Thurmond, Mrs. (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56
Thurmond, Mrs.

by John Joseph Knight
Sarah Thurmond (died 1762) in the ODNB.

THURMOND, Mrs. (fl. 1715–1737), actress (whose maiden name was Lewis), was born at Epsom in Surrey, and married John Thurmond the younger, a dancer, in Dublin. John Thurmond, her husband, was, says Chetwood, a good stage dancer, a person of ‘clean head [sic] and a clear heart, and inherits the mirth and humour of his late father.’ He contrived many profitable pantomimes for Drury Lane, and was occasionally trusted with a part (his first speaking part appears to have been Tattle in ‘Love for Love’ on 10 Aug. 1726), but, says Chetwood, ‘left the practice before it left him.’

Mrs. Thurmond's father-in-law, John Thurmond the elder, was acting at the same time and at the same theatres as his son, and played important parts. He was a partner with Thomas Elrington [q. v.] at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, where he played Phæax in ‘Timon of Athens.’ He was a popular and convivial man, concerning whom Chetwood tells a comical story, and he died a member of the Drury Lane company. Confusion between father and son is inevitable. It was the father who played Hamlet at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and probably the son who, at the same house, was Scaramouch to the Harlequin of Lun (Rich). The name of Thurmond appears also at Drury Lane to Kent in ‘Lear,’ Julius Cæsar, Balance in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Sir E. Belfond in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Brabantio, Saturninus in ‘Titus Andronicus,’ and Portius in ‘Cato.’ His name is frequently on the bills until about 1726.

It is possible that Mrs. Thurmond was first seen on the stage at Dublin. The name of Mrs. Thurmond appears to Ruth in the ‘Committee’ and Evandra in Shadwell's ‘Timon of Athens’ at Smock Alley Theatre (it is possible, however, that her mother-in-law, Mrs. Winifred Thurmond, may here be referred to). On 2 June 1715 dances were given at Lincoln's Inn Fields by Thurmond, jun., ‘just arrived from Ireland,’ and on the 23rd Mrs. Thurmond, ‘who never acted on this stage,’ was the original Cosmelia in the ‘Doting Lovers, or the Libertine Tamed,’ by Newburgh Hamilton, taken in part from ‘The Witty Fair One’ of Shirley. On 8 July she played Portia in Lord Lansdowne's ‘Jew of Venice,’ and on 11 Aug. Julia in Mrs. Behn's ‘False Count.’ At the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre she remained four years. Among the parts in which she was here seen were Arabella in Charles Johnson's ‘Wife's Relief’ to the Riot of her father-in-law; Corinna in ‘Woman's Revenge, or a Match in Newgate,’ adapted at secondhand by Christopher Bullock from Marston's ‘Dutch Courtezan;’ Belinda in the ‘Provoked Wife;’ Alinda in the ‘Pilgrim;’ Isabella, an original part, in Mrs. Davys's ‘Northern Heiress,’ on 27 April 1716; Mrs. Gripe in the ‘Woman Captain;’ Marcella in the ‘Feigned Courtezans;’ Gertrude in ‘Bury Fair;’ Belinda, an original part, in Taverner's ‘Artful Husband,’ on 11 Feb. 1717; Ophelia; Lætitia in the ‘Old Bachelor;’ Victoria in the ‘Fatal Marriage;’ Harriet, an original part, in Taverner's ‘Artful Wife,’ on 3 Dec.; Calista in the ‘Fair Penitent;’ Peg in ‘Sawney the Scot,’ Lacy's adaptation of ‘Taming the Shrew;’ and Arpasia in ‘Tamerlane.’ She was seen in three more original characters—Almeyda in Beckingham's ‘Scipio Africanus’ on 18 Feb. 1718; Julia in Molloy's ‘Coquet, or the English Chevalier,’ on 19 April; and Lady Plotwell in Settle's ‘Lady's Triumph,’ the exact date of which is not known. While at this house she was seen and approved by Booth, Wilkes, and Cibber, the managers of Drury Lane, who decided to engage her at an advanced price; while Booth is said to have been at some pains to instruct her up to a higher pitch in tragedy than she had hitherto attained (Davies).

