?  No one knows.  It has been ascertained that her mother was a creole, and that she was brought up in England.  She visited Paris for the first time in 1840, giving herself out for the wife of an officer in the British army, whom she married, and quitted in India.  She obtained an engagement as a danseuse at the theater of the Porte St. Martin, and lost this situation through an eccentricity of deportment that was voted intolerable even in that region.

Lola Montes soon obtained admittance to the stage of the French opera, but was hissed on her appearance.  In a fit of contemptuous fury at this disgrace, she kicked one of her buskins into the parterre, creating an uproar in that aristocratic house “more easily imagined than described.”  She was, of course, prohibited from appearing again upon that stage.

Having become the mistress of Desjarrier, one of the editors of La Presse, Lola Montez next scandalized Paris by appearing in deep mourning at the trial which followed the duel in which Desjarrier had been killed.

In 1847 she went to Munich, where she speedily captured the affections of the old King, who had seen her, by chance, in the house of an officer of his guard.  She was officially introduced at the court, and created, by royal letters patent, first, Baroness of Rosenthal; next, Countess of Landsfelt.  In her arms were a crowned lion, a silver dolphin and a rose.  With her new rank she obtained a pension of 28,000 florins.  The ministers having opposed the exaltation of the favorite, the cabinet was dissolved by the King.  The Countess nominated a new cabinet, and soon afterward dissolved it.

The University was divided into two camps—one of these being for the favorite, the other against her.  A riot broke out among the students; Lola Montez hastened without escort to the scene of the tumult, the king hastened after her, offered her his arm, and led her away.  The monarch, irritated by this outbreak against the favorite, ordered the University to be closed for a year; on which the municipal authorities waited on the King in a body, and implored him to dismiss the Countess from court.  The King refused to grant the prayer of the civic fathers, but yielded to the energetic remonstrances of the House of Peers.  Lola Montes received the royal order to quit Munich; her palace was pillaged, and the King, who, unnoticed in the crowd, was sorrowfully watching this outburst of popular indignation, was wounded in the forehead by a stone.  The ex-favorite went to England, where she married a second and third husband, though her first was still living.  She then went to America, where she is said to have married several times.

Her first literary attempt was the publication of her own memoirs, in 1849, in the Presse newspaper; suppressed, as scandalous, by the authority of M. de Girardin, after the publication of the first half of the first chapter.  On arriving in the United States she appeared in a play of her own writing entitled “The Adventures of Lola Montes in Bavaria.”  In 1853 she married the editor of the San Francisco Whig.  In 1856 she appeared on the stage of the Melbourne Theater, in Australia.

She came to this country in the year 1851, and after continuing the erratic course which made her so prominent in a larger field during her previous life, she was some months since attacked by a partial paralysis, since which her health has been gradually decaying.  A correspondent who saw her a few days since, as she was expecting soon to die, says:

“Far from the members of her family, and repudiated by those who had been the friends of her youth, she was far happier than she could have been had she died in the midst of palatial splendor which was so long her glory and her shame.

“That merciful Providence who so constantly sends His blessing alike upon the good and the evil, threw this poor outcast, during her last days, upon the kind charities of a Christian lady, who had chanced to be her schoolmate in Scotland, but who was for many years ignorant that the Lola Montes of the newspapers was the innocent school girl of thirty years ago.

“Though humbled by sickness, and deprived of all claims according to worldly principles upon any such association, she here found a self-denying friend, who soothed her dying moments, and led her to take refuge in the consolation of the Christian faith.  The Rev. Dr. Hawks, on being requested to attend her, was frequently at her bedside, and gave her the benefit of his pastoral instructions, as if she had been one of his own flock.  He officiated at her funeral, on the 17th inst., and Mr. Brown, who has attended so many funerals and weddings in this city (may he live many years) was seen to wipe the tears from his eyes as he heard the clergy man say that he had never known a case of more sincere penitence than was evinced in the present instance.  ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her.’”


