Hartley, Elizabeth (DNB00)
|←Hartley, David (1732-1813)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25
HARTLEY, Mrs. ELIZABETH (1751–1824), actress, the daughter of James and Eleanor White of Berrow, Somerset, was born in 1751, and made her appearance at the Haymarket under Foote, assumably in 1769 as Imoinda in 'Oroonoko.' After playing in the country, she made, as Monimia in the 'Orphan,' her first appearance in Edinburgh, 4 Dec. 1771. Garrick, who had heard of her remarkable beauty, commissioned Moody, the actor, to report upon her. Under date 20 July 1772, Moody writes: 'Mrs. Hartley is a good figure, with a handsome, small face, and very much freckled; her hair red, and her neck and shoulders well turned. There is not the least harmony in her voice, but when forced (which she never fails to do on every occasion) is loud and strong, but such an inarticulate gabble that you must be well acquainted with her part to understand her. She is ignorant and stubborn. . . . She has a husband, a precious fool, that she heartily despises. She talks lusciously, and has a slovenly good nature about her that renders her prodigiously vulgar' (Garrick Corresp. i. 470). In spite of these drawbacks Moody counselled her engagement at Drury Lane. It was at Covent Garden, however, that she appeared, 5 Oct. 1772, as Jane Shore. In the 'Town and Country Magazine' for 1772, p. 545, it is said concerning her debut, 'she is deserving of much praise, her figure is elegant, her countenance pleasing and expressive, her voice in general melodious (!), and her action just.' She remained at Covent Garden playing principally in tragedy, and was the original Elfrida in Mason's tragedy, 21 Nov. 1772; Orellana in Murphy's Alzuma,' 23 Feb. 1773; Rosamond in Hull's 'Henry II,' 1 May 1773;
Cleonice in Hoole's play of that.name, 2 March 1775; Evelina in Mason's' Caractacus,' 6 Dec. 1776; Isabella in 'Sir Thomas Overbury,' altered from Savage, 1 Feb. 1777; Miss Neville in Murphy's 'Know your own Mind,' 22 Feb. 1777; Rena in 'Buthred,' 8 Dec. 1778; Julia in the 'Fatal Falsehood' of Hannah More, 6 May 1779; and Lady Frances Touchwood in Mrs. Cowley's 'Belle s Stratagem,' 22 Feb. 1780. Among other characters she played were Queen Catherine, Lady Macbeth, Hermione, Marcia in 'Goto,' Olivia, Cordelia, Desdemona, Queen Margaret in Richard III, Cleopatra in 'All for Love,' and Leonora in the 'Revenge.' At the close of the season of 1779-80 she left the stage. She died in King Street, Woolwich, 1 Feb. 1824, leaving a fair estate, and was buried, 6 Feb., under the name of White.
Genest says: 'She was a very beautiful woman, and a good actress in parts that were not beyond her powers; her forte was tenderness, not rage; her personal appearance made her peculiarly well qualified for such parts as Elfrida and Rosamond.' She was a favourite subject with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and appears as an example of female beauty in many of his pictures. Three paintings are professed portraits of her as Jane Shore, as Calista, and as a Bacchante respectively. Her beauty appears to have been remarkable; Garrick declared that he never saw a finer creature; Boaden says that Sir Joshua does not do her justice, and adds: 'The author could not have wished a more perfect face and form than this lady possessed upon the stage' (Life of Siddons, i. 104). Northcote has praised her exceptional beauty of figure and colouring. Leslie and Taylor say that when Reynolds complimented her on her beauty she said, 'Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure 'tis as freckled as a toad's belly.' She was very reticent, and refused in later years to gratify those who sought particulars concerning her early life. She is said in the 'Macaroni Magazine' to have been the original of Cosway's 'Venus Victrix.' A portrait of her by Angelica Kauffmann and one as Andromache in the 'Distressed Mother' by Sherwin are in the Mathews collection in the Garrick Club. Mezzotint engravings of her by W. Dickinson, after J. Nixon, as Elfrida; by R. Houston, after H. D. Hamilton, 1774; by G. Marchi, after Reynolds, 1773, with her child; and by J. K. Sherwin as Andromache, 1782, are mentioned by Bromley (Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, p. 438). An account of a quarrel concerning her between Sir Henry Bate Dudley, who married her sister Mary, and a Mr. Fitzgerald is given in Phillips's 'Public Characters,' viii. 521. By her will, dated 25 Jan. 1824, and proved 25 Feb. 1824, she left 100l. to the Covent Garden Theatrical Fund.[Works cited; Genest'e Account of the Stage; Marshall's Lives of Actors and Actresses; New Monthly Magazine, 1824; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. vol. viii. passim; Clark Bussell's Representative Actors.]