Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pope, Maria Ann

1194834Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46 — Pope, Maria Ann1896John Joseph Knight

POPE, Mrs. MARIA ANN (1775–1803), actress, and second wife of the actor, Alexander Pope (1763–1835) [q. v.], born in 1775 in Waterford, was the daughter of ‘a merchant’ named Campion, a member of an old Cork family. After her father's death she was educated by a relative, and, having a strong disposition for the stage, was engaged by Hitchcock for Daley, manager of the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin. Here as Monimia in the ‘Orphan,’ having only, it is said, seen two theatrical representations in her life, she made in 1792 a ‘first appearance on any stage.’ So timid was she that she had to be thrust on the boards, and immediately fainted. Recovering herself, she played with success, and was rapidly promoted to be the heroine of the Irish stage. Frederick Edward Jones [q. v.] then engaged her for his private theatre in Fishamble Street. In York she played under the name of Mrs. Spenser, and she afterwards started on a journey for America, which she abandoned, returning once more to Dublin. Here at the Theatre Royal she met William Thomas Lewis [q. v.], who, pleased with her abilities, procured her an engagement at Covent Garden, where, as Mrs. Spenser from Dublin, she made her first appearance 13 Oct. 1797, playing Monimia in the ‘Orphan.’ On 2 Nov. she played Juliet to the Romeo of Henry Erskine Johnston [q. v.] and the Mercutio of Lewis, on the 18th Indiana in the ‘Conscious Lovers,’ on the 20th Cordelia to the Lear of Charles Murray [q. v.] On 26 Jan. 1798, in ‘Secrets worth knowing,’ she was announced as Mrs. Pope, late Mrs. Spenser. Her marriage to Pope, to whom she brought an income of 200l. a year, took place two days earlier at St. George's, Hanover Square. On 13 Feb. she was the original Maria in ‘He's much to blame,’ attributed to Holcroft, and also to John Fenwick. Jane Shore, Lady Amaranth in ‘Wild Oats,’ Yarico in ‘Inkle and Yarico,’ Lady Eleanor Irwin in ‘Every one has his Fault,’ Indamora in the ‘Widow of Malabar,’ Arabella in ‘Such Things are,’ and Julia in the ‘Rivals,’ were played during the season, in which she had original parts in ‘Curiosity’ by ‘the late king of Sweden’ (Gustavus III), and Cumberland's ‘Eccentric Lover,’ and was the first Princess of Mantua in ‘Disinterested Love,’ taken by Hull from Massinger. On 15 Oct. 1798 she was Desdemona, and 12 Jan. 1799 the original Julia in Holman's ‘Votary of Wealth.’ On 16 March she was the first Lady Julia in T. Dibdin's ‘Five Thousand a Year,’ and, 8 April, Emma in ‘Birthday,’ by the same author. She probably played Elizabeth in the ‘Count of Burgundy,’ from Kotzebue, and was Mrs. Dervilla in ‘What is she?’ by a lady. For her benefit she played the Queen in ‘King Henry VIII.’ Next season saw her in Cordelia, 29 Oct. 1799. Two days later she was Juliana in Reynolds's ‘Management.’ On 16 Jan. 1800 she was the first Joanna of Montfaucon in ‘Joanna, a Romance of the Fourteenth Century,’ adapted by Cumberland from Kotzebue. One or two unimportant characters followed, and on 13 May 1800 she was Imogen and Amanthis in the ‘Child of Nature.’ In 1801 she accompanied her husband to Drury Lane, where, as Juliet, she made her first appearance on 1 Feb. On 2 March she was Lady Caroline Malcolm in the first production of Cumberland's ‘Serious Resolution.’ She also played Mrs. Lovemore in the ‘Way to keep him.’ On 14 Oct. 1802 she played Mrs. Beverley, on 9 Dec. Belvidera in ‘Venice Preserved,’ on 29 Jan. 1803 she was the first Caroline in Holcroft's ‘Hear both Sides,’ and on 4 May she was Mrs. Haller in the ‘Stranger.’ On 10 June, playing Desdemona, she was taken ill in the third act, and her place was taken by Mrs. Ansell, the Emilia. She was thought to be recovering, but on the 18th she had a fit of apoplexy, and expired in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly. She was buried on the 25th, in the same grave with her husband's first wife, Elizabeth Pope [q. v.], in Westminster Abbey. She was slender in figure and finely proportioned, had a sweet face and expression, a retentive memory, and a clear voice. She was credited in private with a good heart and engaging manners. She was an acceptable actress, but inferior in all respects to the first Mrs. Pope. The chief characteristics of her acting were tenderness and pathos. A portrait by Sir Martin Archer Shee is in the Garrick Club. A three-quarter-length portrait by Shee, engraved by William Ward, was dated 1 April 1804.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Manager's Notebook; Monthly Mirror, vol. xvi.; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Thespian Dict.; Smith's Cat.; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 469; Marriage Registers of St. George's, Hanover Square, ii. 76.]

J. K.