Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Slingsby, Mary

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SLINGSBY, MARY, Lady Slingsby (d. 1694), actress, is first mentioned by Downes (Roscius Anglicanus), who says that about 1670 Mrs. Aldridge, afterwards Mrs. Lee, afterwards Lady Slingsby, also Mrs. Leigh, wife of Anthony Leigh, Mrs. Crosby, and Mrs. Johnson were entertained in the duke's house. In 1671 the name of Mrs. Lee appears at Lincoln's Inn Fields to the character of Daranthe in Edward Howard's tragi-comedy ‘Woman's Conquest,’ and to that of Leticia in ‘Town-Shifts, or the Suburb-Justice,’ attributed to Revet, and licensed on 2 May 1672. It is next found at Dorset Garden, where Mrs. Lee remained for ten years, opposite Æmilia in Arrowsmith's ‘Reformation’ (1672). Genest, who will not introduce her until 1675, thinks Mrs. Lee is perhaps a mistake for Mrs. Leigh [for the confusion between the two names see Leigh, Anthony]. ‘Mrs. Lee’ also appears to Olinda in Mrs. Behn's ‘Forced Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom,’ to Mariamne in Settle's ‘Empress of Morocco,’ and to Amavanga in Settle's ‘Conquest of China by the Tartars’ (1674). In the same year she was Salome in ‘Herod and Mariamne,’ attributed to Pordage, but brought on the stage by Settle. She was in 1675 Deidamia, queen of Sparta, in Otway's ‘Alcibiades,’ and Chlotilda [sic], disguised as Nigrello, in ‘Love and Revenge,’ a play by Settle, founded on the ‘Fatal Contract’ of William Heming [q. v.] In ‘Ibrahim, the Illustrious Bassa,’ derived by Settle from Scudery and licensed on 4 May 1676, she was Roxalana, the wife to Solyman; in Otway's ‘Don Carlos, Prince of Spain,’ licensed 13 June, she was the Queen of Spain; in D'Urfey's ‘Madame Fickle, or the Witty False One’ (licensed 20 Nov.), Madame Fickle; and in ‘Pastor Fido, or the Faithful Shepherd,’ translated from Guarini by Settle, and licensed 26 Dec., Corisca. In Otway's ‘Titus and Berenice,’ licensed 19 Feb. 1676–1677, the part of Berenice is assigned to Mrs. Lee, as are Cleopatra in Sedley's ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ licensed 24 April 1677, and Circe in Davenant's ‘Circe,’ licensed 18 June. In the ‘Constant Nymph, or the Rambling Shepherd,’ by a ‘Person of Quality,’ licensed 13 Aug., she was Astatius, the rambling shepherd. In Pordage's ‘Siege of Babylon,’ licensed 2 Nov., she was Roxana, and in ‘Abdelazer, or the Moor's Revenge,’ adapted by Mrs. Behn from ‘Lust's Dominion’ (unjustifiably ascribed to Marlowe), the Queen of Spain. In 1678 Mrs. Lee was Cassandra in Banks's ‘Destruction of Troy,’ licensed 29 Jan. 1678–9, but played earlier; and Elvira in the ‘Counterfeits,’ licensed 29 Aug. 1678. Next year she was Eurydice in Dryden and Lee's ‘Œdipus,’ Laura Lucretia in Mrs. Behn's ‘Feigned Courtezans, or a Night's Intrigue,’ and, as ‘Mrs. Mary Lee,’ Cressida in Dryden's adaptation; in 1680 she was Bellamira in Lee's ‘Cæsar Borgia,’ and Arviola in Tate's ‘Loyal General.’ Mrs. Mary Lee was also Julia in Maidwell's ‘Loving Enemies.’

In ‘Henry VI, Part I, with the Murder of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester,’ adapted by Crowne from Shakespeare, and acted in 1681, the part of Queen Margaret is assigned to Lady Slingsby. In ‘Henry VI, Part II, or the Misery of Civil War,’ from the same source, the same character stands opposite Mrs. Lee. As the second part was written first, and probably produced first, Mrs. Lee's marriage may possibly be placed in 1681, in the interval between the two performances. It seems probable that her husband was Sir Charles Slingsby, second baronet, of Bifrons in Kent (and nephew of Sir Robert Slingsby [q. v.]), who sold Bifrons in 1677, after which nothing is heard of him.

In Tate's alteration of ‘King Lear’ Lady Slingsby was Regan, in Lee's ‘Lucius Junius Brutus, the Father of his Country,’ Sempronia, and Marguerite in Lee's ‘Princess of Cleve.’ After the junction of the two companies in 1682, she played, at the Theatre Royal, the Queen Mother in Dryden and Lee's ‘Duke of Guise.’ In 1684 she was, at Dorset Garden, Lady Noble in Ravenscroft's ‘Dame Dobson, or the Cunning Woman,’ an adaptation of ‘La Devineresse’ of Thomas Corneille and Visé; and at the Theatre Royal, Lucia in the ‘Factious Citizen, or the Melancholy Visioner.’ In a revival of ‘Julius Cæsar’ she was Calphurnia, the only non-original part in which she is traced. In D'Urfey's ‘Commonwealth of Woman,’ an alteration of Fletcher's ‘Sea Voyage,’ produced in 1685, she was Clarinda. Her name thenceforth disappeared from the bills, but a Dame Mary Slingsby, widow, from St. James's parish, was buried in old St. Pancras graveyard on 1 March 1693–4. Genest says concerning her, with scant justice, that she acted several principal characters, most of them, however, in obscure plays. Such as they are, they are among the best original plays of the epoch.

[Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Doran's Her Majesty's Servants, ed. Lowe; Cibber's Apology, ed. Lowe.]

J. K.