Verbruggen, Susanna (DNB00)

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VERBRUGGEN, Mrs. SUSANNA (1667?–1703), actress, born about 1667, was the daughter of Percival or Percivall, an actor, who in 1673 played at Dorset Garden Fortinbras in ‘Hamlet,’ and was seen in other characters of secondary importance. ‘Percivall the player’ is last heard of during 1693. On 17 Oct. in that year he was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for clipping coin, and he was reprieved in the cart at Tyburn seven days later (cf. Luttrell, Brief Hist. Relation, iii. 183, 205, 212). His daughter Susanna is first heard of in 1681, when at the Theatre Royal, as Mrs. Percival, she was the original Winifred, described as a young Welsh Jilt, in D'Urfey's ‘Sir Barnaby Whig, or No Wit like a Woman's.’ In 1684, after the junction of the companies, she played at Dorset Garden two parts, Susan and Mrs. Jenkin, in Ravenscroft's ‘Dame Dobson, or the Cunning Woman,’ and, at the Theatre Royal, Phillis in Otway's ‘Atheist, or the second part of the Soldier's Fortune,’ Juliana in Southerne's ‘Disappointment, or the Mother in Fashion,’ and Constance Holdup in Brome's ‘Northern Lass.’ In the following year she was Prudentia in Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Duke and no Duke,’ to her father's Mago; and (at Dorset Garden) Girtred to his Alderman Touchstone in Tate's ‘Cuckolds Haven, or an Alderman no Conjuror.’ At the Theatre Royal she was Julietta in D'Urfey's ‘Commonwealth of Women,’ an alteration of Fletcher's ‘Sea Voyage,’ and Matilda in ‘Rollo, Duke of Normandy.’ In 1686 she was the original Nell in Jevon's ‘Devil of a Wife,’ and Lucia in D'Urfey's ‘Banditti.’ On 2 July a license was issued for the marriage of William Mountfort [q. v.] of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, bachelor, aged 22, and Mrs. Susanna Peircevall, spinster, of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, aged 19, by consent of parents, at St. Giles-in-the-Fields (see Chester, Marriage Licences, under Mountfort). As ‘Mrs. Mountfort, late Mrs. Percival,’ she was in 1687 the original Diana in Mrs. Behn's ‘Lucky Chance, or an Alderman's Bargain.’ She was also the first Panura in the ‘Island Princess,’ altered by Tate from Fletcher, and Bellemante in Mrs. Behn's ‘Emperor of the Moon.’ In 1688 she ‘created’ Isabella in Shadwell's ‘Squire of Alsatia,’ and in 1689 Mrs. Gertrude in Shadwell's ‘Bury Fair,’ and Maria in Carlile's ‘Fortune Hunters.’

In 1690 she is already spoken of as one of those at the head of Betterton's company (Cibber), and this same year saw her as the first Feliciana in Mountfort's ‘Successful Strangers,’ Morayma in Dryden's ‘Don Sebastian,’ and Phædra in Dryden's ‘Amphitryon, or the two Sosias;’ 1691 as Florella in Mountfort's ‘Greenwich Park,’ and Sir Anthony Love in Southerne's ‘Sir Anthony Love, or the Rambling Lady;’ and 1692 as Mrs. Witwoud in Southerne's ‘Wives Excuse,’ Eugenia in Shadwell's ‘Volunteers,’ and Lady Susan Malepert (sic) in Southerne's ‘Maid's Last Prayer.’

On 9 Dec. 1692 William Mountfort was assassinated by Captain Richard Hill (see Cibber, Apology, ed. Lowe, ii. 343 sq.; cf. Howell, State Trials, xii. 578). Mrs. Mountfort remained on the stage, and was in 1693 the original Belinda in Congreve's ‘Old Bachelor;’ Catchat, an old maid, in Wright's ‘Female Virtuosoes,’ a rendering of Molière's ‘Femmes Savantes;’ Annabella in ‘Very Good Wife,’ an adaptation by Powell from Middleton's ‘No Wit, no Help like a Woman's;’ Dalinda in Dryden's ‘Love Triumphant;’ and Lady Froth in Congreve's ‘Double Dealer.’

