The 32nd Derby Summer Festival (launching July 8th), which incorporates the Derby Beer Festival, apparently has a special guest in Dr Samuel Johnson this year. Johnson married Elizabeth Porter in Derby’s St Werburgh’s church in 1735, an event which the good people of Derby re-enact annually.
'He was a friend of Bosworth,’ drivels the website, ‘and also a frequent visitor to The Green Man in Ashbourne’. The reference is, I think, to the Grammar School he co-founded in Market Bosworth (unless they’re confusing it with Boswell), and as for The Green Man (which he referred to as ‘a very good inn at Ashbourne’), he apparently drank there so often that you can witness the great man’s chair if you visit the pub. Having been to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, just around the corner from Gough Square, which also claims to display Johnson’s chair - and Johnson’s bench too - you do begin to wonder if these breweries have got some sort of a deal going.
I live in the English cathedral city of Lichfield, which, despite having a population of fewer than 5,000 during the Georgian period, was home to many important artists and intellectuals including Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Erasmus Darwin. I generally blog about the short 18th century (1715-1789), feisty Georgian ladies and Lichfield's 18th-century heritage. If you have any comments, feel free to email me at woffington [at] gmail [dot] com.
Virtually forgotten today, Margaret Woffington (also known as Peg or Peggy) would rise from humble origins to become one of Georgian London’s most famous actresses, sharing the stage with the likes of David Garrick and excelling in so-called ‘breeches roles’. Born around the year 1720 in Dublin, her childhood years were marred by the death of her father, which plunged her family into poverty. Having reputedly sold watercress barefoot in the streets of the Irish capital, she was soon talent-spotted by a tumbler known as Violante, who staged populist entertainments in booths around the city. Violante had a troupe of child actors called the Liliputians, and before long Woffington was making her debut as Polly Peachum in their version of The Beggar’s Opera. Moving to London, she gained plaudits for both her outstanding beauty and her talent – particularly in comedy – appearing at both Covent Garden and Drury Lane. Known for her quick wit and no-nonsense attitude, she had high-profile affairs with Garrick, Lord Darnley and Charles Hanbury Williams; she was also a generous benefactor, supporting her elderly mother and may even have endowed some almshouses in Teddington, where she had settled at the height of her success. She died, unmarried, in 1760, having suffered a long wasting illness, and is buried in Teddington's parish church of St Mary’s.
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