On 8 Nov., as Aspatia in the ‘Maid's Tragedy,’ Mrs. Thurmond made her first appearance at Drury Lane, where she remained until 1732. Principal among the many parts assigned here were Almeria in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Hypolita in ‘She would and she would not,’ Alcmena in ‘Amphitryon,’ Desdemona, Angelica in ‘Love for Love,’ Lady Macduff, Rutland in the ‘Unhappy Favourite,’ Leonora in ‘Sir Courtly Nice,’ Queen in the ‘Spanish Friar,’ Gertrude in ‘Hamlet,’ Narcissa in ‘Love's Last Shift,’ Portia in ‘Julius Cæsar,’ Ruth in the ‘Committee,’ Imoinda in ‘Oroonoko,’ Epicœne in the ‘Silent Woman,’ Bisarre in the ‘Inconstant,’ Mrs. Conquest in the ‘Lady's Last Stake,’ Sylvia in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Arabella in the ‘Fair Quaker,’ Lamira in the ‘Little French Lawyer,’ Evandra in ‘Timon of Athens,’ Cassandra in ‘Cleomenes,’ Termagant in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Widow Taffata in ‘Ram Alley,’ and Lady Wronghead in the ‘Provoked Husband.’

Among many original parts in pieces mostly of little interest the following may be mentioned: Moderna in ‘Chit Chat,’ by Thomas Killigrew the younger [q. v.], on 14 Feb. 1719; Myris in Young's ‘Busiris,’ on 7 March; Virgilia in the ‘Invader of his Country, or the Fatal Resentment’ (Dennis's alteration of ‘Coriolanus’), on 11 Nov.; Widow Headless in Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Artifice,’ on 2 Oct. 1722; Isabella in Steele's ‘Conscious Lovers,’ on 7 Nov.; Celia in ‘Love in a Forest’ (altered from ‘As you like it’ on 9 Jan. 1723); Harriet in Hill's alteration of ‘Henry V,’ on 5 Dec.; Creusa in Johnson's ‘Medea,’ on 11 Dec. 1730; Lætitia in Theophilus Cibber's ‘Lover,’ on 20 Jan. 1731.

On 18 Oct. 1732, as Almeria in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ she made her first appearance at Goodman's Fields, whither she transferred her services owing to some pique with the Drury Lane management. Here also she played Anna Bullen in ‘Virtue Betrayed,’ Polly in the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ Jane Shore, Berinthia in the ‘Relapse,’ Queen Elizabeth in the ‘Unhappy Favourite,’ Lady Charlot in the ‘Funeral,’ Roxana in the ‘Rival Queens,’ Almeria in the ‘Indian Emperor,’ and Germanicus in ‘Britannia.’

Returning to Drury Lane, where she reappeared on 7 Sept. 1734, she added to her repertory Marcia in ‘Cato,’ Queen in ‘Henry VIII’ and in ‘Richard III,’ Clarinda in the ‘Double Gallant,’ Helena (an original part, in Lillo's ‘Christian Hero’), on 13 Jan. 1735; Victoria in the ‘Fatal Marriage,’ Dorinda (an original part in James Miller's ‘Man of Taste’ on 6 March), Lady Graveairs in the ‘Careless Husband,’ Cynthia in the ‘Wife's Relief,’ Lady Brute in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ Lucy Lockit in the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ and Zara in the ‘Mourning Bride.’ The last time her name is traced is on 9 April 1737, as the Queen in Dryden's ‘Spanish Friar.’

‘She had,’ says Chettle, ‘an amiable person and a good voice. She wisely left the bustle and business of the stage in her full and ripe performance, and, at that time, left behind her but few that excelled her.’ Doran flippantly and unjustly calls her a ‘lady utility.’ The parts that she played, when she had to face the formidable competition of actresses such as Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Oldfield, and Kitty Clive, prove her to have stood in the first rank, both in comedy and tragedy. She was also a competent vocalist.

[The chief authority for the Thurmonds is Chetwood's History of the Stage. Information as to the parts they played is gathered from Genest. Hitchcock's Historical View of the Irish Stage; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe; and Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies have also been consulted.]

J. K.