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Abington
Abney
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and her old admirers were still willing to fancy her as unimpaired by time as the character itself.’ Taking no formal leave of her public, she enjoyed no farewell benefit, and was seen upon the stage for the last time on 12 April, 1799, when she played Lady Racket in the after-piece of ‘Three Weeks after Marriage,’ the occasion being the benefit of Pope, her fellow-player during many seasons. She is described as possessed of a singularly elegant figure, which, towards the close of her career, acquired proportions too matronly for the youthful characters she still assumed; she was of graceful address, with animated and expressive gestures. Her voice was not by nature musical, but her elocutionary skill was very great, and her articulation was so exact that every syllable she uttered was distinct and harmonious. Her taste in dress was admitted to be supreme by the many ladies of quality whose friendship she enjoyed. Garrick wrote of her, on the back of one of her letters, that she was ‘the worst of bad women.’ Of his merits as an actor she spoke enthusiastically; but she pronounced him as a manager inconsiderate, harsh, and resentful. She maintained with him a long and acrimonious correspondence. He complained of her peevish letters, of her want of zeal for the interests of the theatre, of her incessant querulousness. She alleged that he caused her to be attacked in the newspapers, that his harshness affected her health and spirits, that he spoke ill of her wherever he went. Again and again she asked that her engagement might be cancelled, and that she might be released from the inconvenience and distress of her position at Drury Lane. Upon one occasion it was necessary to take counsel's opinion as to the proper night to be devoted to Mrs. Abington's benefit. Her salary at Drury Lane was 12l. per week, ‘with a benefit and 60l. for clothes.’ She was rarely called upon to play more than three nights a week. Mrs. Abington had conquered for herself a distinguished position in society. The squalor, the misery, and the errors of her early life were forgotten or forgiven in the presence of her signal success upon the stage, her personal beauty, wit, and cleverness. Boswell relates that in 1775, when Mrs. Abington begged Dr. Johnson to attend her benefit, he was ‘perhaps a little vain of the solicitations of this elegant and accomplished actress,’ and that he mentioned the fact because ‘he loved to bring forward his having been in the gay circles of life.’ He sat in the boxes, and at such a distance from the stage that he could neither see nor hear. ‘Why then, did you go?’ asked Boswell. ‘Because, sir, Mrs. Abington is a favourite of the public; and when the public cares a thousandth part for you that it does for her, I will go to your benefit too.’ He supped with Mrs. Abington, met certain persons of fashion, was ‘much pleased with having made one in so elegant a circle,’ and afterwards piqued Mrs. Thrale by saying ‘Mrs. Abington's jelly, my dear lady, was better than yours.’ Mrs. Abington retired upon a comfortable independence, which it was said she much reduced by her losses at cards. John Taylor, of the ‘Sun’ newspaper, in his ‘Records of my Life,’ states that he remembered her ‘keeping a very elegant carriage, and living in a large mansion in Clarges Street.’ He had seen her, on the occasion of her benefit, surprise the audience by playing the low-comedy part of Scrub in the ‘Beaux's Stratagem.’ He once witnessed her performance of Ophelia to the Hamlet of Garrick, when she appeared ‘like a mackerel on a gravel walk.’ He had met her at Mrs. Cosway's, in Stratford Place, when she was treated with much respect by the company; but she chiefly confined her conversation to General Paoli. She lived at one time in Pall Mall. In 1807 she was occupying two rooms in the house No. 19 Eaton Square. Taylor further states that he had seen her, long after her retirement from the stage, attired in a common red cloak, and with the air and demeanour of the wife of an inferior tradesman. She died 4 March 1815.

[Secret History of the Green Rooms, 1790; Genest's History of the Stage, 1832; Boaden's Life of Mrs. Jordan, 1831; Hours with the Players, 1881.]

D. C.

ABNEY, Sir THOMAS (1640–1722), lord mayor of London, was born in January 1639–40 at Willesley, Derbyshire, where his ancestors had enjoyed an estate for upwards of five hundred years, now, with Willesley Hall, in the possession of Charles Edward Abney-Hastings, earl of Loudoun. Sir Thomas was the fourth and youngest son of James Abney, Esq., who was high sheriff of his county in 1656, by his first wife, Jane Mainwaring. His mother died during his infancy, and he was sent to school at Loughborough, in Leicestershire, in order that he might be under the observation and control of Lady Bromley, the widow of Sir Edward Bromley, knight, one of the barons of the exchequer in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. The date of the commencement of Abney's career in London is not recorded; but we are told that ‘in early life he cast his lot with the nonconformists, and joined the church in Silver Street under the care of Dr.