Richard Mant.

Public and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryRichard MantPublic and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. → online text (page 1 of 13)
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fate iltstrcss of i.g.f. % g. of Clarence;





The Vicissitudes attendant on her Early Life;

The Splendour of her Noon-tide Blaze, as Mistress of the Royal Duke;

and her untimely Dissolution at St. Cloud, near Paris, —

resulting from a Broken Heart.




J 6



There is no walk of literature so essentially calculated to
instil salutary instruction, as that which results from the study
of biograpliical sketches of public characters. The great mass of
society propelled by one undeviating course, affords no materials
of a prominent nature worthy the attention of a reflecting writer.
It is the being schooled in active scenes of life, which displays
materials calculated to awaken the energies of the mind : it is
then we contemplate the changes and vicissitudes to which the
march of human nature is subjected, and thence we are led to
reason on causes and eSects ; in the progress of which research,
we frequently discover that circumstances of the greatest moment
owe their birth to events apparently inconsequential.

In sketching the present biography, it is our task to arouse
feelings diametrically opposed to each other : we shall touch, as
it were, the several chords of the human heart, and awaken
every thrill — its vibrations alternately sounding to pleasure and
to pain,

Miss Phillips, the mother of the heroine of our pages, was one
of three sisters, and the ofispring of a Welsh dignitary of the
church, possessed of a good living ; independent of which, his
circumstances were affluent, and his character as a divine, in
every respect moral and unimpeachable.

At an early period of life, Miss Grace Phillips eloped with
one Captain Bland, a gentleman whose parents bore a high rank
in society, from fortune as well as family connections ; while
in his own person he displayed great accomplishments. She
was united to the Captain in Ireland by the rites of the Catholic
church, of which country he was a native — being both at the
time under the age of twenty : after which, they lived together
for several years, and during the period in question, she bore
her husband nine children, of whom, Mrs. Jordan was born at
Waterford in 1762 or 1764.


4 Life of Mus. Jordan.

At tlie time wliou the clo^^enieiit took place, Captain Illancl
was on duty with his regiment in Wales, and having incensed his
parents with the step thus clandestinely taken, they refused him
pecuniary supplies, when the youthful couple, in order to pro-
cure a subsistence, had recourse to the stage. In consequence of
this step, ]\Irs. Jordan may be said to have inhaled the earliest
breath of life among a Thespian corps, of which profession she
was ultimately doomed to figure as the Comic Queen. The family
of the Captain inheriting all the pride of Irish Ijirth, on finding
that he had embraced the theatrical calling, became more exas-
perated ; and the breach was in consetjuence .so widened, that for
a length of time all correspondence ceased between himself and
his relatives. — Doctor Bland, however, the Captain's father, still
anxious to see his son in prosperity', at length had recourse to
legal advice ; when having never consented to the union, and
taking advantage of the ceremony being performed during his
minoi'ity, he commenced legal measures in order to invalidate the
marriage, in which he ultimately succeeded, when the unfox*-
tunate wife was left with a numerous progeny to struggle against
every difficulty. At the period to which we allude. Captain
Bland had attained the rank of Colonel ; when finding himself
freed from the mati-imonial bond — unmindful of the duties of
a father, and the line of conduct honour sliould have prescribed
— he wholly abandoned his former partner, and in a short time
led to the hymeneal altar another lady, possessed of an ample
revenue ; allowing his former wife a very mediocre stipend for
the maintenance of herself and the numerous progeny she had
borne him. Fortune, however, cannot control happiness, and the
wealth obtained by Colonel Bland proved no panacea to the
stings of a goading conscience : his former serenity soon vanished,
and he died after a short lapse of time the victim of his own
heartless conduct. — As the fortune of the second INIrs. Bland had
been settled upon herself prior to marriage, in the event of the
Colonel's death, his children by the former union were left totally
destitute ; until actuated by sentiments of common humanity,
his relatives afforded some relief to the offspring, but totally
abandoned the wretched mother to her cruel fate.

It was at the trying period alluded to, that the humane heroine
of our pages, then under sixteen years of age, Avith that noble
spirit which uniformly actuated her conduct, determined on
attempting the stage in order to pi'ocure the means of sub-
sistence for herself and her suffering mother.

