Thurmond [née Lewis], Sarah
- Jane Girdham
Thurmond [née Lewis], Sarah (d. 1762), actress, was born at Epsom, Surrey. Her first recorded appearance on stage was in 1711, with Pinkethman's troupe at Greenwich, where John Thurmond (d. 1754) was a dancer and choreographer. The couple are said to have married in 1713; the baptism of Lewis, the son of John and Sarah Thurmond, on 28 October 1712 at St Martin-in-the-Fields may refer to a different family, but their two daughters, Mary and Catherine, were baptized in London in 1727 and 1732 respectively. Between 1712 and 1715 Mrs Thurmond was in Dublin, where her husband's parents, John and Winifred Thurmond, were also on the stage. Confusion between the two John Thurmonds and the two Mrs Thurmonds is inevitable, but it seems likely that Sarah Thurmond acted at the Smock Alley Theatre. In 1715 all the Thurmonds returned to London, where Sarah's husband was announced to be dancing at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 2 June 1715. On 23 June Sarah, 'who never acted on this stage', appeared there for the first time, as Cosmelia, in Newburgh Hamilton's The Doting Lovers, or, The Libertine Tamed; she also spoke the epilogue. She played major roles in a variety of works that season, among them Portia in Lord Lansdowne's The Jew of Venice and Julia in Aphra Behn's The False Count. She remained at Lincoln's Inn Fields for four years, where her parts included the title role in Thomas Shadwell's The Woman Captain, Belinda in John Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife, and Calista in Nicholas Rowe's The Fair Penitent.
In 1718 the Thurmonds moved to Drury Lane, where John became the dancing-master and, on 8 September, Sarah gave her first performance, as Aspasia in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy. She remained at that theatre until 1732. Among her later roles were Desdemona, Lady Macduff, Isabella in Richard Steele's The Conscious Lovers, and the title role in Rowe's Jane Shore. Her salary for the 1729 season was £166 plus benefit money. The range of her roles made her a 'lady utility' (Doran, 2.60). At the beginning of the 1732–3 season, she moved to Goodman's Fields Theatre, and made her début there on 18 October 1732 as Almeria in Congreve's The Mourning Bride, a role she had played previously at Drury Lane. She took with her some of her Drury Lane roles, and added others, including Polly in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Mrs Thurmond was joined at this theatre by her husband in December; they appear to have left Drury Lane because of a disagreement with the management there, and the following season many of the company moved elsewhere, returning only when the conflict was settled early in 1734. Here she extended her repertory to include Marcia in Joseph Addison's Cato, Lady Brute in The Provoked Wife, and the Queen in Dryden's The Spanish Fryar. Her last appearance was on 5 May 1737, as Lady Wronghead in Vanbrugh's The Provoked Husband.
John Thurmond died in 1754, leaving half of his estate to Sarah and one-quarter each to their two daughters, Mary and Catherine. Sarah Thurmond died in London in 1762, and was buried on 18 May at the church of St Paul, Covent Garden. Her will, dated 13 July 1761, left everything to Catherine, with instructions to look after her sister, Mary Jackson, and her children. Catherine married John Addy in May 1762 and had died by 6 June 1764, when her husband took over the administration of Sarah's estate.
Contemporary comments on Sarah Thurmond's performances are scarce. In 1729 several oblique references were made to her appearing drunk on stage. Aaron Hill described her as having an affected style of delivering poetry, 'whining out good Verses, in a Drawl so unpleasantly extended' (The Prompter, 27 Dec 1734), but W. R. Chetwood thought she had 'an amiable person and a good voice', and commended her retirement from the stage: 'in her full and ripe performance, and, at that time, left behind her but few that excelled her' (DNB).
- E. L. Avery, ed., The London stage, 1660–1800, pt 2: 1700–1729 (1960)
- A. H. Scouten, ed., The London stage, 1660–1800, pt 3: 1729–1747 (1961)
- J. Doran and R. W. Lowe, ‘Their majesties' servants’: annals of the English stage, rev. edn, 2 (1888), 60
- J. Milhous and R. D. Hume, eds., A register of English theatrical documents, 1660–1737, 2 (1991), 736
- W. R. Chetwood, A general history of the stage, from its origin in Greece to the present time (1749)