In the following sentence can the first comma be replaced with a semicolon for smoother reading?
"An hour drifted by, and the lady, whose name was Arcey Pierre, called it a day."
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I'm going another way on this one: put a period after "by" and drop the "and".
"An hour drifted by. The lady, whose name was Arcey Pierre, called it a day."
In fairness, whether you go with a period or a semicolon here will depend on the surrounding text. See AleksandrH's input for the way to use the semicolon.
If you want to replace ", and" with a semicolon, yes ("An hour drifted by; the lady, whose name...). Otherwise, no ("An hour drifted by; and the lady, whose name...).
As to the acceptability of the semicolon, GrammarMonster (often better than the name warrants) has:
When a conjunction (words like and, but and or) is used to merge two independent clauses into one sentence, it is possible to use a semicolon before the conjunction to outrank any commas in the clause. (This practice is acceptable, but it is considered outdated these days. However, if you think a semicolon makes your sentence clearer, you can use one.)
[emphasis partly EA]
The article also adds examples from respected sources, but not recent ones. The Rebecca West quotation is possibly the most recent, dating from 1937.
Yes, you can. And there is no inherent reason you must, or have to, delete the and (coordinating conjunction) right after the semicolon any more than there is a rational rule that says you can't start a sentence with and.
"An hour drifted by; and the lady, whose name was Arcey Pierre, called it a day.
is fine. See this highly upvoted answer (+14 and climbing) regarding the usage of the coordinating conjunction but right after a semicolon.
As for Grammar Monster's statement that the use of conjunctions immediately after a semicolon is "outdated", one asks "so what?" What was once "in style" becomes out-of-style; and what was out-of-style becomes in style again... the author should choose her/his own punctuation usage based on her/his own sense of style.
Having reread the question, I think it is off-topic'; for what is "smoother reading" is opinion-based.