Humby, Mrs. (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 28
Humby, Mrs.

by John Joseph Knight
1904 Errata appended. Anne Humby in the ODNB.

HUMBY, Mrs. (fl. 1817–1849), actress, was born in London, her maiden name being Ayre. She studied music under Domenico Corri. Fitzgerald, who succeeded Tate Wilkinson on the York circuit, engaged her, and she made, as a singer, her first appearance in Hull as Rosina. Humby, a dentist and a member of the Hull company, married her at York during her first season. She then went to Bath, where she appeared, 4 Nov. 1818, as Rosetta in `Love in a Village.' Genest declares her at that time a much better actress than singers usually are. Among the parts she played during this and the following season were Euphrosyne in `Comus,' Luciana in the `Comedy of Errors,' to her husband's Antipholus of Ephesus, Araminta in the `Young Quaker,' Audrey in 'As you like it,' and Dorinda in an adaptation of the 'Tempest.' In 1820 she left Bath, and in 1821 was with her husband in Dublin, where a child was born to them. She reappeared on the Dublin stage as Rosa in the `Rendezvous' on 5 Jan. 1822, and on the 29th was Lucy Locket in the 'Beggar's Opera.' On 18 April 1825, as Mrs. Humby from Dublin, she played Cowslip in the 'Agreeable Surprise.' Dollalolla in 'Tom Thumb,' Maud in 'Peeping Tom,' Audrey, Miss Jenny in the 'Provoked Husband,' and Cicely in the `Heir-at-Law ' followed. She afterwards appeared at the Haymarket during several seasons, and subsequently at Drury Lane. Her later movements cannot easily be traced. She had acquired an unrivalled reputation as a representative of pert and cunning chambermaids, and her Patch in the 'Busy Body,' her Kitty in 'High Life below Stairs,' her Audrey, and other similar characters, won her high reputation. When, however, she essayed Lydia Languish at the Haymarket and other ambitious parts, she failed. The 'Dramatic Magazine,' 1 Aug. 1829, says she is 'admirable as the representative of waiting-maids and milliners,' but 'does not possess the refined and delicate manners requisite for the heroines of genteel comedy. Her Maria Darlington was by no means good' (i. 161). Charles J. Mathews speaks of her as a young and pretty woman, inimitable as the Bride in the 'Happiest Day of my Life,' Cowslip, and other similar characters. Her representation of Lady Clutterbuck in 'Used up,' of which she was the original exponent, he calls 'delicious,' adding that every word she spoke was `a gem.' Her `intelligent by-play and the crisp smack of her delivery gave a fillip to the scene when the author himself had furnished nothing particularly witty or humorous' (Letter quoted in Memoir of Henry Compton, pp. 286-94). She was the original Chicken in Douglas Jerrold's 'Time works Wonders,' Polly Briggs in his 'Rent Day,' and Sophy Hawes in his 'Housekeeper.' Macready in his diary, 19 July 1837, says: `Spoke to Mrs. Humby, and engaged her for 6l. 10s. a week' (ii. 78). She appears to have been acting in 1844, and in the autumn of 1849 was at the Lyceum, but her later performances, with the dates of her retirement from the stage and death, are untraceable. The late E. L. Blanchard said that she had been seen alive and in obscurity a very few years ago. A not too delicate epigram upon her did something to popularise her name. Her first intention was to appear as a singer; her voice, however, gave way, and her musical performances rarely extended beyond singing chambermaids. Humby practised as a dentist in Wellington Street, Strand, and died in Guernsey. Mrs. Humby subsequently married a stonemason residing at Castelnau Villas, Hammersmith.

[Books cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Theatrical Observer, vols. vii. viii. Dublin, 1820-1; Dramatic Mag. 1829; Our Actresses, by Mrs. Baron Wilson, 1844; private information.]

J. K.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.162
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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207 ii 27 Humby, Mrs.: for Mrs. read Mrs. Anne