Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, Mrs.

HAMILTON, Mrs. (fl. 1745–1772), actress, made her first recorded appearance at Covent Garden on 12 Dec. 1745 as the Queen in ‘King Henry V.’ She was then, and for some years later, known as Mrs. Bland, her husband being an actor of small parts in the theatre. In the summer season of 1746 she supported Garrick in a short engagement, playing Regan in ‘Lear,’ Lady Anne in ‘King Richard III,’ Emilia in ‘Othello,’ and Dorinda in the ‘Stratagem.’ She went to Dublin in 1748, and played at Smock Alley Theatre. She improved greatly, and reappeared at Covent Garden on 25 Sept. 1752 as Clarinda in the ‘Suspicious Husband.’ Rich signed a long engagement on favourable terms. She remained at Covent Garden until 1762. She played Queen Elizabeth in the ‘Earl of Essex’ of Henry Jones on 21 Feb. 1753, an original part, and long a special favourite with her. She played Emilia when Murphy appeared as Othello on 18 Oct. 1754, and spoke the prologue that he wrote for the occasion. She was now described as Mrs. Hamilton, late Mrs. Bland. She appeared as Portia, Lady Jane Grey, Hypolita, Jane Shore, and Cleopatra in ‘All for Love,’ Mrs. Sullen, Millamant, Rosalind, &c. Her second husband seems to have lived upon her, and robbed her at one time of 2,000l. She was fine-looking, inclined from the first to portliness, and in the end very stout; had a mass of black hair, wore no powder, was generous, but vulgar, quarrelsome, and conceited. She had much comic spirit, and was respectable in tragedy, which was scarcely her forte. An unlucky quarrel with George Anne Bellamy won her the nickname of ‘Tripe.’ Beard and Bencraft, who succeeded Rich at Covent Garden, found her intractable. Believing herself to be quite necessary to the theatre, she let out that a secret clause in her agreement with Rich released either of them in the case of a change of management, and was dismissed at the close of the season 1761–62. She went to Dublin, and was unsuccessful, married in Ireland (at Kilkenny?) a third husband, Captain Sweeney, who also lived upon her. Tate Wilkinson found her at Malton playing the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with a wretched company, and engaged her through charity. She appeared at York in January 1772 as Queen Elizabeth, and some interest was inspired by her misfortunes. An accident to her false teeth as she played Lady Brumpton turned applause into ridicule. Her last appearance in York, and probably on any stage, was on 11 April 1772. She returned to Covent Garden an object of charity. Her distresses were the cause of the establishment of the Theatrical Fund, from which, as she was not on the books of either Drury Lane or Covent Garden, she could receive nothing but a donation. Through the influence of Thomas Hull [q. v.] and his wife she was made wardrobe-keeper and dresser at the Richmond Theatre. She died in poverty and obscurity.

[In his Wandering Patentee, 1795, Tate Wilkinson devotes thirty pages (i. 123–53) to a gossiping and good-natured account of this actress. She is praised in A General View of the Stage, by Mr. Wilkes (Samuel Derrick), 1759, and by various writers of the period. Genest's Account of the Stage, Hitchcock's Irish Stage, and Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror have been consulted. Dibdin's Edinburgh Stage speaks of Mrs. Bland Hamilton playing in Edinburgh in 1765–6, and says ‘she has lost her voice, her looks, her teeth, and is deformed in her person.’]

J. K.