Catherine Clive’s house late in life, at Twickenham
Not known as a poet, but (where she’s remembered) as an actress, Catherine Raftor Clive (1711-85) nonetheless did write verse burlesques and some of the mocking epilogues she was once famous for speaking. Like her polemics on her own behalf, and some of the memoirs of other actresses of the 18th century, some of these were said to be by “anonymous” [men], or rewritten by an “anonymous” [male]. Not so, or at least I do not believe this. In “the case of Catherine Clive” I certainly hear her voice, and the stance is unmistakably one only she as the person cheated, stigmatized, snubbed, would write; it’s also uncannily like like teachers today defending themselves against public demands they should take less money and knuckle under to unjust monopolies and bad treatment (for the same kind of envy was manipulated by the stage managers, claiming they had a “deficit” and couldn’t afford to pay these supposed extravagant wages). Among those attributed to her is the burlesque Rehearsal, 1753, performed as a benefit for her (meaning she took the profits after overhead had been accounted for).
For today I’m sharing an epilogue spoken at the end of a 1756 The Apprentice by Arthur Murphy, an after-piece for Southern’s Oroonoko. This one is attributed to a friend (as some of her pieces also were) but is by her. Note how she addresses and identifies with the milliners in the audience and the sharp hard ironies towards women spending their lives in virtuous low paid hard work:
EPILOGUE written by a Friend , spoken by Mrs. CLIVE.
[Enters reading the Play-Bill.]
A very pretty Bill,—as I’m alive!
The Part of—Nobody—by Mrs. Clive !
A paltry, scribling Fool—to leave me out—
He’ll say perhaps—he thought I could not spout .
Malice and Envy to the last Degree!
And why?—I wrote a Farce as well as He.
And fairly ventur’d it,—without the Aid
Of Prologue dress’d in black, and Face in Masquerade;
O Pit—have Pity—see how I’m dismay’d!
Poor Soul!—this canting Stuff will never do,
Unless, like Bay’s, he brings his Hangman too.
But granting that from these same Obsequies,
Some Pickings to our Bard in black arise;
Should your Applause to Joy convert his Fear,
As Pallas turns to feast— Lardella’s Bier ;
Yet ‘twould have been a better Scheme by half
T’have thrown his Weeds aside, and learn’t with me to laugh.
I could have shewn him, had he been inclin’d,
A spouting Junto of the Female Kind.
There dwells a Milliner in yonder Row,
Well-dress’d, full-voic’d, and nobly built for Shew,
Who, when in Rage, she scolds at Sue and Sarah ,
Damn’d, Damn’d Dissembler !—thinks she’s more than Zara
She has a Daughter too that deals in Lace,
And sings—O Ponder well—and Cherry Chase ,
And fain would fill the fair Ophelia’s Place.
And in her cock’t up Hat, and Gown of Camblet,
Presumes on something— touching the Lord Hamlet .
A Cousin too she has, with squinting Eyes,
With wadling Gait, and Voice like London Cries ;
Who, for the Stage too short by half a Story,
Acts Lady Townly—thus—in all her Glory.
And, while she’s traversing her scanty Room,
Cries—”Lord, my Lord, what can I do at home!”
In short, there’s Girls enough for all the Fellows,
The Ranting, Whining, Starting, and the Jealous,
The Hotspurs, Romeos, Hamlets, and Othellos.
Oh! Little do those silly People know,
What dreadful Trials—Actors undergo.
Myself—who most in Hamony delight,
Am scolding here from Morning until Night.
Then take Advice from me, ye giddy Things,
Ye Royal Milliners, ye apron’d Kings;
Young Men beware and shun our slipp’ry Ways,
Study Arithmetic, and burn your Plays;
And you, ye Girls, let not our Tinsel train
Enchant your Eyes, and turn your madd’ning Brain;
Be timely wise, for oh! be sure of this;—
A Shop with Virtue, is the Height of Bliss.
A portrait of Catherine Clive from Strawberry Hill (Horace Walpole’s house), painting by Alexander Van Haecken, engraving Joseph Van Haeken
This is not attributed to Catherine Clive, but prefaced a private performance we apparently know nothing about, only that this prologue survives and was published in one of several miscellanies of prologues and epilogues popularly read from the Restoration to the end of the 18th century. It is now attributed to Garrick, on what authority I know not.
I’ve really been impressed by how even if Clive didn’t write most of the epilogues, she spoke, they all project her personality as understood, and like Anne Oldfield, Clive was a great favorite for writing epilogues for and doing them. Here is just one:
A Prologue, upon Epilogues, Spoken at a Private Benefit:
Enter in a black coat, closely buttoned.