The death of Lola Montes was caused by paralysis.  The Philadelphia Press thus describes the circumstances which led to the premature death of this erratic but gifted woman:

A few months ago she was attacked with paralysis, which ended in death.  The cause of this attack remains to be related, and we shall mention it here. When Lola went to California as an actress, she engaged an agent.  This gentleman was a married man, with two children, and seeing him unhappy in their absence, she presented him with sufficient money to bring them and their mother on.  Shortly after their arrival, the husband died.  Lola then adopted the widow and orphans—educating the latter at Mrs. Willard’s seminary at Troy.  An officer in the United States navy fell in love with one of these girls, and Lola, literally acting in loco parentis, approved of his suit.  During her last visit to England the marriage took place.

Lola did not again encounter her protégé, (who accompanied her husband to a distant State, where he was detailed for public duty,) until a recent period, when she met her walking down Broadway, in company with a lady of the highest ton.  With her usual impulse, Lola rushed to her young friend—literally the child of charity—as to embrace her.  The young lady coldly drew back and said, “Madam, I do not know you!”  “Not know me?  I am Lola—Lola Montez.”  “Madam,” she exclaimed, as she turned coldly away, “I know you not, I never saw you before, and if you persist in speaking to me I will call a policeman,” and walked away.  Lola went home, “More in sorrow than in anger.”  and that same day had the first attack of paralysis, which, a few days ago, destroyed her.  Lola Montez was literally murdered by ingratitude.

The last moments of Lola Montez offered a singular contrast to her earlier career.  For some time she had been very ill at Astoria, and professed the heartiest penitence for the manner in which her life had been spent.  About four weeks ago Rev. Dr. Hawks was requested to call on her, and did so.  He found her with her Bible open to the story of the Magdalen, and she expressed to her visitor her sincere anxiety in regard to her future welfare.  At the same time she was hopeful.  “I can forget my French, my German, my everything,” she said, “but I cannot forget Christ.”

Before she died she purchased a little plot in Greenwood where she is now buried.  On her coffin was a plate with the simple inscription:

Died January 17, 1861.
Aged 42 years.

The name of Lola Montez, by which she was best known, was assumed when  she went on the stage at Paris, professing to be a Spanish dancer.  She subsequently adopted this name whenever she appeared in public.  Her last appearance was at a lecture at Mozart Hall a year or so ago, when she was listened to by a large and highly intelligent audience.

The exploits of Lola on the railroad cars in this country have been widely circulated by the press.  One time she persuaded the engineer to allow her to ride with him on the engine.  While he was looking elsewhere, Lola suddenly turned on a full head of steam, and away dashed the engine at a fearful speed, to the great dismay of the engineer.

Another time Lola was in a car, when she pulled out on of her favorite little cigars and coolly lighted it.  The conductor soon made his appearance.

“Madame,” said he blandly, “you cannot smoke here.”

Madame went on smoking, without paying the least attention.

“Madame,” repeated the conductor, a little savagely, “you can’t smoke here.”

Lola looked up at him, gave a sweet smile, and asked:

“What do you say, sir?”

“I say you can’t smoke here.”

“But you see I can though,” replied Lola, sending out an extra puff and smiling at the absurdity of the conductor’s theories.


Lola’s public career dates from the time when she ran away to India with Capt. James.  They separated and she commenced a Bohemian life in London.  There she met many young men, and it is supposed intrigued with them.  She had plenty of animal spirits and pluck, talked well and could dance a little.  It is stated that she made her debut in this manner.  A party of men were discussing the merits of certain queens of the ballet, when one declared that he could produce a dancer who had never been on the stage, but who could be qualified as a premiere danseuse in ten days.  A wager was laid on the event, and in a few days the London public was informed that a new Spanish dancer, Lola Montez, had been engaged at her Majesty’s theater.  This was “Betty James,” as the omnibus box declared, when she came upon the stage.  This did not prevent her from getting engagements in Paris and other cities on the continent.  Some of the papers revive and old story about her kicking one of her buskins into the parterre at the Grand Opera.  It is entirely untrue.  As an artist she was good for nothing.  In Paris she formed a connection with Dujarrier, one of the editors of La Presse.  He fought a duel with one Beauvallon, a Creole of San Domingo, who had spoken disrespectfully of Lola Montez.  Dujarrier fell, and Lola had the nerve to appear at his funeral in full mourning.

At this time Lola gave tea parties in Paris, and a gentleman who went to one of them told us that the male guests were men who had seceded from their wives, and the females all women who had separated from their husbands.

