The Meadows Family Tree
The descendants of William Meadows
The early career of William Meadows
18th century actor and performer
The later career of William Meadows
Ann Meadows & John Massey Wright
Artist and illustrator
Mary Meadows & Richard Johnson
"of Baker's Farm, Sible Hedingham, and Queen's County, Ireland"
Edward Killingworth Johnson
Engraver, artist and illustrator
Mary Ellen Edwards ('MEE') and her family
Artists, illustrators and inventors
Margaret Meadows
19th century actress and performer
The early career of James Meadows
Scenic and Marine Artist
The later career of James Meadows
Scenic and Marine Artist
William Meadows
Landscape artist
James Edward Meadows
Landscape and Marine artist
Alfred Meadows
Actor and Artist
Ann Edwards
née Meadows
Edwin Meadows
Landscape artist
Frances Self
née Meadows
Arthur Meadows
Marine Artist

Margaret Meadows

The Dublin reference to the Misses Meadows supposes that there was more than one daughter, and there were in fact three daughters. One of the daughters whose name has survived in family records and contemporary accounts was Margaret Meadows, who had a short but successful career before an early death.

Margaret's brief heyday (she was active from 1806 until 1809) began with her London debut in a new production at Covent Garden of 'The Tempest' on 8th December, 1806. This hybrid production, produced by Charles Kemble who appeared as Prospero, and including the celebrated Miss Brunton as Miranda, was the the talk of the town in 1806 and 1807. The following excerpts from contemporary accounts (to be found on Google Books), give a clear picture of Margaret's charm and skills. Amongst her admirers was the essayist, poet and critic, Leigh Hunt, a friend of Byron, Keats and Shelley, and a noted opponent of the Prince Regent:

Critical Essays on the performers of the London theatres, by Leigh Hunt, 1807:
"A young lady of the name of Meadows appeared on the first night in the part of Ariel, and has since kept her situation with the most flattering applause. Her face though not handsome is sensible, and exhibits a sort of earnestness very natural to that active and enterprising spirit; her figure possess elegance and delicacy; if we thought it wanted something of sprightly ease, perhaps we did not make sufficient allowance for that look of corporeality which an actress, however light her motions may be, cannot positively avoid in the representation of a being, who is air itself. Her singing was perfectly appropriate; the lighter tones of her voice are much better than the lower ones, but the style of her songs was always delicate and tasteful. We very much admired the air of modesty which this young lady preserved in a dress necessarily light and thin. Modesty is the charm that is soonest discovered and admired in a female, though it is the least anxious to look forth or obtrude upon the beholder. The modesty of an actress is not only delightful from its novelty, but it makes the spectator contented with himself, as well as with the performers, because he no longer blushes to patronize them."

The Monthly Mirror, 1806:
"A new Ariel made her appearance; a Miss Meadows, whose father performed several years since at the Haymarket. Her voice is very agreeable, her execution promising, and her performance altogether worthy of much commendation. This lady is a pupil of Mr Davy, who furnished a new overture, which was not unworthy of introducing the admirable music of Purcell."

The Port Folio, 1807:
“Covent Garden. The play of The Tempest, which has been , during the whole of the summer, in preparation, was last night produced at this theatre, with much of novelty in scenery and decoration. It was not the original play of Shakespeare, nor the mutilated play of Dryden; but we think the managers would have more effectually served themselves and gratified the publick by the primitive Tempest of Shakespeare than by the selection they have now presented. ... A Miss Meadows made her debut in the character of Ariel, a part to which she seemed perfectly competent, and in which, through the whole, such talent, powers, and graceful ease of action, as leave no doubt of her proving a most valuable acquisition to the stage. Her voice unites sweetness with strength, and in some of the airs she was rapturously encored. Her figure is exquisitely neat and elegant, and the general system of her countenance is regular, winning and expressive.”

The Literary Panorama, 1807:
“The young lady, who performed the part of Ariel, is, we understand, a Miss Meadows. She possess a pretty little figure, and a good voice; she gave her songs with much science, particularly “Where the bee sucks”, in which she was encored; and repeated it with thrice the effort she did the first time. She appeared perfectly at ease, and her action had more of the manner of the Italian stage than of the English. She is a pupil of Mr Davy.”

Margaret's coach who is mentioned in these reviews was John Davy (1765-1824), who from humble origins in Devon rose to relative fame, before dying in penury in London. Davy became a permanant member of the Covent Garden orchestra, and also composed a number of operas and other scores for the Haymarket and Sadlers Wells. A contemporary article in 1811 stated that he had by then given up his brief teaching career.

'The Monthly Mirror' of 1807 charted Margaret's progress, and included the following notice for January 30th, 1807 , for the Theatre Royal, Haymarket: "This house was opened by permission of the Lord Chamberlain, for the benefit of Mr Ware, leader of the band at Covent Garden Theatre. The sacred oratorio of the 'Messiah' was performed, with the assistance of, amongst others, Incledon, Goss, Mrs Ashe, and Miss Meadows, whose vocal merits are well-known." The theatres were closed in consequence of the martyrdom of Charles [the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I], which contributed considerably to the advantage of Mr Ware."