Behold me in the usual prologue dress,
Though why it should be black, I cannot guess;
Custom, the law of schools — improvement’s foe,
Has long established that it shall be so:
But, say is slavish custom to control,
The active vigor of my free-born soul;
I”ll break the statute — and her laws deface
[Unbuttoning coat and displaying gold-laced waist-coat]
Behold the glare of deviating lace;
Departing farther from custom’s dream
I bid adieu to prologue’s usual theme;
And while o’er critic rules my rivals doze
A prologue upon epilogues compose.
The epilogue, which always deck’d with smiles
In female accent, tragic care beguiles:
That when excalted thoughts, the mind impress,
A trivial jest must make the pleasure less.
Ludicrous custom, which compels to show,
The cap of folly, in the rear of woe;
Portrays a smile, emerging from a sigh,
And pleasure starting from affliction’s eye;
Makes joy’s bright beam in sorrow’s face appear,
And Quibble dry the sentimental tear.
If when a tragic tale in virtue’s cause,
The soft compassion of the tender draws;
Custom, decrees, our feeling be repressed,
By some vile pun, or some unseemly jest:
By the same rule, when comic swains give birth,
To nature’s dimples, in the cheeks of mirth;
A doleful ditty, should conclude the night,
And rob the audience of their dear delight:
E’er with improvement they can make retreat,
The purpose of the well-wrought piece defeat.
Then sons of genius, be it all your pride,
To throw the codes of prejudice aside:
By custom’s shackles be no more restrained,
Be ev’ry mental faculty unchain’d.
Our bodies freedom, we in birthright find,
Then lets assert the freedom of the mind.
I like the complicated thought and assertion on behalf of liberty; also the insightful critique of how epilogues relate to the two genres of plays and the conventions of epilogues.
The text is not in ECCO; it’s reprinted in “Garrick’s Unpublished Epilogue for Cathering Clive’s The Rehearsal; or, Bayes In Petticoats by Matthew J Kinservik, Études Anglaises, 49:3, (1996):320-26.
There is no modern biography in print. These distort her but they do so in 18th century ways. A dissertation by Patrick J. Crean, “The life and Times of Kitty Clive” (1933, University of London) is said to be accurate and full, and perhaps I’ll buy a copy. In the meantime a slender volume, The Life of Mrs Catherine Clive, by Percy Fitzgerald is touching brief account, very affectionate for the most part, and as far as I can tell (from comparison with the ODNB article which I quote from below) accurate. Percy lists the known works of Clive thus: “light productions, pamphlets, controversial letters, and a few “pieces of occasion. Among these were “Bayes in Petticoats,” “Every women in her petticoats” (already described), “Sketch of a Fine Lady’s returning from a Rout,” “Island of Slaves.” The reader should consult A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800: v. 2, edd. Highfell, Burnim and Langhan. A chapter in Felicity Nussbaum’s Rival Queens: Actresses, Performances, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theatre contains a lot of information, other articles, but is a strong polemic which might be distorting Clive. Anyone reading this blog who would like to cite an article or book I have not, I’d be grateful; I’d read it and improve this blog (no blog is engraved in cement).
Since I really cannot better it and there seem to be so few undistorted sources with which to work, I’m gong to take the unusual step of quoting parts of a published article for the little life that usually accompanies these. A real problem in discussing actresses of the earlier century and are own era is how they are distorted by the media which presents them. The process I’ve learned is called specularization (from speculum, Latin for mirror). A definition I was offered by a friend “specularization refers to the process whereby the nature of an observer’s gaze shapes and defines what he or she looks at, thereby determining the discourse that ensues.” Actresses were seen as prostitutes and degraded and demeaned by the way they were presented, or, in an effort to elude this pornification, they are nowadays presented as somehow powerful and successful in ways they could not be. To avoid this I’ve decided simply to quote from the ODNB article. I’ve omitted all paragraphs and details which from what I’ve read seem to distort Clive.
My view is she was a gallant woman, multi-talented, who managed to survive with great difficulty and to fulfill her talents as an actress. I admire her for (reminding me of Anne Oldfield), not marrying in order to keep her liberty or independence. She also had a real talent for writing; this she never had a place to develop. I’ve not read her letters and long to. So I’ve presented her as writer and poet-playwright too. The list of the plays and events she participated in must be so long and varied
From the ODNB: “According to William Chetwood’s General History of the
Stage(1749), Clive was the daughter of William Raftor, a Kilkenny
lawyer of considerable estate who ruined his fortunes by aligning himself with James II during the latter’s campaign in Ireland in 1690. After a period of exile, he was pardoned and returned to London to marry a Mrs Daniel, ‘Daughter to an eminent Citizen on Fishstreethill with whom he had a handsome Fortune’
(Chetwood, 126). Chetwood further claims that the couple had numerous
children, but the names of these brothers and sisters are unknown, except
for James (*d*. 1790), who joined Kitty in a stage career, and a sister
whose married name was Mrs Mestivyer. There is evidence that Kitty Clive
supported her father once she was working, so whatever handsome fortune was in place when her parents married evidently dwindled over time.”
