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Oldfield
Oldfield
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have had few equals. Chetwood, not too intelligibly rhapsodising, says: 'She was of a superior height, but with a lovely proportion; and the dignity of her soul, equal to her force and stature, made up of benevolent charity, affable and good natur'd to all that deserv'd it' (General Hist. of the Stage, p. 202). Campbell imagines her to have been, apart from the majesty of Mrs. Siddons, 'the most beautiful woman that ever trod the British stage.' Cibber, whose prejudices against her yielded to her fascination and talent, praises her 'silvery voice,' and says that her improvement 'provided from her own understanding,' with no assistance from any 'more experienced actor.' More than one of his plays he wrote with a special view to her. The extent of her powers could only, he holds, be gauged by the variety of characters she played. Her figure improved up to her thirty-sixth year, and 'her excellence in acting was never at a stand.' To the last year of her life 'she never undertook any part she liked without being importunately desirous of having all the helps in it that another could possibly give her . . . . Yet it was a hard matter to give her any hint that she was not able to take or improve' (Apology, ed. Lowe, i. 310). Steele in the 'Tatler' and the 'Spectator' bears warm tribute to her distinction and her power. Her countenance, according to Davies, was pleasing and expressive, enlivened with large speaking eyes, which in some particular comic situations she kept half shut, especially when she intended to give effect to some brilliant or gay thought. In sprightliness of air and elegance of manner, says the same authority, she excelled all actresses. Swift {Journal to Stella, 1712-13) mentions her opprobriously as 'the drab that acts Cato's daughter.' Walpole, on the other hand, says, concerning her performance of Lady Betty Modish, that had her birth placed her in a higher rank of life she would have appeared what she acted — an agreeable gay woman of quality, a little too conscious of her natural attraction. She was much caressed by people of fashion, and generally went to the theatre in a chair, attended by two footmen, and in the dress she had worn at some aristocratic dinner. Thomson spoke with extreme warmth concerning her performance of Sophonisba as all that in the fondness of an author he could either wish or imagine ; and Fielding, in the preface to 'Love in Several Masques,' referred to her 'ravishing perfections.' A French author, unnamed, declared her, according to Chetwood, 'an incomparable sweet girl,' who reconciled him to the English stage. Richard Savage, whom she is said to have saved from a death penalty he had incurred, and to whom she allowed a pension of 60l. annually (a statement made by Dr. Johnson and disputed, without any authority advanced, by Gait), addressed to her a eulogistic epistle, and, according to Chetwood, an epitaph in Latin and English, which Johnson, for no adequate reason, refused to accept as his. Her best parts in tragedy were Cleopatra and Calista. In comedy her Lady Townly has not been equalled. For her performance of this the managers presented her with 50l. She was free from the arrogance and petulance frequently attending her profession, was always reasonable, and benefited thereby, as successive managements denied her nothing. The only difficulty in her career occurred when she supplanted in several parts Mrs. Rogers, who consequently left the theatre in pique. The public, espousing the cause of Mrs. Rogers, hissed Mrs. Oldfield in certain parts. A competition between the two actresses was arranged by the management, and Mrs. Oldfield chose the 'art of Lady Lurewell in the 'Trip to the jubilee.' Her rival, however, well advised, withdrew from the contest.

In spite of the frequent sneers of Pope, who, apart from other allusions, wrote in his unpublished 'Sober Advice from Horace,'

Engaging Oldfield who with grace and ease
Could join the arts to ruin and to please,

Anne Oldfield inspired warm friendships and affection, and was greatly respected. In regard to both character and talents, she was above most women in her profession.

A portrait of Mrs. Oldfield by Richardson, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London, was engraved by Meyer, E. Fisher, and G. Simon. A second, a folding plate, is prefixed to her life by Egerton, 1731; and another, engraved by G. King, is given in the title-page of her 'Memoirs,' 1741. An autograph receipt for 2,415l. is preserved in a copy of Egerton's 'Life,' in the possession of the writer of this notice.

[Four editions at least of the Authentick Memoirs of the Life of that Celebrated Actress Mrs. Oldfield were published in the year of her death, 1730. In 1731 appeared Faithful Memoirs of the Life, Amours, and Performances of . . . . Mrs. Anne Oldfield, by William Egerton. An abridgment of this was added in 1741 to Curll's History of the English Stage, attributed by him to Betterton, but said to be by Oldys. The Lovers' Miscellany, a Collection of Amorous Tales and Poems, with Memoirs of the Life and Amours of Mrs. Ann Oldfield, 1731, 8vo, cannot be traced; Theatrical Correspondence in draft; an Epistle from Mrs. Oldfield in the Shades to Mrs. Br—ceg—dle upon Earth appeared in 1743; a life appears in Chetwood's

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