Lavinia Fenton

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Lavinia Fenton, later Duchess of Bolton (1710-1760) as Polly Peachum in John Gay's Beggar's Opera. (Charles Jervas)

Lavinia Powlett, Duchess of Bolton (1708 – 24 January 1760), known by her stagename as Lavinia Fenton, was an English actress.

She was probably the daughter of a naval lieutenant named Beswick, but she bore the name of her mother's husband. She was thought to have been born in Charing Cross, London and had been a child prostitute before becoming an actress. Her first appearance was as Monimia in Thomas Otway's The Orphan, in 1726 at the Haymarket Theatre. She then joined the company of players at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where her success and beauty made her the toast of the beaux. It was in John Gay's Beggar's Opera, as Polly Peachum, that Miss Fenton made her greatest success. Her pictures were in great demand, verses were written to her and books published about her, and she was the most talked-of person in London. Hogarth's picture shows her in one of the scenes, with the Duke of Bolton in a box.

After appearing in several comedies, and then in numerous repetitions of the Beggar's Opera in 1728, she ran away with her lover Charles Powlett, 3rd Duke of Bolton, a man much older than herself, who, after the death of his wife in 1751, married her at Aachen. They already had three sons: Charles, Percy, and Horatio Armand, who entered the church, the navy, and the army respectively. The duchess survived her husband and died in 1760 at Westcombe House in Greenwich, being buried in St Alfege's Church, Greenwich[1] on 3 February 1760.[2]


  1. ^ "January 29", Greenwich Guide — Greenwich Day by Day 
  2. ^ Greenwich, The Environs of London, 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent, 1796, pp. 426–93, retrieved 24 September 2007 

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