Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/57

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23
MARIA FOOTE

and his wife as a lady, took a small inn in Exeter, in 1811, lost his wife's fortune, became the dupe of rogues, and was ruined.

The fame of Maria Foote's beauty and charm of manner had reached London, and in May, 1814, she made her first appearance at Covent Garden Theatre, and personated Amanthis in "The Child of Nature" with such grace and effect that the manager complimented her with an immediate engagement. Young, beautiful, intelligent, and with natural refinement, she was almost the creature she represented. A liberal salary was assigned to her, and the managers always considered the announcement of her name as certain of obtaining for them a crowded house. That she had no pretensions to a rank higher than that of a second-rate actress must, perhaps, be allowed. "I was never a great actress," she used to say in later life, "though people thought me fascinating, and that I suppose I was."

She was always dressed tastefully, looked charming, and was a universal favourite among the lobby loungers. A writer in The Drama for 1825 says: "To those who know nothing of a theatre, it may be new to tell them that an interesting girl is in the jaws of ruin, who enters it as an actress, unless watched and protected by her family and friends. Constantly exposed to the gaze of men—inflaming a hundred heads, and agitating a thousand hearts, if she be as Maria was, fascinating and amiable—surrounded by old wretches as dressers, who are the constant conveyers of letters, sonnets and flattery—dazzled by the thunders of public applause, and softened by the incense of a thousand sighs, breathed audibly from the front of the pit or the stage boxes—associating in the green-room with licensed married