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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/104

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Oldfield
Oldfield
98

Dogget, and Cibber, Mrs. Oldfield played many light comedy parts—Mrs. Brittle, Berinthia in the ‘Relapse,’ and Lætitia in the ‘Old Bachelor’—and was the original Belinda in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘The Man's Bewitched, or the Devil to Pay.’

Returning to Drury Lane, which thenceforward she never quitted for any other house, she was, on 7 April 1711, the first Fidelia in ‘Injured Love.’ Between this period and her retirement and death she took many original parts, the principal of which are: Arabella, in the ‘Wife's Relief, or the Husband's Cure,’ on 12 Nov. 1711, Johnson's alteration of Shirley's ‘Gamester;’ Camilla in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Perplexed Lovers,’ 19 Jan. 1712; Andromache in the ‘Distressed Mother,’ 17 March 1712, adapted by Ambrose Philips [q. v.] from Racine; Victoria in Charles Shadwell's ‘Humours of the Army,’ 29 Jan. 1713; Emilia in ‘Cinna's Conspiracy,’ 19 Feb. 1713; Marcia in Addison's ‘Cato,’ 14 April 1713; Eriphile in Charles Johnson's ‘Victim,’ 5 Jan. 1714; Jane Shore in Rowe's ‘Jane Shore,’ 2 Feb. 1714; Violante in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Wonder a Woman keeps a Secret,’ 27 April 1714; the heroine of Rowe's ‘Lady Jane Grey,’ 20 April 1715; Leonora in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Cruel Gift,’ 17 Dec. 1716; Mrs. Townley in ‘Three Hours after Marriage’ of Gay, and, presumably, Pope and Arbuthnot, 16 Jan. 1717; Maria in Cibber's ‘Nonjuror,’ 6 Dec. 1717; Mandane in Young's ‘Busiris,’ 7 March 1719; Celona in Southern's ‘Spartan Dame,’ 11 Dec. 1719; Sophronia in Cibber's ‘Refusal, or the Lady's Philosophy,’ 14 Jan. 1721; Mrs. Watchit in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Artifice,’ 2 Oct. 1722; Queen Margaret in Philips's ‘Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester,’ 15 Feb. 1723; Princess Catharine in Hill's ‘Henry V,’ altered from Shakespeare, 5 Dec. 1723; the Captive in Gay's ‘Captives,’ 15 Jan. 1724; Cleopatra in Cibber's ‘Cæsar in Egypt,’ 9 Dec. 1724; Lady Townly in the ‘Provoked Husband,’ 10 Jan. 1727; Lady Matchless in Fielding's ‘Love in Several Masques,’ 16 Feb. 1727; Clarinda in the ‘Humours of Oxford,’ attributed to Miller, 9 Jan. 1730; and Sophonisba in Thomson's ‘Sophonisba.’ She kept her powers to the end, acting this last part superbly; in her delivery of the line addressed to Wilks as Massinissa—

Not one base word of Carthage—on thy soul!

she startled him, and carried away the audience. For her benefit, on 19 March 1730, she chose the ‘Fair Penitent,’ presumably playing Calista, ‘a gentleman’ appearing as Lothario. On 28 April 1730 she made, as Lady Brute in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ her last appearance on the stage. In her last years she suffered much pain, and tears are said to have often trickled from her eyes while she was acting. She died on 23 Oct. 1730, in her own house, at 59 (afterwards 60) Grosvenor Street. She had previously resided in New Southampton Street, Strand, and in the Haymarket. After lying in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, her body was buried beneath the monument of Congreve in Westminster Abbey, at the west end of the nave. According to the testimony of her maid, Margaret Saunders, she was interred ‘in a very fine Brussels lace head, a holland shift and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves, and her body wrapped in a winding-sheet.’ This elicited from Pope the well-known lines:—

Odious! in woollen! 'twould a saint provoke,
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke;
No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs and shade my lifeless face:
One would not, sure, be frightful when one's dead,
And—Betty—give this cheek a little red.
Moral Essays, i. 246.

Her natural son, Arthur Mainwaring, was the chief mourner at her funeral, the pallbearers being the Lord De la Warr, John lord Hervey of Ickworth [q. v.], George Bubb Dodington, Charles Hedges, Walter Carey, and Captain Elliot. An application by Brigadier-general Churchill for permission to erect a monument to her in Westminster Abbey was refused by the dean.

She left two illegitimate sons, one by Arthur Mainwaring [q. v.], and the other by General Charles Churchill [q. v.] Mainwaring left almost his entire estate to her and Arthur, his son by her. A report was current that she was married to General Churchill. Princess (afterwards Queen) Caroline told her that she had heard of the marriage, and was answered, 'So it is said, your royal highness; but we have not owned it yet.'

Her son by Churchill married Lady Mary Walpole, and Mrs. Oldfield was thus connected with some of the principal families in England, including that of the Duke of Wellington. By her will, proved on 2 Nov. 1730, she left her fortune, which for those days was considerable, between these two youths, after the payment of legacies to her mother, her aunt Jane Gourlaw, and her maid Margaret Saunders. Her house in Grosvenor Street she left to her son Charles Churchill, who died there on 13 April 1812.

Ample testimony is borne to Mrs. Oldfield's beauty, vivacity, and charm, and to the excellence of her acting. As an exponent of both tragedy and comedy she can