Kennedy, Mrs. (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30
Kennedy, Mrs.

by Lydia Miller Middleton
Margaret Kennedy in the ODNB.

KENNEDY, Mrs., or Farrell, Mrs. (d. 1793), actress and vocalist, a native of Ireland, is said to have been a waiting-woman at an inn in the neighbourhood of St. Giles's, London, where she sang to the guests. The fine quality of her contralto voice so much pleased Dr. Arne, who had been brought by some musicians to hear her, that he undertook her musical education (Parke, Musical Memoirs, p. 27). Mrs. Farrell, as she was then called, first appeared on the stage in the part of the third bard in ‘Caractacus,’ with Arne's music, on 6 Dec. 1776, at Covent Garden. The enthusiasm aroused by the exceptional quality and deep compass of her voice, her intelligence, and her excellent enunciation, was proof against her plain features and clumsy figure. But when she appeared as Ariel, the ‘Morning Post’ remarked that Ariel ‘was a full head and shoulders taller and some few inches wider in the girth than Prospero,’ played by Hull. Mrs. Farrell's chief successes were gained in male parts: Artaxerxes (to Miss Catley's Mandane, 25 Jan. 1777), Belford in ‘Love Finds the Way,’ Colin in Dibdin's ‘Rose and Colin,’ and other musical farces, and especially as Captain Macheath in the ‘Beggar's Opera’ in October 1777, when protests were raised against the personation of the hero by a woman, and the introduction by her of Arne's ‘A-hunting we will go.’

Mrs. Farrell married Dr. Kennedy on 24 Jan. 1779. She sang Young Meadows in ‘Love in a Village,’ and Don Carlos in the ‘Duenna’ in that year. Mrs. Kennedy's other parts, which were all performed at Covent Garden, were Don Alphonso, with Sestini as Lorenza (‘Castle of Andalusia,’ 2 Nov. 1782), William (‘Rosina,’ 31 Dec. 1782), Pat (‘Poor Soldier,’ 4 Nov. 1783), Margaret (17 April) and Allen-a-Dale (‘Robin Hood,’ 13 Oct. 1784), a Jockey (‘Fontainebleau,’ 16 Nov. 1784), Oediddee (‘Omai,’ 20 Dec. 1785), Saib (‘Love and War,’ 12 March 1787), Peggy (‘Marian,’ 22 May 1788), Huncamunca (‘Tom Thumb,’ 3 June 1788), and Mrs. Casey in ‘Fontainebleau,’ for Mrs. Billington's benefit, 20 May 1789.

Mrs. Kennedy also sang at concerts, Vauxhall Gardens, the Drury Lane oratorios (1778–84), the Handel commemorations of 1784, 1786, and 1791, and the fête at Frogmore in 1791 (Parke; Papendiek). She died at Bayswater House on 23 Jan. 1793.

[A B C Dario, p. 29; Papendiek's Journal, i. 225, 256, ii. 254, 295; Parke's Musical Memoirs, i. 27, 132; New Morning Post for 7 Dec. 1776; Morning Chronicle, 7 Dec. 1776; Public Advertiser, 18 Oct. 1777, and 1776–89 passim; European Mag. xxiii. 160.]

L. M. M.