Orange Moll

Definition

Theater

  • Nickname for Mary Meggs (d. 1691), a seller of orangesand other refreshments at the Drury Lane Theatre for nearly 20 yearsfrom its opening in 1663. One of her orange girls, most of whom doubledas prostitutes, was Nell Gwynn, the future actress and mistressof Charles II. Meggs, a widow, became a popular fixture at the theaterand delighted Samuel Pepys by passing on scandalous gossipabout Gwynn and other theatrical personalities, many items of whichended up in his Diary.

    When Drury Lane was destroyed by fire in 1672, a report pinpointedthe source as being under the stairs "where Orange Moll keepsher fruit"; thereafter suspicion lingered that she or one ofher girls (including Gwynn) might have been searching the area witha candle.

    In 1682 the companies of Drury Lane and Dorset Garden werecombined and became more businesslike. When it was discovered thatMeggs was in arrears, she was replaced. Since her original licencewas for 39 years, she initiated a protracted legal claim that wasstill unresolved on her death.

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