Some time later than November 1693 she married John Verbruggen, an actor in the company (see below), and in 1694, as ‘Mrs. Verbruggen, late Mrs. Mountfort,’ played Mary the Buxom in the first and the second parts of D'Urfey's ‘Don Quixote’ and Hillaria in Ravenscroft's adaptation, ‘Canterbury Guests, or a Bargain Broken.’ In 1695, when she temporarily quitted Betterton's company, her name does not appear. In 1696 she repeated in the third part of ‘Don Quixote’ Mary the Buxom, and at Drury Lane or Dorset Garden was the first Charlot Welldon in Southerne's ‘Oroonoko,’ Ansilva in Gould's ‘Rival Sisters,’ Achmet, chief of the Eunuchs, in Mrs. Pix's ‘Ibrahim, thirteenth Emperor of the Turks,’ Olivia in Mrs. Manley's ‘Lost Lover, or the Jealous Husband,’ Demetria in Norton's ‘Pausanias the Betrayer of his Country,’ Clarinda in Scott's ‘Mock Marriage,’ Olivia in Mrs. Behn's ‘Younger Brother, or the Amorous Jilt,’ the Governor's Lady in Mrs. Pix's ‘Spanish Wives,’ and Narcissa in Cibber's ‘Love's Last Shift.’ To 1697 belong Berinthia in the ‘Relapse,’ Jacintha in Settle's ‘World in the Moon,’ Marsidia, in which she personated Mrs. Manley [q. v.], in the ‘Female Wits, or the Triumvirate of Poets at Rehearsal,’ by W. M., Doris in Vanbrugh's ‘Æsop,’ and was Cælia in a revival of the ‘Humorous Lieutenant.’ The next year she was the first Madame la Marquise in D'Urfey's ‘Campaigners,’ and Margaret the Shrew in ‘Sauny the Scot,’ an alteration by Lacy of ‘Taming the Shrew.’ In 1699 she was the first Letitia in ‘Love without Interest,’ and Lady Lurewell in Farquhar's ‘Constant Couple.’ No new part was taken in 1700, but in 1701 she was the original Louisa in Cibber's ‘Love makes a Man,’ Lucia in Baker's ‘Humour of the Age,’ Lady Lurewell in Farquhar's ‘Sir Harry Wildair,’ and Gillian Homebred, the Western Lass, in D'Urfey's ‘Bath, or the Western Lass.’ Lady Brampton in Steele's ‘Funeral,’ Bisarre in Farquhar's ‘Inconstant,’ Lady Cringe in Burnaby's ‘Modish Husband,’ and Hypolita in Cibber's ‘She would, and she would not,’ are her creations of 1702, and Hillaria in Baker's ‘Tunbridge Walks,’ and Mrs. Whimsey in Estcourt's ‘Fair Example,’ those of 1703. She was also, at a date not fixed, the original Mrs. Barnard in Vanbrugh's ‘Country House,’ and played Abigail in the ‘Scornful Lady,’ and Melantha in ‘Marriage à la Mode,’ and Bayes in the ‘Rehearsal.’ When, at the close of the season of 1703, the company went to Bath, she was too ill to accompany it. A few months later she died in childbirth.

