Calling Cards: Frances Abington

The latest addition to the new Calling Card section is Mrs Frances Abington. A famed and adored actress, and a noted for her keen taste in fashion, Mrs Abington is one of the celebrities of the age.

Her origins and early life are somewhat elusive, but it is believed that she was born Frances Barton in London in 1737. She began her working life as a flower girl and street singer, where she earned the nickname Nosegay Fan. In 1755 she joined the Drury Lane Company and from 1759 she was listed in the bills as Mrs Abington, taking her surname from her husband, although the marriage was not a happy one. Yet despite marital disappointment, she met with public success and went on to have a long and extensive career. Mrs Abington finally bowed out from the stage in 1799.

Over the years, she was praised for the range and scope of her acting ability. Mrs Abington won particular acclaim for her role as Kitty in High Life Below Stairs and the mob cap she wore in the role became the must-have accessory for all ladies of fashion. Incidentally, Mrs Abington was also known for using headdresses to make a lady appear taller and for the French custom of using red powder on the hair.

There have been a number of slurs, and a great deal of gossip, which have followed Mrs Abington throughout her career. Much of this has surrounded her association with Covent Garden. Nevertheless, she has been received on the public stage with almost unequalled approval and remains, to this day, known as a lady of fashion, wit and success.

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