1683 – 1730 A.D.
Anne Oldfield, and English actress, born in London. She played at Drury Lane several years where her personal graces won recognition rather than her abilities. But after her creation of Lady Betty Modish in Cibbler’s Careless Husband in 1704, she was generally acknowledged as the best actress of her time. In polite comedy she was unrivaled, and later she won laurels in tragedy, her list of parts being a long and varied one. The theatrical idol of her day, her exquisite acting was the delight of her contemporaries, while her beauty and generosity found innumerable eulogists.
She was much caressed by people of fashion, and generally went to the theatre in a chair, attended by two footmen, and in a dress she had worn at some aristocratic dinner.
Anne Oldfield kept her powers to the end, and a few months before her death she played the tragic role of Thomson’s Sophonisba, acting this last part superbly.
She was buried beneath the monument of Congreve in Westminster Abbey. According to the testimony of her maid, Margaret Saunders, she was interred in a very fine Brussels lace head, a Holland shift and double ruffles of the sam lace, a pair of new kid gloves, and her body wrapped in a winding sheet. This elicited from the Pope the well-known lines:
“Odious! in woolen! ‘twould a saint provoke,
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke;
No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs and shade my lifeless face;
One would not, sure, be frightful when one’s dead,
And – Betty – give this check a little red.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.