Friday, April 3, 2009
Tart of the Week: George Anne Bellamy
No, George Anne Bellamy isn't England's version of the Chevalier d'Eon. George Anne was very much a woman and was born in eastern Ireland in 1727. Her mother was the very unfortunate Miss Seal who was not only a Quaker but a mere schoolgirl when she discovered she was pregnant by Lord Trywaley. Miss Seal had already conducted an affair with the Irish aristocrat which resulted in a son. Trywaley went away looking for a rich wife before he returned to the old fling. However, Trywaley still needed a wife and he went to Lisbon in search of one, inviting Miss Seal to come with him. When she realized his true intentions in Portugal, Miss Seal quickly returned to England and married a sailor by the name of Bellamy. But when baby George Anne was born not long after the wedding Bellamy soon disappeared too.
The series of unlucky events continued at George Anne's christening. The hard of hearing priest didn't quite get the name of "Georgiana" when her mother said it. For whatever reason he heard "George Anne" and so became the girl named George.
Unlike many bastard daughters of aristocrats, George Anne had a a privileged upbringing. Her father sent her to France to receive her education like every other proper young English lady. Given this upbringing you would think George Anne would try to nab herself a rich husband and settle down to a wealthy lifestyle. But no, she took a path she was born into rather than the opportunity her father presented to her. She moved back in with her mother who convinced her to pursue acting, figuring George Anne's beauty could make some fast cash. After playing Monimia in The Orphan at Covent Garden George Anne met with the success her mother hoped for and many parts soon followed.
Success was sweet for "Mrs. Bellamy." She caught David Garrick's eye which, of course meant instant success and celebrity treatment. She also became his leading lady since the position was now open due to his recent breakup with Mrs Cibber. George Anne would be seen around town partying it up with her male-friends. Naughty! Not only did she make many friends but enemies as well. There was a notorious rivalry between her and fellow Irish actress, Peg Woffington that supposedly began when they were both in the (appropriately named) Rival Queens. The rumour mills cited jealousy and gowns as to the cause of the rift, but who could know for sure. The rivalry ended when Peg was on her deathbed and she called George Anne so they could kiss and makeup.
Of course, the good life couldn't last forever. George Anne's dapples with men led to pregnancies without marriages. She also was cursed with faded beauty. George Anne's wilted beauty meant no one was interested in seeing her on stage anymore. Meanwhile, debts from her frivilous celebrity days were piling up and debtor's prison loomed in the distance.
In an act of desperation George Anne wrote her revealing memoirs, An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy. As the title implies, the book was an autobiography of degregation at the author's social expense. Although the books sold, it was a little too late to save her from monetary ruin. George Anne died not too long afterwards, a fallen woman, her last moments spent hidden in shame.