Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pope, Elizabeth

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POPE, Mrs. ELIZABETH (1744?–1797), actress, and first wife of Alexander Pope [q. v.] the actor, was born about 1744 near Old Gravel Lane, Southwark. Her parents are said to have been named Younge. In girlhood she was apprenticed to a milliner. Furnished with a letter of introduction, she went to Garrick, who, pleased with her abilities, put her forward. As ‘Miss Younge’ she made accordingly, at Drury Lane on 22 Oct. 1768, her first appearance upon any stage, in the part of Imogen. She won immediate recognition, and, the death of Mrs. Hannah Pritchard [q. v.] furnishing an opening for her, was assigned many leading characters. In her first season she played Jane Shore and Perdita, and was, on 17 Dec., the original Ovisa, the heroine of Dow's tragedy of ‘Zingis.’ The following season Garrick kept her closely occupied, exhibiting her as Juliet, Margaret (presumably) in ‘A New Way to Pay Old Debts,’ Almeria in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Selima in ‘Tamerlane,’ Maria in the ‘London Merchant,’ Lady Anne in ‘Richard III,’ Alcmena in ‘Amphitryon,’ Angelica in ‘Love for Love,’ Lady Dainty in the ‘Double Gallant,’ Lady Easy in the ‘Careless Husband,’ Mrs. Clerimont in the ‘Tender Husband,’ Leonora in the ‘Double Falsehood,’ Lady Charlot in the ‘Funeral,’ Calista in the ‘Fair Penitent,’ Miranda in the ‘Tempest,’ Mrs. Kiteley in ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ and Lady Fanciful in the ‘Provoked Wife.’ She was also, on 3 March 1770, the original Miss Dormer in Kelly's ‘Word to the Wise.’ Not a few of these parts were in high comedy. She also recited ‘Bucks, have at you all,’ altered for her by the author. In the summer of 1769 she played under Love at Richmond. On a question of terms, Garrick parted with her. Engaged by Dawson for the Crow Street Theatre, then rechristened the Capel Street Theatre, she went to Dublin, where she made her appearance as Jane Shore early in 1771. She played with conspicuous success many characters in tragedy and comedy, added to her repertory Charlotte Rusport in the ‘West Indian’ and Fatima in ‘Cymon,’ and was the original Lady Rodolpha in Macklin's ‘True-born Scotchman,’ subsequently converted into the ‘Man of the World.’ Returning to Garrick, one of whose chief supports and torments she was destined to become, she reappeared at Drury Lane as Imogen on 26 Sept. 1771. Here, with occasional trips to the country, she remained eight years, playing an almost exhaustive round of parts. She did not leave Drury Lane until after Garrick's retirement. In a list of her characters appear Monimia in the ‘Orphan,’ Zara in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Aspasia, Rosalind, Desdemona, Cleopatra in ‘All for Love,’ Merope, Lady Macbeth, Cordelia, Portia, Fidelia in the ‘Plain Dealer,’ Roxana, Lady Brute, Lady Plyant, Mrs. Sullen, Bellario in ‘Philaster,’ Hermione in the ‘Distressed Mother,’ Mrs. Oakley, Lydia Languish, and innumerable others. Her original characters during this period include Lady Margaret Sinclair in O'Brien's comedy ‘The Duel,’ 8 Dec. 1772; Emily (the Maid of Kent) in Waldron's ‘Maid of Kent,’ 17 May 1773; Mrs. Belville in Kelly's ‘School for Wives,’ 11 Dec. 1773; Matilda in Dr. Franklin's ‘Matilda,’ 21 Jan. 1775; Bella in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Runaway,’ 15 Feb. 1776; Margaret in Jerningham's ‘Margaret of Anjou,’ 11 March 1777; Matilda in Cumberland's ‘Battle of Hastings,’ 24 Jan. 1778; Miss Boncour in Fielding's ‘Fathers, or the Good-natured Man,’ 30 Nov. 1778; the Princess in Jephson's ‘Law of Lombardy,’ 8 Feb. 1779. On 16 Oct. 1778 she played at Covent Garden, as Miss Younge from Drury Lane, Queen Katharine in ‘King Henry VIII,’ and on 6 May 1779, at the same house, was the original Emmelina in Hannah More's ‘Fatal Falsehood.’ At Covent Garden she remained during the rest of her stage career.

