Woffington was born of humble origins in Dublin. Her father is thought to have been a bricklayer. After his death, the family became impoverished. Her mother was obliged to take in washing while Peg sold watercress door to door. It was said that she was walking through a marketplace as a pre-teen and happened upon Madame Violante, a famous tightrope walker.
Signora Violante was so immediately enthralled by Peg’s beautiful face that she accompanied Peg home and asked her mother for permission to take Peg in as his apprentice.
Around 1730, Madame Violante featured Peg as Polly Peachum in a production of John Gay’s, The Beggar’s Opera. This served as a springboard for Woffrington’s fame in Dublin where she continued dancing and acting in the area. She danced and acted at various Dublin theaters until her success as Sir Harry Wildair in The Constant Couple led to her being given her London Debut at Covent Gardens; she became well-known as an actress thereafter. She also educated and supported her sister Mary (usually known as Polly) and cared for and pensioned her mother.
On 3 May 1757, she was playing the part of Rosalind in As You Like It when she collapsed on the stage. She rallied but would never act again, lingering with a wasting illness until 1760.
Woffington appeared in portraits and painting by several artist of the day, including Jacobus Lovelace in 1744, Peter van Bleeck in 1747, and John Lewis in 1753. She was eulogized in a poetical sketch by dramatist Henry Jones.
Provenance: Hendon Hall, Middlesex