The Palmy Days of Nance Oldfield eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 278 pages of information about The Palmy Days of Nance Oldfield.

In this episode the sunny spirit of Nance was brought prettily into the foreground.  “When Mrs. Oldfield was nominated as a joint sharer in our new agreement to be made with Swiney [again is the quotation from Cibber], Dogget, who had no objection to her merit, insisted that our affairs could never be upon a secure foundation if there was more than one sex admitted to the management of them.”  Beastly, unchivalrous, narrow-minded Dogget.  Were you alive to-day, how the New Woman would champ with rage.  “He therefore hop’d that if we offer’d Mrs. Oldfield a Carte Blanche instead of a share, she would not think herself slighted.”  And Oldfield, with the affability which sat so well upon her, did not think herself in the least slighted.  She “receiv’d it rather as a favour than a disobligation.  Her demands therefore were two hundred pounds a year certain, and a benefit clear of all charges, which were readily sign’d to.”

In the meantime Drury Lane is closed by order of the Lord Chamberlain,[A] on the ground that in seeking to take from the actors one-third of their benefit receipts the management have proceeded illegally.  Soon the new forces of Swiney take possession of the Haymarket, and for a short time London has but one playhouse.  Mayhap Mr. Rich is chagrined, or perhaps he is not ill-pleased, and in any case he extracts great comfort from a manifesto published in his behalf by the treasurer of Drury Lane, sweet-named Zachary Baggs.  In this formidable document, which seeks to prove that the seceders are a lot of ingrates, Oldfield is held up to the public as a sad example of depravity.  Her account with Master Rich is thus itemised: 

sp;                                              L s. d. 
  To Mrs. Oldfield, at 4 l. a week salary, which
  for 14 weeks and one day; she leaving off acting
  presently after her benefit (viz.) on the 17th of
  March last, 1708, though the benefit was intended
  for her whole nine months acting, and she refused
  to assist others in their benefits; her salary for
  these 14 weeks and one day came to, and she was
  paid 56 13 4

In January she required, and was paid ten guineas, to wear on the stage in some plays, during the whole season, a mantua petticoat that was given her for the stage and though she left off three months before she should, yet she hath not returned any part of the ten guineas 10 15 0

  And she had for wearing in some plays a suit of
  boys cloaths on the stage; paid 2 10 9

  By a benefit play; paid 62 7 8

[Footnote A:  June 1709.]

But what cares laughing Nance for Master Baggs’ spiteful paragraph about the mantua petticoat.  Mantua petticoat, forsooth! she has more artistic things to think about than that, and so pray do not plague her, gentle reader, with so commonplace an incident.  Let her act on serenely until that glorious night in April 1713, when, back at Drury Lane, under the triumvirate of Cibber, Wilks and Dogget, she helps to make sedate Addison’s equally sedate “Cato” a triumphant success.

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The Palmy Days of Nance Oldfield from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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