The entire range of tragedy and comedy remained open to her, and very numerous were the leading parts she sustained. In an alteration of Massinger's ‘Duke of Milan,’ attributed to Cumberland, she was, on 10 Nov. 1779, the first Marcelia, and on 22 Feb. 1780 the original Lætitia Hardy in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Belle's Stratagem,’ to the conspicuous success of which she largely contributed. When the censor at last permitted the representation of Macklin's ‘Man of the World,’ she was, on 14 April 1781, Lady Rudolpha Lumbercourt. Clara in Holcroft's ‘Duplicity,’ the Countess in Jephson's ‘Countess of Narbonne,’ Lady Bell Bloomer in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Which is the Man?’ were the original parts of 1781–2; Euphemia (presumably) in Bentley's ‘Philodamus’ and Lady Davenant in Cumberland's ‘Mysterious Husband,’ those of the following season; and Sophia in the ‘Magic Picture,’ altered from Massinger by the Rev. H. Bates, and Miss Archer in Mrs. Cowley's ‘More Ways than One,’ those of 1783–4. On 14 Dec. 1784 she was the first Susan in ‘Follies of a Day,’ Holcroft's translation of ‘Le Mariage de Figaro’ of Beaumarchais. A long succession of original characters of little interest follows. On 5 May 1786, as Mrs. Pope, late Miss Younge, she played for her husband's benefit Zenobia. Her marriage with a man so much her junior as Alexander Pope [q. v.] caused much comment, and did not contribute to her happiness (cf. Theatrical Manager's Notebook). Zenobia was a solitary appearance during the season in which, presumably on account of her marriage, she was not engaged. On 25 Sept. 1786 she reappeared as Mrs. Beverley in the ‘Gamester,’ and on 25 Oct. played for the first time Lady Fanciful in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ and on 15 Nov. Angelica (with a song) in ‘Love for Love.’ She was, on 18 Nov., the original Charlotte in Pilon's ‘He would be a Soldier.’ On 10 Feb. 1787 she was the first Female Prisoner in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Such Things are.’ On 21 May she played Hermione to her husband's Leontes. The following season she was principally seen in tragedy, adding to her repertory Lady Randolph in ‘Douglas’ and the Lady in ‘Comus.’ On 3 Dec. 1791 she was the original Alexina in Mrs. Cowley's ‘A Day in Turkey.’ In the season she played for the first time Medea. In the following season she was the original Cora in Morton's ‘Columbus,’ Lady Eleanor Irwin in Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Every one has his Fault,’ and Lady Henrietta in Reynolds's ‘How to grow Rich,’ and on 13 Nov. 1793 was the first Ethelberta in Jerningham's tragedy, ‘The Siege of Berwick.’ It had long been the custom to assign her the parts of ladies of title or fashion. She was accordingly assigned Lady Fancourt in Holcroft's ‘Love's Frailties,’ Lady Horatia Horton (a sculptor) in Mrs. Cowley's ‘Town before You,’ Lady Torrendel in O'Keeffe's ‘Life's Vagaries,’ and Lady Ann in Holcroft's ‘Deserted Daughter.’ She also played Adeline in Boaden's ‘Fontainville Forest,’ 25 March 1794; Matilda in Pye's ‘Siege of Meaux,’ 19 May 1794; Mrs. Darnley in Reynolds's ‘Rage,’ 23 Oct. 1794; Adela in Cumberland's ‘Days of Yore,’ 18 Jan. 1796; and Ellen Vortex in Morton's ‘Cure for the Heartache,’ 10 Jan. 1797. This was her last original part. Her name appeared to this character on 26 Jan., being her last appearance in the bills. On the 31st Ellen Vortex was played by Miss Mansel. Mrs. Pope died on 15 March following, in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly, and was buried on the west side of the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, near Spranger Barry [q. v.] and ‘Kitty’ Clive. She had twenty guineas a week from Covent Garden, and left behind her to her husband—twenty-two years her junior—over 7,000l. and her house in Half Moon Street.

Mrs. Pope was not only one of the brilliant stars in the constellation of which Garrick was the centre—she was one of the foremost of English actresses. She had to encounter the formidable competition of Mrs. Siddons [q. v.] in tragedy, and Miss Farren in comedy. Her Lady Macbeth, Euphrasia, Calista, and Jane Shore were inferior to those of Mrs. Siddons, who surpassed her in power, energy, conception, majesty, and expressiveness, and in all tragic and most pathetic gifts; and her Estifania, Mrs. Sullen, and Clorinda were inferior to those of Miss Farren. Her range was, however, wider than that of either. She was invariably excellent in a remarkable variety of characters, and was held on account of these things not only the most useful but the principal all-round actress of her day. In comedy she was different from, but not in the main inferior to, Miss Farren. In tragedy she was at times declamatory, though her delivery was always audible and generally judicious. In addition to ease, spirit, and vivacity, she displayed in comic characters close observation of nature; her delivery imparted life to indifferent dialogue, and deprived the dialogue of the Restoration dramatists of much of its obscenity. Her Portia was greatly praised, and in the portrayal of distressed wives and mothers, as Lady Anne Mordant, Mrs. Euston, Lady Eleanor Irwin, &c., she distanced all competitors. Lætitia Hardy was perhaps her most bewitching performance.

George III is said to have detected in the actress a close resemblance to the goddess of his early idolatry, Lady Sarah Lennox [see under Lennox, Charles, second Duke of Richmond]. Her features were soft, her eyes blue, and her complexion delicate. She was commanding in stature, but pliant. Her voice was powerful. She was never accused of imitation, and of all Garrick's pupils is said to have most nearly approached her master. Her private life was irreproachable, and her manners pleasing. Garrick treated her with respect, but without much affection. Playing Lear to her Cordelia on 8 June 1776, his last appearance but one on the stage, Garrick said with a sigh, after the performance, ‘Ah, Bess! this is the last time of my being your father; you must now look out for some one else to adopt you.’ ‘Then, sir,’ she said, falling on her knees, ‘give me a father's blessing.’ Greatly moved, Garrick raised her up and said, ‘God bless you!’

A portrait by Dupont, as Monimia in the ‘Orphan,’ is in the Garrick Club. A print of her, by Robert Laurie, as Miss Young [sic], was published on 1 March 1780. A portrait as Viola with Dodd as Sir Andrew, Love (Dance) as Sir Toby, and Waldron as Fabian, was painted by Francis Wheatley, and engraved by J. R. Smith. Others are mentioned by Bromley.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Monthly Mirror, vol. iii.; Theatrical Manager's Notebook; Macaroni and Theatrical Magazine; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Thespian Dictionary; Wheatley and Cunningham's London Past and Present; Jesse's London; Knight's Garrick; the Garrick Correspondence; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 458; Smith's Mezzotinto Portraits; Dibdin's Hist. of the Stage Doran's Annals (ed. Lowe).]

J. K.