Having made application to Mr. Ryder, the manager of the
Dublin Theatre, her first appearance was in the character of

Life of Mrs. Jordan. 5

Phoebe, in As You Like It — she having assumed the name of
Francis, in order to avoid giving umbrage to the haughty rela-
tions of her deceased father. Little did Mrs. Jordan, at that
time, imagine she was destined at a future period to fascinate
the overflowing audiences of a London playhouse, when sus-
taining the part of Rosalind in the same beautiful drama—
and that the song of the Cuckoo would never be heard without
commanding a rapturous encore.

In this opening attempt, Miss Francis experienced very little
encouragement, yet was not depressed, but pursued her studies
with indefatigable industry — applying herself to the acquirement
of the various accomplishments so requisite for those who tread
the theatrical boards.

Not long after the above essay, she procured an engagement
with Mr. Daly, of the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, when her
favour with the public rapidly increased, particularly in her
performance of the character of Adelaide, in the " Count of
Narbonne ;" at which period, she is supposed to have just
attained her sixteenth year.

Soon after the above engagement, the theatrical company being
at Waterford, the fascinating manners of Miss Francis arrested
the attention of Lieut. Charles Doyne, of the third regiment of
heavy horse (greens), then quartered in that city, who became
sei'iously and honourably attached to her. This aspirant to our
heroine's affections, though not possessing personal attractions,
was a gentleman in manners and education, and in every sense of
the word an honest man. Whatsoever might be the feelings of
the daughter on this occasion, the mother was averse to the
union ; as in the event of her changing her name, the family
would be deprived of their only means of support : in addition
to which. Lieutenant Doyne having but a very circumscribed
income, coupled with his pay, such slender resources were very
inadequate to meet the wants of a growing family. The latter
obstacle, therefore, proved insurmountable, added to which, Mrs.
Bland, probably anticipating the future celebrity of her child,
so powerfully woi'ked upon her feelings, that the Lieutenant's
offer was ultimately rejected.

Subsequent to this occurrence, an event took place that
entailed infinite affliction on our youthful aspirant for fame.
The manners and person of our heroine having attracted Mr.
Daly's attention, he followed the glorious precedent of many
individuals holding similar managerial stations : conceiving him-
self entitled to command the favours of every lady in his service,
under pain of displeasure. Poor Miss Francis proved too virtuous

6 Life of Mrs. Jordan.

to submit, and for a period the unprincipled desires of her employer
received a salutary check fi-om the stern dictates of innate virtue.
Finding himself foiled, the unprincipled manager caused his victim
to be seduced to the residence of a dei^endent, where she was
forcibly detained, and every unfair advantage takeii of her help-
less condition ; wherefore, as soon as released, accompanied by
her mother, brother, and sister, she clandestinely left Dublin, and
arrived in safety at the town of Leeds, in Yorkshire ; which event
occurred in the month of July, 1782.

The tirst step taken by our actress was to apply to 'Slv. Tate
Wilkinson, then manager of the York Company ; who on meeting
her and her family at the inn, found them in a very miserable
pliglit. The parent of our actress, liowever, talked so highly of
her daughter's merits, as neax-ly to disgust Mr. Wilkinson, who
was, tlierefore, on the point of giving a flat denial to our aspirant.
In this state of mind he quitted the family, but returned to the
inn, being forcibly struck by the dejected and melancholy appear-
ance of Miss Francis, which strongly pleaded in her behalf with
the kind-hearted Mr. Wilkinson, who then requested her to give
him a specimen of her talent, when she repeated a speech from
the part of Calista, in Rowe's Fair Penitent, whereby he acquired
some idea of her abilities ; and it was in consequence determined,
that on the Thursday following, being the 11th of July, she
should make her opening essay under the name of Miss Francis.
Her success, which was pai'ticulai'ly due to the plaintive sweet-
ness of her voice, proved complete ; and on the termination of
the tragedy, what Mr. Wilkinson feared would have proved
detrimental to her interest, tended still more to ingratiate her
with the audience ; for no sooner had she closed the tragedy by
her supposed death, when putting on a frock and mob cap, she
ran upon the stage and warbled the Greenvood Laddie with such
an eftect, as completely fascinated the auditors. — The result of
this essaj^ was an engagement at a salary of fifteen shillings per
week, one guinea being the higliest sum given to any performer
of that Thespian band.

