Picture gallery: have your own private view of the exhibition Perdita – “the lost one” – sits in a mossy bower, on an earth ledge, alone except for her loyal Pomeranian dog. In her hand she holds a locket, opened to reveal the blurred face of George, Prince of Wales, who commissioned Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of his lover in 1781. Mary Robinson – nicknamed Perdita after her performance in The Winter’s Tale at Drury Lane Theatre – was one of those self-invented individuals who made 18th-century Britain such an effervescent, commercial, cynical, corrupt, celebrity-conscious, shallow, competitive, socially mobile, dangerous place – a mirror of ourselves. Raised in seedy circumstances, she married one Thomas Robinson when she was 15. Within months, Thomas was imprisoned for debt and Mary had to fend for herself with three talents – for poetry, acting and sex. Her first book of poems was published in 1775. Her performing skills were noticed by the actor and theatre manager David Garrick. But it was her beauty, her way of carrying herself – she always had “a sort of dignified air”, she said – that got her a string of male friends eager to help, libertines such as the… Read full this story
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