Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Not much is known of Centlivre's early life --- most of the stories about her are overly romanticized bits of apocryphal theatre gossip perpetuated by the men who wrote her obituaries. She was orphaned at an early age, and she seems to have been left in care of an unkindly female relative. The most common accounts of her youth agree that she ran away from home at age 14. Then, according to these theatre tale-spinners, she may have joined a troupe of provincial players. Or, she might have met Cambridge student Anthony Hammond on the road and been persuaded to cross-dress as his "Cousin Jack," live in his lodgings, and earn a university education. Or perhaps she married an unknown someone and was widowed within a year. None of these stories are entirely accurate (particularly the second), but evidence suggests that she did act for a while in Bath, and ultimately married three times.

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