Fi'om Leeds the company proceeded to York, in order to per-
form during the race week ; where our heroine again personated
Calista to the Lotliario of Mr. Knight, who then made his debut,
but was not well received in that character.

On the fifth of August our heroine took her benefit at Leeds,
when she again selected the part of Calista ; but preparatory
to the performance, it was requested by the mother of our actress
that her daughter's name, which had of course been announced
as Miss Francis, might be altered to that of Jordan. Mr.

Llfe of Mrs. Jordan. 7

Wilkinson being desirous to ascertain the cause of this change of
appellation, "waited upon Mrs. Bland ; when he was given to
understand, that her daughter's aunt, a Miss Phillips, was then
at York upon her death bed — and the lady in question greatly
priding herself on family honours, and having figured on the
stage, in which line she deemed herself pre-eminent, it was
thought most prudent, under all circumstances, to pursue this
line of conduct. The lady in question having had an inter\'iew
with Mrs. Bland and her niece, expired the following week, after
having pronounced Dorothy an honour to the blood of the Ap-

During the race week at York, our heroine performed Rutland
and the Romp, ttc; upon which occasion Gentleman Smith, as he
was denominated, being present, felt so much pleased with our
actress, as to repeat his visits every night Mrs. Jordan trod the
boards. On this occasion, the latter gentleman assured Mr.
Wilkinson, he was singularly struck with our actress's talents,
which made the manager secretly rejoice in having executed
articles with her ; and in the course of the race week she had an
extraordinary benefit on accovmt of her services, which Mr.
Wilkinson found truly beneficial to his interest.

Speaking of our heroine's success at York, Mr. Wilkinson, in
his work entitled " The Wandering Patentee," remarks : — " She
(Mrs. Jordan) was much admired in Arionelli. A Mr. Tyler
had performed that character, and with a degree of deserved
credit — but Mrs. Jordan was not only new, but an object to the
public and to me, as she gi'eatly helped my coffers."

Prom York, early in September, she proceeded with the
company of theatricals to Wakefield, then to Doncaster, and
subsequently Sheffield, where her benefit though well patronised
did not prove very productive. While at the latter town, our
actress played the part of a chambei'-maid in the opera of the
"Pair American," on the 28th of October, 1782; in the per-
sonification of which character, she displayed infinite talent. In
the last mentioned piece, during a scene that occurred, she and
Mr. Knight, who personated a footman being on the stage, a
certain scene and roller of an immense weight gave way, and was
precipitated from the top of the theatre close at the feet of the
performers, which, had it fallen on the head of either must have
caused immediate death. While at Sheffield, his Grace the late
Duke of Xorfolk predicted the future fame of our heroine, that
nobleman ha-^ang from the period alluded to uniformly continued
the friend of the subject of our memoirs.

The next remove of Mr. Wilkinson's theatricals, was to Hull,

8 Life op Mrs. Jordan.

where on Thursday, December 26th, Mrs. Jordan performed
Galista, and sang the GreenAvood Laddie, which was hissed,
although executed with her accustomed sweetness. The fact is,
a party had been raised against her, and it was some time ere
the prejudices, under which she laboured from the tongue of
malevolence, were subdued.

It is here necessary to state that when Mrs. Jordan's engage-
ment with Mr. Tate Wilkinson had continued for a period, she
was doomed to experience the effects of persecution, from one
who, of all others, should have pursued a different line of conduct.
Sometime previous to her seduction by Mr. Daly the Dublin
manager, the mother of our heroine having been attacked by a
dangerous fit of illness, physical aid was resorted to, when the
feeling daughter having exhausted all the pecuniary means her
slender salary afforded, had been compelled under existing
exigencies to procure a loan from the managei', who immediately
complied, not actuated from feelings of commisseration for the
afflicted mother and her child ; but under the dastardly idea of
thereby placing within his power the object of his base desires.
Having thus become a debtor fx'om the most noble of impulses :
the salvation of a parent's life, efforts were set on foot by the
manager to intimidate our actress into a compliance with his
wishes, by legally proceeding to enforce payment, and we believe
the issue of a writ, for the arrest of her person, actually took
place ; which reminds us of the fiend-like Colonel Ket, recorded
in English history, who offered to spare the life of a brother in
case the sister yielded to his infamous wishes. Having refused
to act according to his, Mr. Daly's will, the lady disdaining to
make her chastity the price of such demoniac forbearance, braved
the hori'ors of a gaol to maintain her character unsullied ; when
the manager was instigated to adopt the treacherous mode pre-
viously described, and ultimately triumphed over his devoted

