28 MARCH 1952, Page 26

Margaret Woffington

Lovely Peggy: The Life and Times of Margaret Woffington. By Janet Camden Lucey. (Hurst and Blackett 18s.) THIS book is an excellent sample of the revived (or Victorian) type of biography .which is now returning to favour. Style is absent, industry is present ; and the author is fully justified in her claim to have provided the first serious life of Peg Woffington. Unfortunately it is a little too serious. Intelligent labours and a very good sense of arrangement have produced a factual but somewhat lifeless work, well illustrating the dictum recently propounded (and admirably displayed) by a contemporary that " truth alone is of interest to the biographer." The trouble is that not every truth is of equal interest to the reader ; selection and elimination are necessary, if what is meant to be a work of art does not become a mere work of reference.

But there is much more in this book than a simple collection of references. In the special category of theatrical biographies it certainly deserves a prominent place. The author has at her disposal a very detailed and accurate knowledge of stage-life in the eighteenth century, and at least an adequate knowledge of the general con- temporary scene ; though it is a little unwise to speak of" the town of Tom Jones and Moll Flanders " ; and even more careless to say that Peg's name as a sitter was associated with Rowlandson ; the list at the end of the book shows, correctly, that Rowlandson (born four years before her death) made a water-colour copy of a mezzotint after Eccardt.

Still, diligence and enthusiasm have not been unrewarded. The book provides a vast amount of dependable information, and certainly all that we need to know—if not a great deal more than we need to know—about the life of Peg Woffington. In the end, how- ever, one is left wondering whether Mrs. Woffington's renown was not due at least as much to her beauty and impudence, and the fame of her keepers, as it was to her professional skill.