Anne Ford

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Anne Ford
Thomas Gainsborough - Ann Ford (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse) - Google Art Project.jpg
Ann Ford (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1760
Background information
Also known as Mrs. Philip Thicknesse
Born (1737-02-22)22 February 1737
Died 20 January 1824(1824-01-20) (aged 86)
Occupation(s) Musician and singer
Instruments English guitar, viola da gamba
For the American cabaret singer and actress, see Anne Kerry Ford.

Anne or Ann Ford, after 1762 Mrs. Philip Thicknesse, (22 February 1737 – 20 January 1824) was an 18th-century English musician and singer, famous in her time for a scandal that attended her struggle to perform in public.

Life and music[edit]

Some aspects of Anne Ford's life are typical of talented and gifted women in the traditional class society of 18th-century England. She gained more education than most as she had a knowledge of five foreign languages and played several fretted string instruments, including the lute-like English guitar and the viola da gamba. This gave her a chance to perform with others giving Sunday concerts at her house. Her father, Thomas Ford, refused to allow her to perform publicly. She also was a singer with a beautiful voice by her early twenties, but her earliest attempts to appear in public venues were unsuccessful; her father went so far as to have her arrested twice to prevent her escaping his control. Eventually she made a successful escape, and held her first public subscription concert on 18 March 1760. She performed a series of subsequent concerts, including daily performances from 24 Oct. through 30 Oct. of that year, though her playing on the "masculine" viol da gamba, comparable to a modern cello, was somehow considered a point of controversy.

Ford gave a performance in 1761, 'English airs' accompanying herself on the musical glasses, at Spring Gardens. She also wrote publishing Instructions for Playing on the Musical Glasses, comparable to the glass harp of Richard Pockrich. These glasses were tuned with water, and preceded the 1762 armonica (Glass harmonica) produced by Marianne Davies.

Ford's accomplishments risked to be complicated by an infatuated lover, the Earl of Jersey, who offered her £800 a year to be his mistress. When she refused, Lord Jersey tried to sabotage her initial public concert, but she earned £15 from it nonetheless. In 1761 she published a pamphlet, A Letter from Miss F—d to a Person of Distinction, defending her position. This in turn provoked a pamphlet from the Earl, A Letter to Miss F—d. The brief pamphlet war between them differed in subject and tone from others conducted in that era.

On 27 September 1762, she became the third wife of Philip Thicknesse,therefore establishing greater social standing and respect. They had a son, Captain John Thicknesse RN (c1763–1846).

She and her husband were travelling to Italy in 1792 when Thicknesse died suddenly in Boulogne and his wife was imprisoned during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. After the execution of Maximilien Robespierre in July 1794, she was released under a general pardon for all prisoners who could prove that they could earn their living; her profession stood her in good stead.

In 1800 Anne Ford published an autobiographical roman à clef entitled The School for Fashion, which included many public figures of the day in thin disguise. She herself featured as "Euterpe."

Her portrait was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1760.


External links[edit]