Mr. Daly having at length ascertained the residence of our
heroine, who by her precipitate flight from Dublin had broken the
engagement entered into with the manager, determined to pursue
his victim for damages as well as the sum lent during her parent's
illness, and proceedings had actually commenced.

Notwithstanding the change of name, Mr. Daly at length
discovered the retreat of his victim ; who, on account of her
talents, had had her salary doubled ; his resentment, therefore,
increased ; wherefore, as she had forfeited her articles in conse-
quence of the precipitate flight from Dublin, added to which, the
sum advanced during her mother's illness, still remained out.

Life of Mrs. Jordax. 9

standing against her, as previously observed, she was a second
time threatened with arrest unless an immediate return to the
Irish capital for the completion of her engagement took place.
Thus cruelly circumstanced, a Mr. Swan, having investigated the
whole case and taking pity on her forlorn situation, humanely
paid down two Jnindred and fifty pounds, the sum stipulated
in case she forfeited her articles, together with the amouiit of the
small debt incurred. By this means, Mi^s. Jordan was released
from the dread of incarceration, liaving ever after found a sincere
and disinterested friend in the gentleman whose name stands thus
honourably recorded.

We shall now with pleasure dismiss from our pages the name
of such a fiend as Mr. Daly, having only to add that when our
heroine subsequently acquired that notoriety and fame in London,
which her brilliant talents commanded, the Dublin manager in
more instances than one, visited the metropolis of England, and
used every endeavour to procure an interview with the lady
whose annals we record, and obtain a sight of the offspring she
had borne him ; but in vain, her stern resolve proved inexorable,
for as she had sworn so she acted, neither suffering her sight to
be blasted by the betrayer of her honour or yielding the fruit of
her disgrace to the arms of an inhuman and profligate parent.
Such is the unvarnished tale respecting the first dereliction from
the path of rectitude, of which Mrs. Jordan was guilty; if so
harsh a term can be attachable to the act under all its bearings,
as for ourselves, casting aside all prejudice of a favourable nature
as the biographer of the lady in question, we must conscientiously
declare that under similar circumstances, a daughter would not
appear contaminated in our eyes; we should execrate her despoiler,
commisserate her sufferings, and shed tears for her disgrace — but
never brand her with an opprobius epithet or attach a thought of
culpability to her name.

In reference to the Dublin manager, above adverted to, we give
the following appropriate extract from a late writer :

" Our heroine (Mrs. Jordan) encouraged by maternal example,
of course, looked to the stage as her future profession ; and, about
the year 1778, made her first appearance at Ryder's theatre, in
Dublin, in the unimportant jDart of Phoebe, in 'As You Like It.'
From prudential motives, and fearful of offending her father's
family, to whom she still looked with hope, — for the child thinks
not her fatlier a villain, tliough all the world beside know him to
be one ; — she played under tlie name of Francis, and ran the
round of maudlin young ladies, and third-rate sentimentalists,
until she attracted the notice of Mr. Daly, a weak-minded villain,
an unjust manager, and an unprincipled libertine.

lU Life of Mrs. Jordan.

" It was the practice of this liollow sensualist, to advance money
to those ladies lie had a design upon, and then second his attempts,
not only with bi'utal violence, but a threat of arrest for debt.
Those amiable peculiarities he displayed towards our heroine ;
and to relieve the exigences of her family, she borrowed of the
brute a small sum. She was daily rising in estimation in Dublin,
and her juvenile tragedy was particulaily admired. Mr. Daly
made a proposition to her, which our heroine repelled with
disgust, and we can readily conceive how hateful must that
rei^tile have appeared, who made her distresses the plea for his
insolence, and tempted her with gold on the one hand, whilst
he threatened her with a prison on the other. Certainly, we
of the irritable genus must be particularly irritable on this score ;
for even now, when that weak villain's bones have returned to
the corruption that best befitted them, we could find it in our
hearts to call them from the grave, to be burnt as a sacrifice to
offended decency ; and in saying this, we arrogate no peculiar
virtue to ourselves ; we do not mean to condemn, in one sweeping
clause, the race called (falsely called) men of pleasure ; but let
them fight their battles fairly, at all events, and not win by
meanness, that which should be gained by favour."

