Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mattocks, Isabella

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MATTOCKS, ISABELLA (1746–1826), actress, was the daughter of a low comedian named Lewis Hallam, who acted at the older theatre in Goodman's Fields (not to be confounded with the Goodman's Fields theatre), of which his brother William Hallam, founder of a theatrical ‘dynasty’ in America, was manager. At this house, sometimes known as the New Wells, Leman Street, Goodman's Fields, there were three Hallams, Hallam sen., Lewis Hallam, and George Hallam (Genest), besides a Mrs. Hallam. The relations of the various members of this family, or families of this name, have received much attention in America, but nothing very definite is known. The ‘New Monthly Magazine’ for 1826, in a eulogistic article full of errors, speaks of the Hallam killed by Macklin as her father, which he was not. He does not appear even to have been her grandfather. Mrs. Hallam, who became in America by marriage a Mrs. Douglass, was a relative of Rich of Covent Garden, and was the mother of Isabella Hallam. Left behind by her father and mother upon their departure for America, Isabella was educated by her aunt, Mrs. Barrington, also an actress. She is said to have played at Covent Garden, when four-and-a-half years old, the part of the Parish Girl in ‘What d'ye Call It?’ and, not long after, the child in ‘Coriolanus.’ Her first traceable appearance is, however, given vaguely by Genest, 1752–3, at Covent Garden, as the Duke of York in ‘King Richard III.’ On 14 Feb. she was Page in the ‘Orphan’ to the Monimia of Mrs. Bellamy, 10 Dec. 1754; the child in ‘Coriolanus,’ assigned to Thomas Sheridan, 19 Feb. 1757; Page in ‘Rover.’ Mattocks, subsequently her husband (d. 1804), appeared for the first time at Covent Garden as Macheath, 1 Nov. 1757, and on the 5th Miss Hallam played the Boy in ‘King Henry V.’ On 22 April 1757 she was Robin in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ her aunt, Mrs. Barrington, being Mrs. Page. On 10 April 1761, for Barrington's benefit, she played Juliet to the Romeo of Ross. She was announced as ‘a young gentlewoman, being her first appearance (as a woman).’ She repeated this performance 22 April 1762. In 1762–3 she was regularly engaged, playing Dorinda in the ‘(Beaux) Stratagem,’ Isabella in the ‘Wonder,’ Isabinda in the ‘Busy Body,’ Parisatis in the ‘Rival Queens,’ the Princess in ‘King Henry V,’ Serena in the ‘Orphan,’ Selima in ‘Tamerlane,’ Sylvia in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Narcissa in ‘Love's Last Shift,’ Angelica in the ‘Constant Couple,’ the Lady in ‘Comus,’ and Miss Hoyden, and being the original Lucinda in Bickerstaffe's ‘Love in a Village,’ 8 Dec. 1762. Teresia in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Isabella in ‘Wit without Money,’ Nysa in ‘Midas’ were added to her repertory the following season, in which also she was, 9 Dec. 1763, the original Nancy in Murphy's ‘What we must all come to.’ On 29 Oct. 1764 she played Cordelia for the first time, and was subsequently Lady Harriet in the ‘Funeral,’ was the original Lady Julia in Arne's ‘Guardian Outwitted,’ 12 Dec. 1764, the original Theodosia in Bickerstaffe's ‘Maid of the Mill,’ 31 July 1765, and 19 Feb. Polly in the same play.

