Fitzhenry, Mrs. (DNB00)

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FITZHENRY, Mrs. (d. 1790?). actress, was the daughter of an Irishman named Flannigan, who kept the old Ferry Boat tavern, Abbey Street, Dublin. She contributed by her needle to the support of her father, and married a lodger in his house, a Captain Gregory, commander of a vessel engaged in the trade between Dublin and Bordeaux. After the death, by drowning, of her husband, followed by that of her father, she proceeded to London in 1753 and appeared at Covent Garden 10 Jan. 1754 as Mrs. Gregory, 'her first appearance upon any stage,' playing Hermione in the 'Distressed Mother.' Alicia in 'Jane Shore' followed, 23 March 1754, Her Irish accent impeded her success, and at the end of the season she went, at a salary of 300l., soon raised to 400l., to Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, under Sowdon and Victor, where she appeared (?3 Jan, 1755) as Hermione, and played (14 March 1755) Zara in the 'Mourning Bride,' Zaphira in 'Barbarossa' (2 Feb, 1756), and Volumnia in 'Coriolanus.' These representations gained her high reputation. On 5 Jan. 17C7 she reappeared at Covent Garden as Hermione, and added to her repertory Calista in the 'Fair Penitent,' and for her benefit Lady Macbeth. About this time she married Fitzhenry, a lawyer, by whom she had a son and a daughter. He also predeceased her. She reappeared at Smock Alley in October 1757 as Mrs. Fitzhenry in Calista. At one or other of the Dublin theatres, between 1759 and 1764, she played Isabella in 'Measure for Measure,' Emilia in 'Othello,' Cleopatra in 'All for Love,' the Queen in 'Hamlet' (then held to be a character of primary importance), Mandane in the 'Orphan of China,' Queen Katharine, and other parts. On 15 Oct. 1765, as Calista, she made her first appearance at Drury Lane, and added to her characters, 9 April 1766, Roxana in the 'Rival Queens.' Returning to Dublin she played at Smock Alley or Crow Street theatres, both for a time under the management of Mossop, the Countess of Salisbury and Aspasia in 'Tamerlane.' Her last recorded appearance was at Smock Alley 1773-4 as Mrs. Belleville in the 'School for Wives.' Not long after this she retired with a competency and lived with her two children. She returned to the stage, Genest supposes, on no very strong evidence, about 1782-3, and acted successfully many of her old parts. She then finally retired, and is said to have died at Bath in 1790. The date and place are doubted by Genest, a resident in Bath, who thinks there is a confusion between her and Mrs. Fitzmaurice, who died in Bath about this epoch. The monthly obituary of the 'European Magazine' for November and December 1790 says: '11 Dec. Lately in Ireland, Mrs. Fitzhenry, a celebrated actress.' Mrs. Fitzhenry was an excellent actress. She lacked, however, the personal beauty of Mrs. Yates, to whom she was opposed by the Dublin managers, and was in consequence treated with much discourtesy and cruelty in Dublin. Her acting was original, and her character blameless. She was prudent, and it may almost be said sharp, in pecuniary affairs.

[The chief authority for the life of Mrs. Fitzhenry is the Thespian Dictionary, a not very trustworthy production. Other works from which information has been derived are Genest's Account of the English Stage; Hitchcock's View of the Irish Stage; Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. v. 372. A notice in Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror is copied from the Thespian Dictionary.]

J. K.