Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hunt, Arabella

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HUNT, ARABELLA (d. 1705), vocalist and lutenist, was celebrated for her beauty and talents. The Princess Anne had lessons from her, and Queen Mary found her some employment in the royal household in order to enjoy her singing. Hawkins tells with great detail (History, iii. 564) how the queen, after listening to some of Purcell's music performed by Mrs. Hunt, Gostling, and the composer, abruptly asked the lady to sing an old Scottish ditty. Mrs. Hunt's voice was said by a contemporary to be like the pipe of a bullfinch; she also was credited with an `exquisite hand on the lute.' She was admired and respected by the best wits of the time; Blow and Purcell wrote difficult music for her; John Hughes [q.v.], the poet, was her friend; Congreve wrote a long irregular ode on `Mrs. Arabella Hunt singing,' and after her death penned an epigram under a portrait of her sitting on a bank singing. The painting was by Kneller. There are mezzotints by Smith (1706) and Grignion; and Hawkins gives a vignette in his 'History' (iii. 761). Mrs. Hunt died 26 Dec. 1705. In her will, proved 6 Feb. 1706, she is described as of the parish of St. Martin-inthe-Fields. She left her property to her 'dear mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Hunt.'

[Noble's Continuation of Granger, i. 351; Registers P. C. C. Edes, f.40; authorities cited.]

L. M. M.