In 1728, “A friend of Jane Johnson, the first wife of Theophilus Cibber, Kitty was introduced to both Cibber and Chetwood. They, in turn, impressed with her ‘infinite Spirits, with a Voice and Manner in singing Songs of Pleasantry peculiar to herself’ (Chetwood, 127), recommended her to Colley Cibber, who added her to his list of performers at Drury Lane. Chetwood indicates that she had a few minor appearances in the spring of 1728, but once the full 1728–9 season opened she began appearing regularly in increasingly large and important roles. Throughout that season and those that followed she moved from supporting roles in tragedy to singing in afterpieces and playing the first-ranking characters in the farces popular in the period.
The fashion of musical comedy and burlesque suited Kitty’s vocal and comic
talents perfectly, and she shone in parts such as Nell in Charles Coffey’s The
Devil to Pay, in which she portrayed a cobbler’s wife transformed into the
lady of the manor. Henry Fielding wrote several parts for her that
highlighted her skills, including Chloe in The Lottery and Lappet in an
adaptation of Molière’s The Miser. In the summer of 1732 she was given the most sought-after female role in musical comedy, Polly in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, and received a tribute to her portrayal from the Daily Journal, which called her the ‘Darling of the Age’ (25 July 1732).
During the rebellion of the players in 1733, Kitty remained with John Highmore’s company at Drury Lane . . . Henry Fielding, who also remained loyal to Drury Lane, praised her acting talents and the alternative view of her character. In his preface to The Intriguing Chambermaid (1734), in which she played the title role, he compliments her as ‘the best Wife, the best Daughter, the best Sister, and the best Friend’ (Fielding) . . . Her best roles were particular comic types: the silly country miss, the wiser and more fashionable version of the same, and the pert and resourceful servant. These remained her strong suit for much of her career.
Few details are known about Catherine Raftor’s marriage to George Clive
(*d*. 1780), a barrister and second cousin to Robert Clive ‘of India’, but
she appeared as Mrs Clive in the bills for the first time in October 1733.
The name change suggests that the pair had just married or had done so
during the summer, when she would not have been performing regularly.
Evidence about the couple’s married life is also slight, but the two did not
live together for very long, separating some time in 1735. Chetwood,
ostensibly declining to comment on marital affairs, declares, ‘I never could
imagine she deserved ill Usage’ (Chetwood, 128), implying that was just what
she received . . .
Although Clive herself did not contribute to the pamphlet war during the theatrical rebellion of 1733, in 1736 she had reason to believe that the acting manager, Theophilus Cibber, was trying to claim some of her roles for his second wife, Susannah. Clive published her side of the controversy in the press in order to defend her position on the stage.
It is my consolation to think, that as I have always endeavor’d to please them [the town] as an Actress, to the best of my Abilities, whatever has been urged to the contrary by the Malice of my Enemies, will have no weight or Influence upon my Friends. (London Daily Post and General Advertiser, 19 Nov 1736)
When Clive’s appearance as Polly was finally presented, she addressed
herself to the house, apologizing for the disturbance and offering to play
the secondary part of Lucy instead. This apologetic tone and willingness to
appease her audience secured both her popularity and the role of Polly until
she herself was ready to bestow it on a younger actress of her own choosing
in 1745 . . . Although publicly Clive decried and apparently regretted bringing theatrical matters notoriety in the press, the lesson she learned during the Polly war served her well in 1744. After the failure of Charles Macklin and David Garrick to open a third theatre to break the monopoly held by the patentees, Clive found herself unemployed. Rather than relying on others to defend her position and livelihood, that October she printed a pamphlet, The Case of Mrs. Clive Submitted to the Publick, explaining her position and that of other performers. Particularly galling to her was the oss of her annual free benefit, a privilege she had held for nine years, and how she discovered her lack of a job—by finding other actresses listed in her roles in the bills. This ‘unprecedented Act of Injustice’ (The Case of Mrs. Clive, 14) did not allow her the time to find work in Dublin, where she had met with success during the summer of 1741.
Following the publication of her pamphlet, Clive held a benefit concert at the Haymarket on 2 November by command of Frederick, prince of Wales, and Augusta, princess of Wales. The royal couple had commanded Clive’s benefits in the past, and their continued patronage of her expressed their personal dismay at the lord chamberlain’s ruling in favour of the patentees. Theophilus Cibber confirmed that the audience at the benefit had been a notable one, by describing the affair as having ‘many Persons of the first Distinction … in the Pit and Boxes’ (Cibber, 76). The manager, John Rich, no fool, recognized Clive’s drawing power, and rehired her the next month at Drury Lane, although not at the salary level she had previously attained. As in the Polly war, Clive found that humble approaches to the theatre-going public could push theatrical management to some semblance of civility towards players . . .
