Bicknell, M (DNB00)

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BICKNELL, M— 1695?–1723), actress, was sister of Mrs. Younger, an actress, who survived her some years. Mrs. Younger informed Mrs. Saunders, a well-known actress who had for some years quitted the stage, that her father and mother, James and Margaret Younger, were born in Scotland; that the former rode in the third troop of the Guards, and served several years in Flanders under King William, and that the latter was a Keith, ‘nearly related to the late earl marshall.’ The letter giving these facts is written from Watford to the author of the ‘History of the English Stage,’ obviously in response to a request for information, and is dated 22 June 1736. It does not appear whether the name of Bicknell, which is frequently written Bignell, was taken for the purpose of distinguishing the bearer from her sister, or whether it is that of a husband. On 7 Nov. 1706 we first hear of Mrs. Bicknell playing, at the Haymarket, ‘Edging, a Chambermaid,’ in ‘The Careless Husband’ of Cibber, her associates including Wilks, Cibber, Mrs. Oldfield, and Mrs. Barry. Subsequent years saw her appear as Miss Prue in Congreve's ‘Love for Love,’ Miss Hoyden in the ‘Relapse’ of Vanbrugh, Melantha (the great rôle of Mrs. Mountfort) in ‘Marriage à la Mode,’ and other characters of which sauciness and coquetry are the chief features. Her name appears to a petition signed by Barton Booth and other actors of Drury Lane Theatre, presented apparently about 1710 to Queen Anne, complaining of the restrictions upon the performances of the petitioners imposed by the lord chamberlain. She remained at Drury Lane from 1708 to 1721, on 14 Feb. of which year she ‘created’ the character of Lady Wrangle in Cibber's comedy, the ‘Refusal.’ Her last recorded appearance was on 2 April 1723. The ‘Daily Journal’ of 25 May following announces her death from consumption. Steele had a high opinion of her. In the ‘Tatler’ for 5 May 1709 he calls her pretty Mrs. Bignell, and in that for 16 April previous he says that in the ‘Country Wife’ she ‘did her part very happily, and had a certain grace in her rusticity, which gave us hopes of seeing her a very skilful player, and in some parts supply our loss of Mrs. Verbruggen.’ In the ‘Spectator’ for Monday, 5 May 1712, he talks of her ‘agreeable girlish person,’ and her ‘capacity of imitation,’ and in the ‘Guardian’ for 8 May 1713 he calls her his friend, and gives a singularly pleasant picture of her winning ways. Her signature to the petition mentioned above is M. Bicknell, suggesting that her name might be Margaret, like her mother.

[Genest's English Stage; History of the English Stage (Curll), 1741; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies; Chalmers's British Essayists, vols, i., xi., 16.]

J. K.