Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davenport, Mary Ann

DAVENPORT, MARY ANN (1765?–1843), actress, whose maiden name was Harvey, was born at Launceston. Her first appearance on the stage took place at Bath on 21 Dec. 1784 as Lappet in ‘The Miser’ of Fielding. After staying in Bath two seasons she went to Exeter, where she married Davenport, an actor of the Exeter company. With him she proceeded to Birmingham, and, after vainly seeking an engagement in London, to the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, where she opened as Rosalind. Up to this time she had naturally played juvenile heroines, in which she showed archness and exuberant spirits. Upon an emergency, however, she undertook in a revival the part of an old woman. Her success in this was so great that she was never able to return to her former line. She was accordingly engaged at Covent Garden to replace Mrs. Webb, to whom she was greatly superior, and appeared for the first time at that house on 24 Sept. 1794 as Mrs. Hardcastle in ‘She Stoops to Conquer.’ In the course of the season she played Lady Wronghead in the ‘Provoked Husband,’ the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the Duenna, and many similar characters. To these she added at the same theatre in 1795–6 Mrs. Malaprop, Mrs. Quickly in ‘King Henry IV, Part I.,’ and ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ and Mrs. Peachum in the ‘Beggar's Opera.’ At the Haymarket in 1797, and in subsequent years at one or other of the theatres named, she played Miss Lucretia M'Tab in ‘The Poor Gentleman,’ Mrs. Quickly in ‘King Henry IV, Part II.,’ and ‘King Henry V,’ Mrs. Heidelberg in ‘The Clandestine Marriage,’ and very many similar parts. She was the original Deborah Dowlas in Colman's ‘Heir-at-Law,’ Dame Ashfield in Morton's ‘Speed the Plough,’ Mrs. Brulgruddery in Colman's ‘John Bull,’ Monica in Dimond's ‘Foundling of the Forest,’ and Dame Gertrude in ‘The Forest of Bondy, or the Dog of Montargis.’ In these and very many similar rôles she won a high and well-deserved reputation. Her last performance was for her benefit, Covent Garden, on 25 May 1830, when she played the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ She died on 9 May 1843, aged 78, or, according to another account, 84 years. She bore a high reputation as an actress and a woman. During the life of her husband she lived in great privacy; after his death, on 13 March 1814, she drew, with a daughter, into practical seclusion. She had also a son who held an Indian appointment. Davenport was eclipsed by his wife, and is an object of some banter in theatrical records. He was, however, a good speaker and a useful member of the Covent Garden Theatre, which, on account of ill-health, he quitted in 1812.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Dramatic Mag. vol. ii.; Oxberry's Dramatic Biography, vol. ii.; Cole's Life of Charles Kean, 1859; Thespian Dict.]

J. K.