David Garrick attained the patent for Drury Lane in 1747, Clive’s career settled down considerably. Printed appeals to the public were no longer
necessary, except for a skirmish with the actor Ned Shuter over benefit performances in 1761. She continued to shine in her best venue, the stage. She retained many of the parts that she had made famous, including Nell in The Devil to Pay, but moved out of *ingénue* roles into those more suited to her maturing voice and figure. Flora in Susanna Centlivre’s The Wonder, Mrs Cadwallader in Foote’s The Author, the Fine Lady in Garrick’s Lethe, and Lady Wishfort in William Congreve’s The Way of the World were typical of these later roles. Comedy remained her forte, but she also continued her facility in speaking prologues and epilogues.
A dedicated performer, and one with full appreciation for the transience of
theatrical life, Clive continued to seek new roles for herself and new ways
to supplement her income. She tried her hand at writing farces, which became a feature of her benefits. Her first, The Rehearsal, or, Bays in Petticoats, was first presented at her benefit in 1750. There were scattered additional performances, and it was eventually published in 1753. Clive wrote at least three more farces, Every Woman in her Humour, A Fine Lady’s Return from a Rout, and The Faithful Irishwoman, but none received even the limited fame that her first had done and none was published.
Throughout her long career Clive remained a London actress, and except for
the two seasons at Covent Garden (1743–5) she was loyal to Drury Lane.
However, at some point in the 1740s it is apparent that she moved her
primary residence to Twickenham and lived in lodgings in London during the
theatrical season. In that small community, she and Horace Walpole became
close friends . . . Soon afterwards she had become a visible and cheering
presence in his correspondence, and he gave her a small house on his
property. Reading through the correspondence makes it clear that Walpole and
Clive developed a strong, enduring, and almost certainly platonic
friendship . . .
In 1768 Walpole mentioned to a friend that Clive was preparing to leave the stage, and the bill for her benefit in April 1769 advertised that it would be the ‘last time of her appearing on the Stage’ (Stone, 3.1401). She performed some of her favourite roles: Flora in The Wonder and the Fine Lady in Lethe. After more than forty successful years on the stage, Clive had earned enough to support herself comfortably in her retirement. In her published Case in 1744 she revealed that she had been making £300 annually, plus her benefit, which in her most successful years could almost double that salary—in 1750, for example, her benefit brought her just over £250. In 1765, in a letter to David Garrick, she commented that her salary remained £300 a year. Although much of her income would have gone to support her professional life (she spent considerable sums on singing lessons and appropriate clothes) she had evidently managed her money wisely.
Her own correspondence, along with that of Walpole and David Garrick,
reveals Clive’s retirement to have been carefree, except for bouts of
illness and occasional trouble from footpads and tax collectors. Her brother
James and sister lived with her, and were, according to Jane Pope, supported
by her. She busied herself with ‘Routs either at home or abroad every night
[and] all the nonsense of having my hair done time enough for my parties as
I used to do for my parts with the difference that I am losing money instead of getting some’ (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans, BDA). Her periods ofillness self-described jaundice—eventually grew more frequent, and after catching a chill at the funeral of Lieutenant-General Henry Lister, she died on 6 December 1785. She was buried in Twickenham churchyard on 14 December. Horace Walpole dispersed her personal possessions among her friends and relatives.
K. A. Crouch”
A while back I read an essay I’ve not forgotten. By an 18th century scholar, he argued from a stadist standpoint that taking a set of criteria over several centuries in the last 30 years women have had a bad set-back. One criteria is how available women are sexually to men; the more available they are (whether or not they say they want this), one sees a set of other criteria to show them losing ground (in the area of property and money-ownership, in the area of violence inflicted, in the area of babies had, more is a bad sign).
So I take this outright demand for a return to unrestricted polygamy even if in a fanatic state to be significant.
I’ve fallen behind in my weekly close-readings of Austen’s letters, partly because I’ve been reading and studying about 18th century actresses’ lives. I’m working towards a review of Felicity Nussbaum’s Rival Queens. One of her contentions is that we are over-emphasizing the association of Actress with Prostitute in the 18th century; I don’t think she can prove that case, but it does seem to me the 18th century was an era when women achieved a measure of liberty they had not before, at the same time as their turn to “sensibility” was a way of demanding control over their bodies.
Mrs [Francis] Abington [1737-1815] as Miss Prue in Congreve’s Love for Love by Joshua Reynolds [1723-92]
This is one of the rare paintings of actresses at the time which endows them with a quiet dignity and conveys something of an individual personality — here thoughtfulness — while in costume.
I include a list of articles on Clive in the comments.
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