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pression and vivacity. She was, beside, highly accome plished for the stage, being a perfect mistress of dancing, and of the French language; both of which she acquired under the tuition of Madame Violante.
Her reputation on the Irish stage drew an offer from Mr. Rich, the manager of Covent-garden Theatre, for an engagement at a very handsoune salary, which Miss Woffington accepted, and in the the winter of 1740, (when our heroine was exactly twenty-two years of age,) she made her first appearance on the London stage in the character of Sylvia, in “ The Recruiting Officer;" and in the same month she performed Sir Harry Wildair. The publication of this part to be undertaken by a woman excited the curiosity of the public, and more particularly as the character had for the most part lain dormant since the death of Wilks, (seven years before that time,) who was universally esteemed the first Sir Harry on the stage. However this curiosity was fully satisfied in favour of Miss Woffington, it was admitted by the best critics that she represented this gay, goodhumoured, dissipated, rake of fashion, with an ease, elegance, and deportment, which seemed almost out of the reach of female accomplishments; and her fame flew about the town with such rapidity, that the comedy had a run, and proved a considerable addition to the treasury for many seasons afterwards.
Miss Woffington, however great her reputation in this part, did not rest it wholly in Sir Harry. In characters of easy high-bred deportment, such as Millimant, Lady Townly, Lady Betty Modish, &c. she possessed a first-rate merit. She likewise excelled in many of the humourous parts of comedy ; such as Lady Pliant, in Congreve's “ Double Dealer;" Mrs. Day, in “ The Committee;" and others; not in the least scrupling, on these occasions, to convert the natural beauty of her face to the wrinkles of old age, and put on the tawdry habiliments and vulgar manners of the old hypocritical city vixen.
İn 1751, Mrs. Woffington quitted the London Theatresfor a very profitable engagement under Mr. Thomas Sheridan, who was at that time Manager of Smock-alley House. It was at this æra that Woffington might have been said to have reached the acme of her fame: she was then in the bloom of her person, accomplishments, and profession; highly distinguished for her wit and vivacity; with a charm of conversation that at once
attracted the admiration of the men, and the envy of the .
How she was considered as an actress may be estimated from the following theatrical record, where Victor tells us, that, although her article with the Manager was but for four hundred pounds, yet by four of her characters, performed ten nights each that season, viz. Lady Townly, Maria, in the Nonjuror, Sir Harry Wildair, and Hermione, she brought four thousand pounds; an instance, he adds, never known in any theatre from four old stock plays, and in two of which the Manager bore no part.
The next year Sheridan liberally enlarged her salary to eight hundred pounds; and though it was to be imagined that her force to draw audiences must be weakened, yet the profits, at closing the Theatre, did not fall short of more than three hundred pounds of the first season.
Her company off' was equally sought for as on the stage ; and though she did not much admire the frivolity of her own sex, and consequently did not mix much with them, she was the delight of some of the gravest and most scientific characters in Church and State. She was well known to be at the head of the Beef Steak Club (a club held every Saturday at the Manager's expense, and principally composed of Lords and Members of Parliament,) for many years, where no woman was admitted but herself: and where wit and spirit, in taking their most excursive flights, never once broke through the laws of decorum.
This celebrated club, however, which made so great a noise at that time in the the theatrical world, and at which Mrs. Woffington gave and received such infinite satisfaction, after a few years dwindled into what was called “ Party Meeting," where Opposition thought the Court was too predominant ; and, in consequence of this opinion, wreaked their vengeance, in the end, on the unoffending Manager. Mrs. Woffington saw these troubles brewing, and actually afloat, whilst she remained in Dublin; she therefore thought proper to relinquish this scene of warfare once more for the regions of London, and in the winter of 1756 returned to her old quarters under Rich, the Manager of Covent-garden Theatre.
Though Mrs. Woffington was now only in her thirtycighth year (a time of life, generally speaking, which may be called meridional in point of constitution and professional talents), her health began visibly to decline :
she, however, pursued her public profession till the year before her death, when her disorder increasing, she retired from the stage in 1759, and died on the 28th of March, 1760.
Her death was considered at that time as a general loss to the stage; and Mr. Hoole, (the ingenious Translator of Ariosto, &c.) who knew her perfectly well, has in the following lines (which we have extracted from his Monody to her Memory) drawn her public and private character so faithfully, that we cannot better conclude this sketch, than by giving them a repetition in this place.
Blest in each art, by Nature form'd to please,
Nor was thy worth to public scenes confin'd,
WILKS, THE CELEBRATED ACTOR. Though we have no very favourable account of Wilks from Colley Cibber, who hated him personally, as well as Dogget, (though he had more prudence in concealing it during Wilks's life,) and though he always preferred Powel to him, “who,” he says, “ excelled him in voice and ear in Tragedy, as well as humour in Comedy ;" yet he, on the whole, is obliged to allow him qualifications which leave him a very considerable actor ; particularly in his Sir Harry Wildair, Essex, Mark Antony, Valentine, Plume, &c. &c. To these he adds his uncommon attention to be perfect in his parts, which he was so exact in, that “I question,” says Cibber, " if, in forty years, he ever five times changed or misplaced an article in any one of them.”
Of his determined perseverance in this exercise of
LITERARY INTELLIGENCE. Works recently published, in the Press, or in Preparation. BIOGRAPHY. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. Percival Stockdale, including Anecdotes of many celebrated Persons. Life of John Bunyan; with an Account of his Imprisonment, Conversation before the Justices, &c. and Remarks on his Character and Writings. Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth, written by himself; published from an Original Manuscript in the Custody of the Earl of Cork and Orrery ; to which is added, Fragmenta Regalia, being a History of Queen Elizabeth's Favourites; by Sir Robert Naunton.
TRAVELS, &c. Travels in the North of Europe, or a Journal of a Voyage down the Elbe, from Dresden to Hamburgh, and Travels through Devinark and Sweden ; by the Chevalier de Boisgelin. Travels in Barbary and Bled El Gereede, during a Residence of Sixteen Years in various parts of those Countries; by James G. Jackson, Professor of Arabic and African Languages, and formerly British Agent at Santa Cruz, South Barbary.
Novels, &c. Faulconbridge, or a Devonshire Stors ; by Mrs. Hanway. Memoirs of Mrs. Cuyler; by Mrs. Grant. Ned Bentley ; by Mr. Amphlett. London, or Truth without Treason ; by Francis Lathom.
. Poetry. Sonnets, Tales, and Characteristic Pieces ; by the Author of the Age of Frivolity. Eccentric Tales; by Cornelius Crambo, Esq. The Pastoral, or Lyric Muse of Scotland ; by Hector Macneill, Esq. The Battle of Maida; by Lieutenant-Colonel Scott.
Law. A short View of Legal Bibliography ; by Richard Whalley Bridgeman, Esq.
DRAMA. Drainatic Works of John Ford, with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes; by Henry Weber, Esq. Four Discourses on the Stage, preached lately at Cambridge, by the Rev. Mr. Plumtre, of Clare Hall.
MISCELLANEOUS. Beauties of Milton's Prose, with Preliminary Remarks and Criticisms; by Mr. G. Burnett. Chesterfield Travestie; or School for Modern Manners; Chronicle of the Cid, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, the Campeador, from the Spanish; by Robert Southey. Original Anecdotes of Cromwell; by Mr. Stace. Letters from the late Bishop Warburton and Bishop Hurd, from the year 1749 to 1776. A Dictionary of the Middle Language of England, or the Age of Shakspeare, on the plan of Johnson's Dictionary ; by the Rev. R. Nares. Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, Vol. III.