My Prettiest Perdita

On the life of Mary “Perdita” Robinson, actress, writer and first mistress of George IV

perditaIn 1773 David Garrick discovered a I5-year-old schoolgirl, Mary Robinson, and cast her as Cordelia to his King Lear at Drury Lane Theatre.

However, she married instead, became pregnant, and then spent a year in the King’s Bench prison with her debtor husband.

From there she published a book of poems which won the support of the Duchess of Devonshire.

Two years later she was out of prison, and again invited to Drury Lane, as Juliet, by Garrick’s successor, Sheridan, and this led to other major roles, including Ophelia and Rosalind.

It was as Perdita in THE WINTER’S TALE that she attracted the attention of the future George IV, who fell madly in love with her and demanded that she give up the stage.

 

perdita2A year later the affair, and her acting career, were over, leaving her with debts of £7000 and a new reputation as a high-class courtesan.

The support of such friends as Sheridan and Charles James Fox enabled her to survive. Her portrait was painted by Gainsborough, Romney and Reynolds.

After an accident which crippled her she won new admirers from the next generation: Coleridge and the feminist Mary Wollstonecroft were in her circle, and her Letter to the Women of England strikes a blow against the injustice of mental subordination.

She published many romantic poems and six novels full of psychological perception.
My Prettiest Perdita is based on her Memoirs, composed in 1798.

Music of the period.

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