Mr. Boaden in his illustrations to the life of Mrs. Jordan, vol. 1,
p. 360, after quoting as above, from Oxberry's memoirs, with great
justice, adds as follows :

"We might have alluded to the actual perpetration of violence
the most brutal, in one particular instance, the scene of Avhich
(like the Field of the Forty Footsteps), is still pointed out with
strong shudders near Limerick ; as having sullied a spirit every
way amiable, and fixed its fate in life, far, far indeed, below the
level of either its genius or its virtues.

"It will here be asked, why were not the violated laws appealed
to, and the ruffian gibbetted for his atrocity ? The answer must
be, that the Irish gentleman of 1782 considered himself beyond
their reach. His victim was young and poor, and embarrassed
with the parents, who should have protected Aer. Who would
have believed in the virtuous resistance of an actress 1 I will
proceed no further."

"In 1783, we find our heroine returned to York ; she was the
great supporter of the opera of Rosina, particularly in the cele-
brated air, " Let Jionour with desert be crowned." From York,
she proceeded, as during the preceding year, to Leeds, Wakefield,
Doncaster, and Hull.

It was at this period, Mrs. Jordan experienced the effect of
intrinsic merit ; she was scandalised by her rivals, and frequently

Life of Mes. Jordax. 11

annoyed during her nightly performances, by the enemies who
occupied the wings and stage doors of the theatre, where, by
persevering malignity they laboured to destroy her. She was,
however, fortunate enough in having such a manager as Mr. Tate
Wilkinson, where love of justice was stretched beyond personal
interest, and he therefore struggled to secure for our actress
fair play. She was sometimes indolent, and at others refractory,
capricious, and imprudent.

The permanent and unrivalled distinction of our heroine was
not then her only characteristic. The Romj), it is true, was pur-
posely curtailed for her in Ireland, and Priscilla Tomhoy she had
fi'equently personated with infinite effect ; notwithstanding which
however, she inclined to tragedy and pai-ts in sentimental comedy.
The Country Girl had not as then attracted her notice, until she
witnessed its performance by Mrs. Brown, of the same company,
after which she studied it with great attention, and thus became
aware of the various opportunities it presented for the display of
the wildness, laughing vivacity, rich and abundant humour, that
ultimately combined to make it her own, far beyond all com-
petition. It was owing to those circumstances that when the
object of our memoirs began to be firmly established in the
metropolis ; she reminded of Mrs. Brown, as having made known
to her the secrets of the character, as the rival manager conceived
it worth while to ti-y whether the reputed mistress could not
outrival the pupil. There was, however, no ground to detract
from the merits of JMrs. Jordan, and the charms of youth secured
her from a rival's vivacity, which was rather ungenerously ob-
truded in a lady, who had passed the season of life in which the
hoyden can alone look natural and prove attractive.

During the Spring of 1784, when the Poor Soldier was got up
at Sheffield, our actress was principally instrumental in supporting
the piece, which proved very lucrative for her employer, both in
that and the other towns of Yorkshire.

She had now attained considerable celebrity at York as a settled
performer; but when subsequently engaged for the London boards,
she no doubt trembled for her success, and little dreamed of
equipage and splendour. Among the characters in which our
actress particularly figured, were Ummeline, Lady Packet, Lady
Pell, Lady Teazle, Lady Alton, Lndiana, &c.

It was towards the close of the above year that the feelings of
Mrs. Jordan were sensibly awakened by the calls of a young lady
about fifteen years of age, who made application to Mr. Tate
Wilkinson for an engagement. She, as had previously been our
actress, was accompanied by her necessitous parents, who solely

12 LiFK OF Mrs. Jordan.

depended on her efforts for assistance. The young lady alluded
to possessed a lovely figure and beautiful face, in short, every

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Online LibraryRichard MantPublic and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. → online text (page 1 of 13)