Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/53

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"IF there was ever a creature who merited the sympathy of the world, it is Maria Foote. If there was ever a wife who deserved its commiseration, it is her mother." With these words begins a notice of the actress in The Examiner for 1825.

About the year 1796 an actor appeared in Plymouth under the name of Freeman, but whose real name was Foote, and who claimed relationship with Samuel Foote, the dramatist and performer. He was of a respectable family, and his brother was a clergyman at Salisbury. Whilst on a visit to his brother, he met the sister of his brother's wife, both daughters of a Mr. Charles Hart; she was then a girl of seventeen, in a boarding-school, and to the disgrace of all parties concerned therein, this simple boarding-school maid was induced to marry a man twenty-five years older than herself, and to give great offence to her parents, who withdrew all interest in her they had hitherto shown. Foote returned to Plymouth with his wife, a sweet innocent girl. He was at the time proprietor and manager of the Plymouth Theatre; and as, in country towns, actors and actresses were looked down upon by society, no respectable family paid Mrs. Foote the least attention, and although the whole town was interested in her appearance, it regarded her simply with pity.

Deserted by the reputable of one sex, she threw