1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abington, Frances
ABINGTON, FRANCES (1737–1815), English actress, was the daughter of a private soldier named Barton, and was, at first, a flower girl and a street singer. She then became servant to a French milliner, obtaining a taste in dress and a knowledge of French which afterwards stood her in good stead. Her first appearance on the stage was at the Hay market in 1755 as Miranda in Mrs Centlivre’s Busybody. In 1756, on the recommendation of Samuel Foote, she became a member of the Drury Lane company, where she was overshadowed by Mrs Pritchard and Kitty Clive. In 1759, after an unhappy marriage with her music-master, one of the royal trumpeters, she is mentioned in the bills as Mrs Abington. Her first success was in Ireland as Lady Townley, and it was only after five years, on the pressing invitation of Garrick, that she returned to Drury Lane. There she remained for eighteen years, being the original of more than thirty important characters, notably Lady Teazle (1777). Her Beatrice, Portia, Desdemona and Ophelia were no less liked than her Miss Hoyden, Biddy Tipkin, Lucy Lockit and Miss Prue. It was in the last character in Love for Love that Reynolds painted his best portrait of her. In 1782 she left Drury Lane for Covent Garden. After an absence from the stage from 1790 until 1797, she reappeared, quitting it finally in 1799. Her ambition, personal wit and cleverness won her a distinguished position in society, in spite of her humble origin. Women of fashion copied her frocks, and a head-dress she wore was widely adopted and known as the “Abington cap.” She died on the 4th of March 1815.