Pitt, Ann (DNB00)

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PITT, ANN (1720?–1799), actress, was born in London in 1720 or 1721. After some practice in the country, she appeared as Miss Pitt at Drury Lane, under Garrick, playing on 13 Sept. 1748 the Nurse in the ‘Relapse.’ Her name appears during the season of 1748–1749 to Lady Loverule in the ‘Devil to Pay,’ Dame Pliant in the ‘Alchemist’ to Garrick's Abel Drugger, Lucy in the ‘London Merchant,’ and Beatrice in the ‘Anatomist,’ with an original part unnamed in the ‘Hen Peck'd Captain,’ a farce taken by Richard Cross from D'Urfey's ‘Campaigners.’ Next season saw her as Dorcas in the ‘Mock Doctor,’ Nurse in ‘Love for Love,’ Lady Darling in the ‘Constant Couple,’ Mrs. Peachum in the ‘Beggars' Opera,’ Lettice in ‘Friendship in Fashion,’ and the following season as Fool in the ‘Pilgrim.’ On 2 Feb. 1751 she was the original Bernarda in Moore's ‘Gil Blas,’ and on 16 March she played an original part (unnamed) in ‘A Lick at the Town,’ an unprinted play by Woodward. On 28 Jan. 1752 she first appeared at Covent Garden, with which theatre she was associated during the remainder of her career. She played Jacinta in the ‘False Friend.’ There followed Lucy in the ‘Lover his own Rival,’ Lady Manlove in the ‘Schoolboy,’ Mrs. Day in the ‘Committee,’ and Lady Wishfor't in the ‘Way of the World.’ On 3 Oct. 1755, as Lappet in the ‘Miser,’ she was first advertised as Mrs. Pitt. Among the characters in which she was most famous must be mentioned that of the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the ‘Relapse,’ the ‘Man of Quality,’ ‘Love for Love,’ and ‘Isabella, or the Fatal Marriage;’ the hostess in ‘King Henry V,’ Mrs. Quickly in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ Patch in the ‘Busy Body,’ Mrs. Croaker (her original character) in the ‘Good-natured Man,’ and Mrs. Hardcastle. She is said during her long lifetime to have played the Nurse to the following Juliets: Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Bellamy, Miss Nossiter, Miss Hallam (Mrs. Mattocks), Miss Satchell (Mrs. S. Kemble), and Miss Young (Mrs. Pope). In a feeble and spiteful notice in his ‘Children of Thespis,’ Anthony Pasquin (John Williams) says:

Her Quickly, her Dorcas, old spinsters, and nurse
Are parts, when she dies, should be laid in her hearse.

Among other parts assigned her were Flora in the ‘Wonder,’ Audrey in ‘As you like it,’ Lady Pride in the ‘Amorous Widow,’ Mrs. Prim in ‘A Bold Stroke for a Wife,’ Lady Wronghead in the ‘Provoked Husband,’ Cob's Wife in ‘Every Man in his Humour,’ Lady Woodville in ‘Man of the Mode,’ Kitty Pry in the ‘Lying Valet,’ Viletta in ‘She would and she would not,’ Aunt in the ‘Tender Husband’ and in ‘Sir Courtly Nice,’ Lucy in the ‘Old Bachelor,’ Tattleaid in the ‘Funeral,’ Abigail in the ‘Drummer,’ Mrs. Honeycombe, Lucy in the ‘Recruiting Officer,’ Ruth in the ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ Deborah Woodcock, Florella in the ‘Orphan,’ Mrs. Midnight in ‘Twin Rivals,’ and in ‘Country Madcap,’ Second Witch in ‘Macbeth,’ Lady Rusport, the Duenna in the ‘Duenna,’ Landlady in the ‘Chances,’ Old Woman in ‘Rule a Wife and have a Wife,’ and Dorcas in ‘Cymon.’ Among her few original parts were Pert in Macklin's ‘Married Libertine’ (28 Jan. 1761), Mrs. Drugget in Murphy's ‘What we all must come to’ (9 Jan. 1764), Lady Sycamore in Bickerstaff's ‘Maid of the Mill’ (31 Jan. 1765), Catty Farrell in Macklin's ‘Irish Fine Lady’ [‘The True-born Irishman’] (28 Nov. 1767, at which time her salary was 3l. a week), Mrs. Croaker in the ‘Good-natured Man’ (29 Jan. 1768), Mrs. Carlton in Colman's ‘Man of Business’ (31 Jan. 1774), Bridget in Sheridan's ‘St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant’ (2 May 1775), the Marchioness in Dibdin's ‘Shepherdess of the Alps’ (18 Jan. 1780), Mrs. Trip in Holcroft's ‘Duplicity’ (13 Oct. 1781), Mrs. Partlett in Cumberland's ‘Walloons’ (20 April 1782), and Rodriguez in ‘Barataria,’ by Pilon (29 March 1785). This seems to have been her last original part. On 2 June 1792 she played the Spanish Lady in ‘Barataria,’ after which she left the stage. In the ‘Reminiscences’ of her grandson, Thomas Dibdin, it is stated that Mrs. Pitt, at the age of seventy-two, as Dorcas in Garrick's ‘Cymon,’ was encored in the song ‘I tremble at seventy-two’ (i. 11). She died on 18 Dec. 1799. She was buried in the cemetery attached to St. James's Chapel, Pentonville, in the family grave of Charles Dibdin the younger. A stone still standing gives her age as seventy-eight years.

‘Sir’ John Hill, in the second part of the ‘Actor,’ praises Miss Pit [sic] for an ‘important pertness in manner and a volubility of tongue’ (p. 221). The author of the ‘Theatrical Review, 1757–8,’ says: ‘I look upon her as the best woman comedian in Covent Garden. She has been for some years the only actress who has exhibited the superannuated coquettes, and her performance of them has been such as left the spectator no room to wish a better’ (p. 40). After speaking of a dangerous coming rival in Mrs. Clive, he adds that the province in question requires most genuine humour: that is the reason why Mrs. Pitt excels in them, [she] being possessed in an eminent degree of that essential qualification. She has also a great deal of pertness, which, in the chambermaids, is very agreeable and necessary.’ In the curious scale of actors which accompanies the volume he puts her as 13 in genius, 12 in judgment and in vis comica, and 13 in variety. Garrick's figures in the same respects, it may be said, are 18, 16, 18, 18, and Mrs. Clive's 17, 16, 17, 15.

A portrait, attributed to Hogarth(?), is in the Mathews collection in the Garrick Club. A small engraved portrait of her as Lady Wishfor't was published on 26 Oct. 1776.

Mrs. Pitt's daughter, Harriet Pitt (d. 1814), was a dancer at Covent Garden in January 1762, and appeared as one of the three graces in the ‘Arcadian Nuptials’ on 20 Jan. 1764, and as Flora in the ‘Wonder’ on 10 Oct. and 14 Dec. 1765. She remained at Covent Garden until the end of the season of 1767–8, dancing at Charles Dibdin's benefit on 24 May 1768. She became, by Charles Dibdin the song-writer, the mother of Thomas John Dibdin [q. v.], and, after separating from Dibdin about 1775, she appeared at Drury Lane. Later, about 1783, she returned to Covent Garden, where she took the name of Mrs. Davenet to distinguish her from her mother, and was described by Pasquin in 1788 as an ‘old tabby.’ She died on 10 Dec. 1814, and was buried in the same grave as her mother (information supplied by E. R. Dibdin, esq.).

[Books cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Thespian Dictionary; Gent. Mag. 1800, pt. i. p. 84; Kelly's Thespis; Pasquin's Children of Thespis; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. viii. 47, 111.]

J. K.