On 24 April 1765, for her own benefit, as Mrs. Mattocks late Miss Hallam, she played the Lady in ‘Comus’ and Sophy in the ‘Musical Lady’ of George Colman, not previously seen at Covent Garden. On 2 May she was the original Elvira in the ‘Spanish Lady,’ attributed to Hull, her husband playing Worthy. A few days later she played Maria in the ‘Citizen.’ Until her retirement in 1808 she remained at Covent Garden, of which she became a chief support. In the seasons of 1784–5 and 1785–6 she was apparently not engaged, and in the summers of 1772–5 inclusive, and probably in very many others, she played an extensive range of characters in Liverpool, where her husband became manager of a theatre. She played also with him at Portsmouth, where he was for a time a manager. On 22 June she made her first appearance at the Haymarket, playing for the first time Mrs. Oakley to the Oakley of Pope. Among the characters entrusted to her at Covent Garden were Hermione, Lucia in ‘Cato,’ Rosetta in ‘Love in a Village,’ Lucy Lockit, Phædra in ‘Amphitryon,’ Roxana, Octavia in ‘All for Love,’ Statira, Elvira in ‘Spanish Friar,’ Clarissa in ‘Lionel and Clarissa,’ Julia in ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona,’ Leonora in ‘Revenge,’ Miss Prue, Charlotte Rusport, Celia in ‘As you like it,’ Queen in ‘Richard III,’ Lydia Languish, Æmilia in ‘Othello,’ Audrey, and Tilburina. In Liverpool she was seen, among many other parts both tragic and comic, as Monimia in the ‘Orphan,’ Portia in the ‘Merchant of Venice,’ Angelica in ‘Love for Love,’ Constance in ‘King John,’ Julia in the ‘Rivals,’ Rosalind, Imogen, and Helena in ‘All's well that ends well.’ Her original parts at Covent Garden were numerous. She was, 6 Dec. 1765, the first Amelia in ‘Summer's Tale,’ a three-act musical comedy by Cumberland, whose first acted piece it was. Her singing saved it, and it was reduced to two acts and rechristened ‘Amelia,’ 3 Dec. 1766; Fanny, the heroine of the ‘Accomplished Maid,’ a translation by Toms of ‘La Buona Figliuola;’ Priscilla in Bickerstaffe's ‘Love in the City,’ 21 Feb. 1767, in which she acted ‘inimitably;’ Gertrude in the ‘Royal Merchant,’ 14 Dec. 1767, founded by Hull on the ‘Beggar's Bush’ of Beaumont and Fletcher; Olivia in the ‘Good-natured Man,’ 29 Jan. 1768; Aspasia in ‘Cyrus,’ adapted by John Hoole, 3 Dec. 1768; Honour in ‘Tom Jones,’ 14 Jan. 1769, translated from the ‘Tom Jones’ of Poinsinet, given in Paris at the Théâtre des Italiens four years previously; Lettice in Colman's ‘Man and Wife,’ 7 Oct. 1769; Lucy Waters in Cumberland's ‘Brothers,’ 2 Dec. 1769. Genest in error assigns to her Sophia, which was played by Mrs. Yates; Albina in Mason's ‘Elfrida,’ 21 Nov. 1772; Jenny in O'Hara's ‘Two Misers,’ 21 Jan. 1775; Daraxa in ‘Edward and Eleonora,’ 18 March 1775, altered from Thomson by Hull; Louisa in the ‘Duenna,’ 21 Nov. 1775; Priscilla Tomboy in the ‘Romp,’ 28 March 1778; Mrs. Racket in the ‘Belle's Stratagem,’ 22 Feb. 1780; Sophy in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Which is the Man,’ 9 Feb. 1782; Olivia in Mrs. Cowley's ‘A Bold Stroke for a Husband,’ 25 Feb. 1783; Lady Tremor in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Such things are,’ 10 Feb. 1787; Betty Blackberry in Colman's ‘Farmer,’ 31 Oct. 1787; Marchioness Merida in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Child of Nature,’ 28 Nov. 1788; Lady Peckham in the ‘School for Arrogance,’ 4 Feb. 1791, Holcroft's adaptation of ‘Le Glorieux’ of Destouches; Mrs. Warren in Holcroft's ‘Road to Ruin,’ 18 Feb. 1792; Miss Vortex in Morton's ‘Cure for the Heartache,’ 10 Jan. 1797; Miss Lucretia McTab in the younger Colman's ‘Poor Gentleman,’ 11 Feb. 1801; Camilla in ‘Monk’ Lewis's ‘Rugantino,’ 18 Oct. 1805. Her last original parts were Mrs. Trot in Morton's ‘Town and Country,’ 10 March 1807, and Lady Wrangle in ‘Too Friendly by Half,’ 29 Oct. 1807, an unprinted and anonymous piece. On 7 June 1808, for her benefit, Mrs. Mattocks appeared for the last time, playing Flora in the ‘Wonder,’ Cooke recited Garrick's ‘Ode,’ and Mrs. Mattocks then took her leave of the public in a prose address which was found ‘very affecting.’ She claimed to have been on the stage (Covent Garden) fifty-eight years. During later years her salary had been reduced. After the death of her husband, ruined by his Liverpool management, Mrs. Mattocks settled a portion on her daughter, retired to Kensington, and confided to her son-in-law, a barrister named Hewson, the management of her fortune of 6,000l., which before her premature death he spent. On 24 May 1813 a benefit was given her at the Opera House, in which Mrs. Jordan, Quick, Fawcett, Palmer, Benham, &c., took part. She delivered a further address. The sum realised, amounting to 1,092l., was invested in an annuity for the actress, with some reversion for her daughter. She died 25 June 1826, at Kensington. An indifferent performer in tragedy and a second-rate singer in opera, Mrs. Mattocks rose to the front rank in comedy. In light and genteel comedy she obtained a distinct success, but her triumph was in chambermaids. Her best parts were Betty Hint in the ‘Man of the World,’ Mrs. Racket, Mrs. Brittle, Betty Blackberry, Camilla in ‘Rugantino,’ Mrs. Placid, Mrs. Cockletop in ‘Modern Antiques,’ and Lucretia MacTab. The ‘Theatrical Biography’ of 1772 credits her with ability to realise her parts, with sensibility, a pleasing person, and an agreeable voice. It says that she eloped to France to marry her husband, who was more of a singer than an actor, more than hints that the marriage was unhappy, and states that Mrs. Mattocks was closely intimate with Robert Bensley [q. v.] O'Keeffe says that her talents were of the first order, and associates her Betty Blackberry with Edwin's Jemmy Jumps as a treat of the highest order. He speaks also of Mattocks as a gentleman, and point-device beloved and respected. Boaden declares that Mrs. Mattocks left no successor on the English stage, and the ‘Monthly Mirror’ speaks of Mrs. Davenport as vastly her inferior. With Quick and Lewis she formed an irresistible trio. She was a good hand at reciting the prologues of Miles, Peter Andrews, and others, and Anthony Pasquin, after some severe strictures, says in his ‘Children of Thespis:’

Her Peckhams, her Flirts, and her Adelaides charm me,
And her epilogue-speaking can gladden and warm me.

Portraits of her by De Wilde as Lady Restless in ‘All in the Wrong’ and by Dupont as Louisa in the ‘Duenna’ are in the Garrick Club.

[Seilhamer's History of the American Theatre, Philadelphia, privately printed; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Theatrical Biography, 1772; Monthly Mirror, 18 June 1808; New Monthly Magazine; Boaden's Life; Mrs. Inchbald's Life of Kemble; Bernard's Reminiscences; O'Keeffe's Memoirs; Georgian Era; Clark Russell's Representative Actors; Thespian Dict.; Dunlap's Hist. of the American Theatre; Gilliland's Dramatick Mirror.]

J. K.