Lola left Paris for Munich some time after Dujarrier’s death.  Her Bavarian adventures are well known.  The King gave her a very handsome house, and her state here may be understood by the subjoined extract from a letter, written by a gentleman who visited Munich in 1847:

Mademoiselle Lola Montez, writes a gentleman from Munich, is at the height of favor as well as of fortune.  Thus you perceive the dramatic influence has lost none of its prestige, but, on the contrary, daily acquires new power.  Mademoiselle Lola Montez inhabits, in the city of Munich, a magnificent hotel, to which an extensive garden is attached.  But, notwithstanding this, the residence not being deemed by her sufficiently capacious, she has had two smaller houses or wings built principally of white marble, which completes an establishment that is wholly her own.  The extreme display in this palace exceeds anything of the kind ever before known; the King himself has been amazed at it, and expressed deep wonder, even although, while building, he had largely superintended it by his orders and instructions.  Even the palace itself cannot compare with it in elegance and richness.  In the saloon of the favorite artist, richly gilded in every part, a fountain of the same costly metal, and of an original shape, has been placed, which requires but a touch of the hand to send forth its waters and diffuse a delicious freshness through the room.  In the same apartment is a staircase of crystal, the steps of which are so ingeniously constructed as to be elastic—and, therefore, less fatiguing of ascent to the little feet for which they are intended—and the windows on those sides of the saloon which are exposed to projectiles, are furnished with iron jalousies, which fall down whenever anything like violence or tumult is apprehended.

A few days since a large crowd collected round her residence, when Lola Montez fearlessly presented herself at the window, and holding up a full glass of champagne, prepared to drink to the health of the crowd.  At that moment a stone was thrown, and fell at her feet.  She coolly took it up, and throwing it out of the window so that it might do no injury to any one, raised her glass again to her lips, and finished the compliment she had commenced, in drinking to the health of those who were assembled without.  Then, uncovering her bosom, she laughingly exclaimed that if they really wished to injure her, it was there they should direct their attack.  This had the effect of disarming the general hostility.

A certain number of agents have established quarters under her roof, and three or four soldiers are stationed at the entrance of her hotel to prevent anything like open outrage; a small escort accompanies her to the theater  whenever she feels inclined to visit it; and while in the house the guard is increased.  From her box she can see all that she wishes to see in the theater, and the moment she is herself observed, salutations are exchanged with her from the better class of people.

On one of these occasions some disturbance occurred in the place, when a few arrests were made, and one of the officers particularly distinguished himself by his zeal and activity.  His motives were misrepresented, and he was ordered to another town.  Mademoiselle Montez having been informed that he had only incurred displeasure in consequence of her decision in imposing order on the rioters, entreated his pardon and obtained it; but it chanced that the unfortunate man died in the meantime.  This, however, did not deprive her of the credit of interceding for him, and not even her enemies presumed to attribute his death in any way to her.

One circumstance of a somewhat singular character has occurred.  Mademoiselle Montez felt herself so indisposed that she herself was compelled to have recourse to medicine.  A physician was sent for, and when it was prepared, she, unlike Alexander the Great, desired him to partake of it himself.  The physician, not a little surprised at the singular caprice—for such only he deemed it—which actuated Lola, complied with her request, and swallowed nearly the whole of the draught.

Before narrating the adventure of an officer who considerately sought to remove her from the window on the occasion already alluded to, when the stone fell at her feet, we were desirous that her conduct towards the officer whose pardon she had obtained should be known.  The one balance her vivacity towards the others, whose good intention she repaid with a smart slap of the hand on his moustached face.  The office, of course, took it all in good humor, and the offending party did her utmost to make atonement, by strongly recommending him to the favor of his Majesty.

A beautiful property, situated not far from the royal residence, has been bestowed on Mademoiselle Lola Montez, independently of jewels and costly ornaments.  Her majesty the Empress of Austria, sister of the king of Bavaria, has offered a million of money, provided she consent to leave the kingdom, but Mademoiselle Montez refused, expressing indignation and surprise that such interested sentiments should be attributed to her.  We conclude these details which are derived from an undoubted source, by referring to the permission which her majesty of Bavaria has given that Lola Montez be admitted twice a week to the apartments of her royal husband, who is confined by indisposition.  Can anything be found more surprising in the Arabian Nights Entertainments?