Mrs. Verbruggen's powers were confined to comedy, over which she reigned almost supreme, many of the best parts in the finest Restoration comedies being assigned her. No portrait of Mrs. Verbruggen can be traced. Thanks, however, to the description of her appearance given by Aston, and that of her acting, we know her better than almost any actress of past days. Aston speaks of her as ‘the most pleasant creature that ever appeared … she was a fine fair woman, plump, full-featured; her face of a fine smooth oval full of beautiful, well-dispos'd moles on it, and on her neck and breast. Whatever she did was not to be called acting; no, no, it was what she represented. She was neither more nor less, and was the most easy actress in the world.’ Her acting was ‘all acquired, but she dressed it so nice it looked like nature.’ Cibber's praise is perhaps the most eloquent ever bestowed on an actress. She was, he says, mistress of more variety of humour than he ever knew in any actress; her elocution was ‘round, distinct, voluble, and various,’ she was an excellent mimic, and there was ‘nothing so barren that if within the bounds of nature it could be flat in her hands.’ ‘Her greatest charm was laughing, flirting her fan, and je ne sais quoi with a kind of affected twitter.’ Mrs. Oldfield copied her in some respects, but failed to reach her charm. In his ‘Comparison between the Two Stages,’ 1702, Gildon, after referring to Mrs. Oldfield and Mrs. Rogers, calls Mrs. Verbruggen ‘a miracle.’ D'Urfey praises her performance of Mary the Buxom (1696) with scarcely less enthusiasm than Cibber infuses into his well-known tribute to her in Melantha (a part of very different character) in ‘Marriage à la Mode’ (Apology, ed. Lowe, 1891, i. 167).

John Verbruggen (fl. 1688–1707?), the actress's second husband, is first traceable at Drury Lane in 1688, when, under the name of Alexander, he was the original Termagant in the ‘Squire of Alsatia’ to the younger Belfond of Mountfort, and the Isabella of Mrs. Mountfort (subsequently Mrs. Verbruggen). The name of Alexander he adopted, it is said, on account of his fondness for the part of Alexander the Great, and was called by it by his fellows and the public till 1694. He was a dissipated dare-devil man and a good actor. His original parts as Alexander included Sharper in the ‘Old Bachelor’ and Careless in the ‘Double Dealer.’ In 1694, as Verbruggen, he was Ambrosio in both parts of ‘Don Quixote.’ In subsequent years he was the first Loveless in ‘Love's Last Shift’ and in the ‘Relapse,’ Oroonoko, and Prince Frederick in the ‘Younger Brother.’ At Lincoln's Inn Fields or Drury Lane his original characters comprised Constant in the ‘Provoked Wife,’ King of Granada in the ‘Mourning Bride,’ Achilles in ‘Heroic Love,’ Xerxes in ‘Xerxes,’ Mirabel in the ‘Way of the World,’ Bajazet, Altamont, Antonio in the ‘Jew of Venice,’ and Young Valere in the ‘Gamester.’ At the Haymarket he was seen, among many other parts, as Edgar, Horatio, Alexander, Cassius, Wolsey, Don Sebastian, Chamont, Pierre, Iago, Sullen, Lorenzo in the ‘Spanish Friar,’ Apemantus, Wilmore in the ‘Rover,’ and Duke Ferdinand in the ‘Duchess of Malfi.’

Verbruggen was tall, well built, but a little in-kneed, which gave him a not unbecoming shambling gait. His Edgar in ‘Lear’ was greatly admired, as were his Wilmore, Bajazet, and Oroonoko. In the part last named he is said to have spoken ‘like a lion.’ As Wilmore in the ‘Rover’ he supported admirably Mrs. Bracegirdle. His Cassius, all nature, was contrasted with the Brutus of Betterton, which was all art. Aston describes him as a rough diamond shining more brightly than all the polished brilliants of the stage. Aston further says Verbruggen was ‘nature without extravagance, freedom without licentiousness, and vociferous without bellowing.’ Many stories of his wildness and want of conduct are given. He is said to have struck the Duke of St. Albans behind the scenes at Drury Lane and called him a son of a ——. Compelled to apologise or leave the London boards, he came on the stage and said he had been accused of calling the duke a son, &c. He then continued: ‘It is true, and I am sorry for it’ (Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies, iii. 447). On 24 April 1708 a benefit was announced for a young orphan child of the late Mr. and Mrs. Verbruggen.

[Genest's account of the English Stage; Cibber's Apology, ed. Lowe; Doran's Annals of the Stage, ed. Lowe; Davies's Dramatic Miscellanies; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; Reed's Notitia Dramatica (manuscript); Curll's History of the Stage; Gildon's Comparison between the Two Stages, 1702; Aston's Brief Supplement]

J. K.