Rachel (Élisabeth Rachel Félix), a French actress, born at Mumpf, Switzerland, Feb. 28, 1820, died at Cannet (near Toulon), France, Jan. 3, 1858. She was the daughter of a Jewish peddler, whom she accompanied as a strolling singer and guitar player. While singing in a café in Paris she attracted the attention of Achille Ricourt, a theatrical manager and writer on art, and of Choron, who in 1831 began to give her instruction in music. As she showed a great talent for the stage, he transferred her to the care of Saint-Aulaire, under whom she made rapid progress in elocution. Her personation of Hermione at a private performance procured her admission in 1836 as a pupil of the conservatory; and on April 24, 1837, she appeared at the Gymnase theatre in La Vendéenne, a vaudeville written for her by Paul Dufourt. She attracted little attention, and for more than a year did not again appear prominently. In the mean time she studied assiduously under Samson, and on Sept. 7, 1838, produced a great sensation as Camille in Cor-neille's Les Horaces at the Théâtre Français. The long neglected plays of Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire were speedily revived for her, and she became best known as Eriphile in Iphigénie, Aménaïde in Tancrède, Roxane in Bajazet, Pauline in Polyeucte, as Athalie, and especially as Phèdre and camille.
She was also much admired in other parts, such as Joan of Arc, Mary Stuart, and Adrienne Le-couvreur; and during the excitement of 1848 she produced a great effect by her peculiar rendition of the Marseillaise. She excelled most in the impersonation of lofty classical heroines and in the delineation of the fiercer emotions, and was celebrated for the magnetism of her gestures and voice, her singular air of distinction, dignity, grace, and repose, and her wonderful identification with the characters she represented. Her income, originally 4,000 francs, soon rose to 80,000; and in 1849 she effected an arrangement at the Théâtre Français, by which six months of absence in each year were allowed her. The receipts from her performances in the French provinces and in England reached enormous sums, and in Russia in 1853 she received 400,000 francs. In 1855, in company with her brother Raphael Fèlix, her sisters Sarah, Lia, and Dinah, and a complete troupe, she gave performances in New York, Boston, and other cities of the United States, and then went to Havana to regain her strength; subsequently she spent some time in Egypt, and finally sought relief in southern France; but all attempts to arrest the progress of her disease (consumption) proved unavailing.
Rachel was slender, rather tall, with a finely modelled head, clear, pale complexion, and features capable of the greatest variety of expression. She died unmarried and a Jewess, but left two sons, who were educated as Catholics.