Like all cast members, Margaret was entitled to a benefit performance, which took place in the second half of the programme at Covent Garden on June 3rd. In the first half, 'The Tempest' was performed, and in the second half the play was 'The Irish Widow'. Margaret's later appearances at Covent Garden also included the role of Molly Maybush in the 'The Farmer' by John O'Keefe on 21st September, 1807; and Dorcas in 'The Winter's Tale' on November 11th, 1807, with John Philip Kemble, Mr and Mrs Charles Kemble, and Mrs Siddons (née Kemble). The full star-studded Covent Garden 1807 cast list can be viewed on the link below (on Google Books) from 'The Cabinet, or The Monthly Report of Polite Litereature'.

Covent Garden Cast List, 1807

In 1808, Margaret appeared in a new Christmas pantomime at Covent Garden (with a central character called Sir Amorous Sordid!), which strongly recalled her family connections. 'The Euorpean Magazine, and London Review' for that year noted: " ... a new pantomime for the Christmas holidays, under the title of 'Harlequin in his element', or 'Fire, Water, Earth, and Air'. ... Mr Dibdin, we understand, is the author of this piece; and may have been supposed to have some disadvantage to struggle with, as following so immediately the very popular pantomime of 'Mother Goose', which was performed, we believe, 120 nights. ... The powers of Bologna jun. as Harlequin, and Grimaldi, as servant to Sir Amorous, are too well known to require any comment. ... Miss Adams from the Dublin Theatre was the Columbine ... Among the genii, Miss Meadows and Miss Bristow attracted most notice. To the former an opportunity was given to display her vocal powers, but not one that called forth the sweetness or the compass of her voice. ... The music is by Mr Ware and is tastefully varied. The applause which accompanied the performance throughout had scarcely any interruption; and when the pantomime was announced for a second representation, there did not appear to be a dissentient voice. It has since had an uninterrupted run."

In 1807, 'Mother Goose' had been one of the greatest financial successes of both Covent Garden and Thomas Dibdin (1771-1841), the dramatist and composer son of Charles Dibdin. Margaret now found herself performing in a play written by the son of her father's contemporary, Charles Dibdin, once again on the stage where her father had performed, and in the company of the younger Grimaldi, 'the father of the clowns', who began his West End stage career performing with William Meadows, and ended his life as a near-neighbour in Pentonville of Margaret's brother James and sister Anne.

Although Margaret's performance appears to have won widespread praise, at least one distinguished professional was more reserved in his appreciation of her performance. George Frederick Cooke, "late of the Theatre Royal Covent Garden" (where Margaret was performing) noted in his memoirs published in 1813: "A Miss Meadows made her first appearance in Ariel. She is a good figure, sings the songs well, as I am informed, but is not sufficiently handsome and delicate for the aerial sprite – although young in years, she appeared to me to possess a great deal of the old stager.“

Ironically, not long afterwards Margaret and Cooke found themselves as members of the same company, of which another 19th century actor, Robert Elliston, wrote in his memoirs (1857): "The Covent Garden company was at this time [1809] carrying on their business at the “Little Theatre” in the Haymarket, previous to the opening of the new and magnificent edifice, and was perhaps the best body of performers that had ever been got together in the memory of the living. It was composed as follows: Kemble, Cooke, Young, C.Kemble, Pope, Brunton, Murray &c.; Lewis, Jones, Munden, Fawcett, Liston, Emery, Blanchard, Simmons, Farley, &c.; Incledon, Taylor, Bellamy &c.; Grimaldi, Bologna, Burne; Mrs Siddons, Miss Norton, Mrs St Leger, Mrs Humphries, Mrs H.Johnston, Mrs C.Kemble, Mrs Gibbs, Mrs Davenport, Mrs Dickens, Mrs Liston, Miss Meadows, Miss Bolton, &c. &c. “ This was indeed a great company, including three noted members of the Kemble theatre dynasty, amongst whom was the famous Mrs Siddons. It should also be noted that in 1809, Margaret was performing at the Haymarket, where her father had also performed with Charles Kemble and his wife.

Whilst Margaret's star appeared to be in the ascendant, in fact it was soon to set. Family tradition recalls that Margaret died young, and that she was thrown by a horse. But contemporary chronicles recount the real details of her end. 'The Gentleman's Magazine' noted her death in a brief entry in the obituaries in the 1809 edition: "Suddenly, Miss Meadows, a vocal performer at Covent Garden Theatre." However the July edition of 'The Monthly Mirror' for the same year, gave fuller details of the unexpected demise of Margaret. In the section entitled, 'Theatrical Chit-Chat', the Mirror informed its readers, "On the 29th June, died Miss Meadows on a load of hay. She was seized with spasms while riding with her father in a chaise, and conveyed to the hay on which she expired." Although no detail is given of where the death occurred, it was a sad and picturesque end for a girl whose father had made his name singing of Love in a Village.

Margaret had achieved fame in her short life-time as a singer of note. In 1807, a musical score was published in London with the following mention: "Poor Little Jane. A new ballad sung by Miss Meadows, with unbounded applause, at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Composed by Percival Mann." In the same year, the resident 'Wits' of the The Monthly Mirror (available below via the link to Google Books) also included Margaret in their tour of London's theatres based on puns upon the performers names. Although this was just a piece of light 'witticism', it is nonetheless an interesting reflection on Margaret's status as an acknowledged member of the contemporary theatrical scene.

Margaret Meadows in The Monthly Mirror, 1807

The final trace of Margaret dates from a year after her death in 1810, when "the favourite quartteto sung by Miss Meadows", 'When the bee sucks', (from The Tempest), composed by Margaret's former teacher John Davy, was published in London. Although she had played an ethereal character as Ariel, Margaret managed nonetheless to leave her mark.

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