Bunn, Margaret Agnes (DNB00)

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BUNN, MARGARET AGNES (1799–1883), actress, was born on 26 Oct. 1799 at Lanark. After her birth her father, whose name was Somerville, came to London and established himself as a biscuit baker in Marylebone. Margaret displayed at an early age a talent for the stage, and was introduced in 1815 to the Hon. Douglas Kinnaird, member of the Drury Lane committee of management. After rehearsing 'Belvidera,’ she was rejected as unequal to the character. A second hearing in the following year by the same gentleman and Lord Byron led to an engagement. She made accordingly, 9 May 1816, at Drury Lane her first appearance on any stage, playing, as Miss Somerville, Imogine in Maturin's tragedy of 'Bertram,’ then given for the first time. Kean was Bertram, and did not escape the charge of refusing the young actress fair play. A three years' engagement followed. On 6 Jan. 1818 she 'created' at Bath, by permission of the Drury Lane management, the character of Bianca in the 'Fazio' of Dean Milman,then given for the first time. In 1818, complaining of want of employment, she resigned her situation at Drury Lane. On 22 Oct. she made as Bianca, which remained her favourite character, her first appearance at Covent Garden, and on 9 Nov. she played Alicia in 'Jane Shore' to the Jane Shore of Miss O'Neill. In 1819 she was acting at Birmingham, where she met and married Alfred Bunn [q. v.] When her husband went to Drury Lane to form one of Elliston's 'triumvirate of management,' she reappeared 27 Oct. 1823 at that theatre, still as Bianca. In the same season (1823-4) she played Hermione in the 'Winter's Tale,' and created the roles of Cornelia in 'Caius Gracchus,' by Sheridan Knowles, and Queen Elizabeth in 'Kenilworth.' Her married life was not fortunate, and led to much scandal. While still young she left the stage, not to return to it. Her death took place early in 1883. Mrs. Bunn had a tall and commanding figure. She was seen to highest advantage in characters belonging to heavy tragedy. Kean is said to have kept back Mrs. Bunn, with whom, in consequence of her being, as he said, 'too big and overtowering a woman for his figure,' he refused to act except in certain characters. Her Lady Macbeth is mentioned with a sneering implication by Macready in his 'Reminiscences.'

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Biography of the British Stage, 1824; Our Actresses (by Mrs. C. Baron Wilson), 1844; The Drama, or Theatrical Pocket Magazine, vols. v. and vi.; Athenæum, 3 Feb. 1883.]

J. K.