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Martyr, Margaret

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Margaret Thornton Martyr’s birthdate and parentage are not known for certain, but she may have been the daughter of a London tailor. Her declared stage debut, advertised as ‘A Young Lady,’ was at Covent Garden Theatre, as Rosetta in the musical “Love in a Village” on 13 February 1779, though she had already sung at the Vauxhall pleasure garden and did again in the summers that followed. Miss Thornton seems to have been a singing member of the Covent Garden troupe for the 1779-80 season but appeared at Drury Lane once, for Mrs Wrighten’s benefit. By 13 November 1780 she had married a Captain Martyr, whose name she kept throughout her career and by whom she had a daughter. From 1780 to 1804 Margaret was a regular in the winters at Covent Garden and spent her summers at Vauxhall or provincial theatres. She was a popular singer, actress and dancer with a salary that reached £10 weekly in 1786-87. Her husband had died in prison, and later, in 1784, she formed a liason with the oboist William Thomas Parke that brought her at least two more children. Margaret was a pert, attractive woman, well-suited to breeches parts – ‘Sportive, playful, arch, and free’ she was called in Bellamy’s “London Theatres” in 1795. Her assignments over the years included Polly and Lucy (and also Macheath) in “The Beggar’s Opera”, Louisa in “The Duenna”, Rose in “The Recruiting Officer” (G0458, G0459) and roles in pantomimes. Margaret Martyr died on 7 June 1807. (BDA)[EAL]
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