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Margaret Woffington

Margaret "Peg" Woffington (c. 1720 - 1760) was an Irish actress, the toast of Georgian London.

She was born at Dublin, of poor parents, her father being a bricklayer and her mother taking in washing. As a child of ten she played Polly Peachum in a Lilliputian production of The Beggar's Opera, and danced and acted at various Dublin theatres until 1740, when her success as Sir Harry Wildair in The Constant Couple led to her being given her London debut at Covent Garden. As Sylvia in The Recruiting Officer, she had enormous success; and starred at Drury Lane for several years, as well as making a triumphant return to Dublin. She appeared in all the plays of the day to ever growing popularity. Among her best impersonations were the elegant women of fashion, like Lady Betty Modish and Lady Townley, and in "breeches parts" she had no rival.

She lived openly with Garrick, and her other love affairs were numerous and notorious, but her generosity and kindness of heart were equally well known. She educated her sister Mary, and cared for and pensioned her mother. However, after an incident in 1756 when she stabbed another actress, she was taken ill. She built and endowed by will some almshouses[?] at Teddington, where she lived quietly after her retirement in 1757.

See Austin Dobson's Introduction to Charles Reade's novel Peg Woffington (London, 1899), and Augustin Daly's Woffington: a Tribute to the Actress and the Woman (1888).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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