Lavinia Fenton - Encyclopedia




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LAVINIA FENTON (1708-1760), English actress, was probably the daughter of a naval lieutenant named Beswick, but she bore the name of her mother's husband. Her first appearance was as Monimia in Otway's Orphans, in 1726 at the Haymarket. She then joined the company of players at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where her success and beauty made her the toast of the beaux. It was in Gay's Beggar's Opera, as Polly Peachum, that Miss Fenton made her greatest success. Her pictures were in great demand, verses were written to her and books published about her, and she was the most talked-of person in London. Hogarth's picture shows her in one of the scenes, with the duke of Bolton in a box. After appearing in several comedies, and then in numerous repetitions of the Beggar's Opera, she ran away with her lover Charles Paulet, 3rd duke of Bolton, a man much older than herself, who, after the death of his wife in 1751, married her. Their three children all died young. The duchess survived her husband and died on the 24th of January 1760.

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