(click image to enlarge)
The title of this work references two popular stage comedies of the eighteenth century. The main title is taken from David Garrick’s two act farce, Miss in Her Teens, which was adapted from Florent Carton Dancourt’s 1691 play, La Parisienne. It was first performed at Covent Garden, London, in 1747. However, the couplet that acts as a subtitle is taken from T A Lloyd’s The Romp, a two-act ‘musical entertainment’, altered from Isaac Bickerstaff’s 1767 ballad opera, Love in the City. It was first performed at Covent Garden in 1778.
The two comedies were much revived, and in 1786 both were performed at Covent Garden with Mrs Brown in each leading role: Miss Biddy Bellair in Miss in her Teens and Priscilla Tomboy in The Romp. It is possible that Thomas Rowlandson saw Mrs Brown perform these roles and then produced the present work as a portrait.
Mrs J Brown was born into the theatrical Mills family and married William Ross, acting under the name of Mrs Ross in Ireland and Norwich. Following the death of her first husband in 1781, she married her fellow actor and singer, J Brown, in the same year. She made her London debut at Covent Garden in January 1786 as Miss Prue in William Congreve’s Love for Love. Though praised for her performances on the metropolitan stage, she was considered a pale imitation of her more successful younger rival, Dorothea Jordan.
Rowlandson also inscribed the couplet from The Romp on a small watercolour entitled The Wooer Wooed, which is in the collection of the British Museum.