Dickons, Maria (DNB00)

DICKONS, MARIA (1770?–1833), vocalist, whose maiden name was Poole, is said to have been born in London about 1770, though the right date is probably a few years later. She developed a talent for music at an early age: when six she played Handel's concertos, and when thirteen she sang at Vauxhall. She was taught singing by Rauzzini at Bath, and after appearing at the Antient concerts in 1792, was engaged at Covent Garden, where she made her début as Ophelia on 9 Oct. 1793, introducing the song of ‘Mad Bess.’ On the 12th of the same month she appeared as Polly in the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ in which part she was said to be delightful. After 1794 Miss Poole seems to have confined herself chiefly to the provinces. She was married in 1800, and for a time retired, but her husband having sustained losses in trade, she resumed her professional career, and reappeared at Covent Garden on 20 Oct. 1807 as Mandane in ‘Artaxerxes.’ In 1811 she joined the Drury Lane company, then performing at the Lyceum, where she appeared on 22 Oct. as Clara in the ‘Duenna.’ On 18 June 1812 she sang the Countess in Mozart's ‘Nozze di Figaro’ to the Susanna of Catalani, on the production of the work at the King's Theatre for the first time in England. She also sang at the Drury Lane oratorios in 1813 and 1815. When Catalani left England she took Mrs. Dickons to sing with her at Paris, but the English soprano had no success there, and went on to Italy, where she was more appreciated. At Venice she was elected an honorary member of the Instituto Filarmonico. She was engaged to sing with Velluti, but the death of a near relation recalled her to England, where she reappeared at Covent Garden on 13 Oct. 1818 as Rosina in Bishop's perversion of Rossini's ‘Barbiere di Siviglia.’ She also sang the Countess in a similar version of the ‘Nozze di Figaro’ on 6 March 1819, in which her success was brilliant. About 1820 she retired from the profession. The reason of her taking this step is said by some to have been ill-health, and by others a bequest which rendered her independent. She is said to have suffered from cancer, and latterly from paralysis. She died at her house in Regent Street, 4 May 1833. Not many detailed accounts of Mrs. Dickons's singing are extant, but her voice seems to have been ‘powerful and mellifluous,’ and she possessed ‘a sensible and impressive intonation and a highly polished taste.’ Another account says that when she sang sacred music ‘religion seemed to breathe from every note.’ The following portraits of her were engraved: 1. Full face, painted by Miss E. Smith, engraved by Woodman, junior, and published 1 May 1808. 2. Profile to the right, engraved by Freeman, and published 1 July 1808. 3. Full face, holding a piece of music, engraved by M. A. Bourlier, and published 1 July 1812. 4. Full face, holding up the first finger of her left hand, painted by Bradley, engraved by Penry, and published 1 May 1819. Mathews's theatrical gallery in the Garrick Club also contains a portrait. Her mother died at Newington in March 1807, and her father at Islington 17 Jan. 1812.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i.; Fétis's Biographie des Musiciens, iii. 16; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, viii. 696; Pohl's Mozart und Haydn in London, i. 148; Busby's Anecdotes, iii. 21; Parke's Musical Memoirs, i. 136; Quarterly Musical Review, i. 62, 403, 406; Gent. Mag. for 1807, p. 283, 1812, p. 93, 1833, p. 649; Georgian Era, iv. 302; playbills and prints in Brit. Mus.]

W. B. S.