[June 6, 1863.
ONCE A WEEK.
the stage are to be seen Tom Walker, as Macheath; Hall, as Lockit; Hippesley, as Peachum; Clark, as Filch; Mrs. Egleton, as Lucy—her back is turned towards the spectator; and Polly, Miss Fenton. Mr. Ireland writes in reference to the picture:—“Polly’s charms have fascinated the Duke of Bolton; his eye is fixed on her face, and his mind wholly engrossed by the contemplation of that beauty which he afterwards made his own.” Certainly Polly’s wail:
“When my hero in court appears,
And stands arraigned for his life,
Then think of poor Polly’s tears,
For, oh! poor Polly’s his wife.”
seems addressed rather to the Duke than to Peachum.
In the “London Chronicle” of April 2nd, 1762, is contained a paragraph referring to this picture: “On Friday last, at the sale of the late Mr. Rich’s pictures, jewels, &c., a clock by Graham was bought by the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield for 42l., and a scene in the “Beggars’ Opera, where Polly and Lucy are pleading for Macheath’s life, painted by Hogarth, was sold for 32l. 14s., to his Grace the Duke of Leeds.” From this picture a fine print engraved by William Blake, with the permission of the Duke, was published by Messrs. Boydell, in 1790.
On the 14th March, 1728, Miss Fenton, on the occasion of Quin’s benefit, appeared as Alinda, in Beaumont and Fletcher’s comedy of “The Pilgrim,” as altered for the stage by Sir John Vanbrugh; on the 18th, she played Ophelia, in “Hamlet;” on the 6th April, we find her in the character of Leanthe, in Farquhar’s “Love and a Bottle,” played for Tom Walker’s benefit; on the 24th, she was playing Marcella in Tom Durfey’s comedy of “Don Quixote;” and on the 29th she took her benefit, when she appeared as Cherry, in the “Beaux Stratagem.” But it seems that she offended a great number of her patrons by laying pit and boxes together, and many of her tickets were returned to her by those who objected to pay box-prices for a seat in the pit. However, Mr. Rich, the manager, who had the reputation of being an enthusiastic admirer of “Pretty Polly,” took the receipts of that night to himself, and on the following Saturday (May 4th) gave her a second benefit, when the “Beggars’ Opera” was played for the forty-seventh time. On the 19th June, the opera was played for the last time that season, and Lavinia Fenton made her last appearance on the boards of a theatre. On the 6th July, Swift, writing to Gay, says:—“The Duke of Bolton has run away with Polly Peachum, having settled 400l. a year upon her during pleasure, and, upon disagreement, 200l. a year.” This may have been near the truth, but the exact terms were never known; and a disagreement never ensued. Miss Fenton’s theatrical career was over, having lasted but two years, during which she had assumed some half-dozen characters. But her success, her beauty, and her talents, made her live long in the memory of her admirers.
Charles, third Duke of Bolton, was born on the 3rd September, 1685. He had married, in 1713, the Lady Anne, daughter and sole heiress of Lord Vaughan, and Earl of Carberry in Ireland, and Baron Emlyn in the county of Carnarvonshire. But the Duke and Duchess lived apart; and the marriage was without issue. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1745, he raised for the King’s service a regiment of foot, and was appointed to be Lieutenant-General of his Majesty’s forces. Soon after the death of the Duchess, which happened on the 20th September, 1751, he married Lavinia Fenton. Of this marriage there was no lawful issue. The Duke died at Tunbridge Wells on the 26th August, 1754, aged sixty-nine. Lavinia Fenton survived him only six years, dying on the 24th January, 1760; her Grace was interred at Greenwich with all appropriate ceremony. “Though raised to so high honour,” says a biographer, “she never once forgot what she owed to her benefactor and to fortune.” Dr. Joseph Warton, in a note subjoined to one of Swift’s letters to Gay, says of her: “She was a most accomplished and agreeable companion: had much wit, good strong sense, and a just taste in polite literature. Her person was agreeable and well made: though I think she could never be called a beauty.” (On this question the Doctor was probably in a minority.) “I have had the pleasure of being at table with her, when her conversation was much admired by the first characters of the age, particularly old Lord Bathurst and Lord Granville.”
After this favourable opinion, it is, perhaps, hardly necessary to turn to the pages of our anonymous author of the shilling pamphlet for his views as to the subject of the biography. Not that these are by any means unfavourable. For instance: “Polly,” he writes, “has so many smart as well as polite repartees, such a grace in the delivery, and, withal, so little of that affectation which frequently makes a witty woman’s company intolerable, that the oftener any one hears her converse, the oftener he will desire it, and will improve himself by her profound skill in several faculties, as well as divert himself with her merry sayings and smart returns of gallantry. For it must be acknowledged that her beauty has not gained her so many admirers, as her sense and the good use she makes of it.”
As to her accomplishments, the same authority informs us: “She is a good judge of poetry, and often exerts herself in the praise or dispraise of any performances that appear either beautiful or contemptible.” “She is a good historian, and will frequently quote the authority of Plutarch to confirm her opinion of things. She will argue very profoundly both with regard to politics and plays, and will rally and criticise as finely as any of her sex in Christendom, and never leaves a company but she leaves them something to charge their memories withal.” “She is such a judge of painting that the greatest of our modern artists in this profession are glad to have her opinion of a piece, before it is shown to the world, knowing that, if it escapes her censure, it will gain the approbation of the whole town.” Further, our author tells us, by way of summing up his case:—“Notwithstanding her wit and skill, she is the most humble, the most affable, and the least conceited of any woman that is both wise and