Anne Oldfield

Definition

Theater

  • (1683 - 1730) English actress, the first to be buried inWestminster Abbey; no monument was erected as she had borne two illegitimatechildren.

    The dramatist George Farquhar discovered her whileshe was working at the Mitre Tavern; she subsequently becamehis mistress and is probably the 'Penelope' of his love letters. Herchildren were fathered by Arthur Manwaring and John Churchill, theDuke of Marlborough. When the Princess of Wales congratulated MrsOldfield on her 'marriage' to the Duke the actress replied, "Soit is said, may it please your royal highness, but we have not ownedit yet."

    Her acting career began when the playwright Sir John Vanbrughfound her a place on the Drury Lane stage in 1699. She excelled incomedy and made her name in 1704 in the role of Lady Betty Modishin Colley Cibber's The Careless Husband. Two years later sheappeared as Millamant in Congreve's The Way of the World, andin 1707 she created the roles of Silvia in Farquhar's The RecruitingOfficer and Mrs Sullen in his The Beaux' Stratagem (1707).

    Mrs Oldfield was noted for her beautiful diction; indeed,Voltaire claimed that she was the only English actress he could understandwithout effort. In 1728, the year of her retirement, she gave oneof her most acclaimed performances as Lady Townly in Cibber's TheProvoked Husband. Her last appearance was in Henry Fielding'sLove in Several Masques. see also Miss Nancy.

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