Saunders, Margaret (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

SAUNDERS, MARGARET (fl. 1702–1744), actress, was the daughter of Jonathan Saunders, a wine cooper, and grandchild on her mother's side of Captain Wallis, ‘a sea officer,’ of Weymouth, in which town she was born in 1686. After receiving an education at a boarding-school at Steeple Aston, Wiltshire, she was apprenticed to Mrs. Fane, a milliner in Catherine Street, Strand, London. In 1702, at the age of sixteen, as she herself states, she was brought out at Drury Lane Theatre through the influence of her friend, Anne Oldfield [q. v.] Her first recorded appearance took place at the Haymarket on 18 Oct. 1707, when she played Flareit in Cibber's ‘Love's Last Shift.’ On the 22nd she played Mrs. Littlewit in ‘Bartholomew Fair;’ on 1 Nov. the original Wishwell in Cibber's ‘Double Gallant;’ on the 11th played Fairlove in the ‘Tender Husband;’ on the 18th Sentry in ‘She would if she could;’ and 1 Jan. 1708 Amie in the ‘Jovial Crew.’ Her reputation as a chambermaid was by this time established. At Drury Lane she was on 6 Feb. Isabella in the ‘Country Wit,’ playing during the season Olinda in ‘Marriage à-la-mode,’ Lucy in the ‘Old Bachelor,’ Doris in ‘Æsop,’ Lucy in ‘Bury Fair,’ Miss Molly in ‘Love for Money,’ and during the summer season Phœbe in the ‘Debauchee, or a New Way to pay Old Debts.’ In 1708–9 she was Phædra in ‘Amphitryon,’ Mrs. Bisket in ‘Epsom Wells,’ Lady Haughty in the ‘Silent Woman,’ Edging in the ‘Careless Husband,’ and was on 12 May 1709 the original Patch in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Busy Body.’ With the associated actors at the Haymarket in 1709–10 she played, in addition to her old parts, Parley in the ‘Constant Couple,’ Moretta in Mrs. Behn's ‘Rover,’ Prudence in the ‘Amorous Widow,’ and Lucy in the ‘Yeoman of Kent,’ and was, on 12 Nov. 1709, the original Dorothy in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Man's Bewitched,’ and on 1 May 1710 the first Cassata in Charles Johnson's ‘Love in a Chest.’ Once more at Drury Lane, she was seen as Rose in ‘Sir Martin Marrall,’ Æmilia in ‘Othello,’ and Doll Common in the ‘Alchemist,’ and was, on 7 April 1711, the original Pomade in ‘Injured Love.’ With the summer company she was Teresia in the ‘Volunteers.’ On 19 Jan. 1712 she was the first Florella in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Perplexed Lovers,’ and played for her benefit Rutland in the ‘Unhappy Favourite.’ In the summer she was seen as Aurelia in the ‘Guardian.’ On 7 Nov. she was the original Lesbia in Charles Johnson's ‘Successful Pirate.’ In Gay's ‘Wife of Bath,’ on 12 May 1713, she was the original Busie, and on 25 Nov. in the ‘Apparition, or the Sham Wedding’ (‘by a Gentleman of Oxford’), the original Buisy (sic). On 27 April 1714 she was the first Flora in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Wonder.’ Lady Fidget in the ‘Country Wife’ and Viletta in ‘She would and she would not’ were assumed in 1714–15, and in the summer Mrs. Raison in ‘Greenwich Park.’ In the following season she was Hartshorn in the ‘Lady's Last Stake’ and Lady Laycock in the ‘Amorous Widow.’ On 10 March 1716 she was the original Abigail in Addison's ‘Drummer.’ Jenny in the ‘Comical Revenge,’ Widow Lackit in ‘Oroonoko,’ and Lady Wouldbe in ‘Volpone’ followed in the next season. On 19 Feb. 1718 she was the original Prudentia in ‘The Play is the Plot’ by Breval. She also played Lady Wishfort in the ‘Way of the World.’ On 13 April 1721 she appeared as Tattleaid in the ‘Funeral.’ This is the last time her name is traceable as a member of the company. In consequence of ‘a very violent asthmatical indisposition,’ she was compelled permanently to quit the stage. For the last benefit of Mrs. Younger she returned to the boards for one night, and played Lady Wishfort. This was presumably at Covent Garden in 1733–4. On 19 Jan. 1744, ‘by command of the Duke,’ a performance of ‘Julius Cæsar’ and the ‘Devil to Pay’ was given ‘for the benefit of Mrs. Saunders, many years a comedian at the Theatre Royal.’ Mrs. Saunders apologised for not waiting upon her patrons, ‘she not having been able to go out of her house these eighteen months.’

Mrs. Saunders appears to have been unsurpassed in certain kinds of chambermaids. Davies praises her decayed widows, nurses, and old maids; Doran speaks of her as the very pearl of chambermaids. On her retirement she became a friend and confidential attendant on Mrs. Oldfield. She is supposed to have been the Betty of Pope's ill-natured satire on Mrs. Oldfield, beginning ‘Odious in woollen,’ and ending ‘And, Betty, give this cheek a little red.’ She wrote a letter to Curll, inserted in his ‘Memoirs of Mrs. Oldfield,’ in which she gives a very edifying account of Mrs. Oldfield's end, and a second letter, dated from Watford on 22 June 1730, supplying information concerning Mrs. Bignell [see Bicknell] and her sister, Mrs. Younger. Mrs. Oldfield left her by will an allowance of 10l. a year, to be paid quarterly.

[Betterton's (Curll's) Hist. of the English Stage, and Memoirs of Mrs. Anne Oldfield; Egerton's Memoirs of Mrs. Anne Oldfield; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe.]

J. K.