SHE WAS, MANY believed, the most beautiful woman in England. And one of the most fascinating. At her peak, in the 1 780s, all London was at her feet; after her death in 1800, she would be described as 'the most interesting woman of her age '.
Mary Darby was born in Bristol in 1 758 - or possibly a few years earlier; like many actresses, she was fuzzy about her age . Her father was a merchant, who spent much o f his time abroad. The combination of an absent father and an indulgent mother proved