Lola always claimed that the Jesuits drove her out of Munich, and never forgave them for it.

After her exit from Bavaria, we hear of her again in Paris, and doing the lionne very extensively in the summer of 1849 in London, where she contracted her second marriage with Lieut. Heald, a spooney fellow with £4,000 a year.  Heald had not attained his majority, and was under the guardianship of a maiden aunt.  Lola was now thirty one years old, and began to think seriously of settling herself in life, so she took up with Heald for his income.  Miss Heald, however, ascertained that James, Lola’s first husband, was still alive, that she had never been divorced, and that the marriage with Heald was illegal.  After a continental tour the happy pair separated, and Heald subsequently died.

Lola again turned up in Paris, and led her old life.  She resolved to visit the United States, and cultivated the acquaintance of prominent Americans in Paris.  Among others, she knew Peter Farley Goodrich, then United States Consul, and before she came over, gave an exhibition of her terpsichorean qualities at a party arranged by the old gentleman.  E. P. Willis, a brother of N. P. Willis, brought Lola to this country and acted as her agent.  She made her debut at the Broadway Theater, and danced to a crowded house, nearly all men.  Everybody was disappointed in her dancing and appearance.  Fast living and incessant smoking had made sad inroads upon her beauty.  Her eye, which was very large and wondrously beautiful, retained its old lustre, but she was thin and quite unequal to the labor of a premiere danseuse.  The Broadway people had engaged Lola for six months, we believe, and she visited Boston, Philadelphia and other cities, under the management of Caleb Marshall.  Willis had a quarrel with her, and he was replaced by a Greek, whose name has escaped us.  Then came the celebrated Jo. Scovill, who was awfully bullied by the Countess, and soon resigned his post.  When Lola was not quarrelling with the manager (that was pretty nearly all the time) she was pitching into her agents, whom she changed very frequently.  In those days she used to receive in bed, like the Kings of France, and was always called Madame la Comtesse.  She carried her money about with her in a box, of which she kept the key—suspecting that everybody intended to rob her.  As a “star” she drew very well for a night or two, and then the houses fell off.

In the year 1853 Lola went to California.  Going up on the Pacific side she met a jolly Irishman named Hull, editor of the San Francisco Whig, and took a great fancy to him.  He afterwards fell sick and Lola nursed him.  When he recovered they were married with a great deal of pomp and ceremony in the Roman Catholic cathedral.  Lola and Hull lived together three months or so, then separated, and he died soon afterwards.  In the theatrical way she made considerable money, especially in the mining towns.  From San Francisco she went to Australia, taking with her a presentable young man named Folieri.  He drowned himself in the harbor of Melbourne—a circumstance which seemed to have affected Lola deeply, as it ended her career as an intrigante.  She was successful in Australia, and must have received a great deal of money.  Returning to the United States, we find Lola attempting to persuade the public that if she could not dance she could act, but she was not very successful in so doing.  She next appeared as a lecturer, and attracted large audiences, her manner being very prepossessing and her delivery excellent.  Two years ago she revisited Europe, and lectured in the principal towns in Great Britain.  In London she became pious, and regularly attended Spurgeon’s tabernacle.  Returning to New York, she went to live in Bayard street with the family of Mr. Hoym, manager of the Stadt theatre, and subsequently set up an establishment of her own—a pretty house and garden, on the corner of Nineteenth street and Third avenue.  Here she drifted into the Stephen Pearl Andrews act of philosophers, and was converted to spiritualism.  Suddenly—she always did things in a hurry—Lola cleared her house of the whole party, and bolted off to Europe, returning as suddenly as she went.  Her last public appearance was at Mozart Hall in a lecture in the fall of 1859.  After that time she lived very quietly.  Her constitution had been broken down by her fast habits in early life, and she was compelled to be careful.  In the summer of 1860 Lola had an attack of paralysis, and her life was despaired of.  She recovered sufficiently to be removed to Astoria, where she lived until October last, when she returned to town.  On Christmas day she walked out, took cold, and was seized with the malady of which she died.