Alexander von Humboldt.

The life of Miss Anne Catley, celebrated singing performer of the last century; including an account of her introduction to public life, her professional engagements in London and Dublin, and her various adventures and intrigues... Carefully comp. and ed. from the best and most authentic records ext online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe life of Miss Anne Catley, celebrated singing performer of the last century; including an account of her introduction to public life, her professional engagements in London and Dublin, and her various adventures and intrigues... Carefully comp. and ed. from the best and most authentic records ext → online text (page 1 of 6)
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In London and Dublin

1ber IDarious Hfcventures anfc 3ntrtguc0

with well-known men of quality
and wealth.

Carefully Compiled and Edited from the Best and Most
Authentic Records Extant.





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fIDemoir of fIDiss Hnne Catle^

<r~* >aP ^ CLi-^

SNNE CATLEY, the subject of the following Memoir,
was one of the most celebrated actresses of the
^ latter half of the last century. Her personal beauty, her

high vocal abilities, and her connection with certain well-
known personages of the upper class, acquired for her a

o notoriety that was certainly distinguished, if not altogether


^ Various writers having expressed themselves very differ-

ently as to this lady's character, it will be interesting to
gather together and present in a consecutive narrative such
authentic facts as are procurable.

N ^ An author living at the time she nourished speaks of her

as "at present justly the most celebrated for her musical

fl powers the British Theatre ever boasted," and says, " she

is the daughter of a hackney coachman who lived near

Tower Hill." All accounts of her seem agreed about this,
and that she was born in the year 1745, as the writer says,
"like a bright orient gem, when removed from the dark
bowels of the earth, emerging from an obscure and gloomy
alley in the neighbourhood of Tower Hill. Her father," he
says, " if he could not boast of luxury himself, most essen-



4 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

tially contributed to the enjoyment of it in others. His
courses were generally above the vulgar level, for he was
in short, and in plain English, neither more nor less than a
gentleman's coachman." As to the particular occupation
of the mother, opinion is much divided, but the most preva-
lent is that she was an humble washerwoman, and earned
small sums in that way by keeping clean the officers upon
the Tower duty.

In her infancy the little Nancy displayed charms which
attracted the attention of every beholder. Her complexion
was as fair as alabaster, her eyes sparkling; she had
vermilion lips, and nothing could equal the bloom which
adorned her cheeks. In a word, Nature seemed in forming
her to have meant to shew the world an abridgment of all
human perfection. Not to dwell, however, too long on a
subject which can afford our readers but little pleasure
besides a first perusal, we shall proceed to relate the
remarkable events of her younger years, observing only
that her beauty increased with her age.

Her education was such as persons who move in the
same sphere of life with her parents usually bestow on
their children. She imbibed the first rudiments of reading
in a charity school. She passed her youth in childish
amusements peculiar to that age, and in the company of
her equals; whom, whether male or female she strove to
xcel in the noble arts of spinning a top, playing at
marbles, running down Tower Hill, jumping over posts, &c.

She had reached her fourteenth year, when, as she v/as
sitting one day in an alehouse, among her companions,
she was desired to sing a song. A draught of beer soon
gained her compliance, and a gentleman well known in the
musical world happening to pass by the door at that

Life of Miss Anne Catxey. 5

instant, was so much attracted by the angelic though
untutored melody of the little Catley that he stopped to
hear her song out. When she had done he went into the
house, sat down, and with the bribe of a few halfpence
prevailed on her to repeat it, and when she had finished he
went away without saying anything to her at that time.

He immediately enquired in the neighbourhood where
her parents lived, and what business they followed ; of
which particulars being informed, he went to them, told
them how much he admired their daughter's musical
talents, and offered to take her under his tuition, and
perfect her in an art for which nature had so well
qualified her.

Her father and mother, overjoyed at a proposal which
seemed so advantageous to their child, readily consented.
Accordingly, she removed next day to the house of her
patron, Mr. Bates, who put her to school very remote from
the haunts of her former companions.

Here she remained some time, wholly employed in
learning to read and write. After she was taken from
school she applied herself with so much assiduity to acquire
a competent knowledge of music, that at the end of two
years she was capable of occupying a distinguished position
in a London orchestra.

While living in the neighbourhood of the Tower, she
became an object very much admired, and by the credulity
of her unsuspecting parents was permitted to expose her
budding beauties, and, as we have seen, her melodious
cadences, in the commonest places of resort in that district.
She was yet too young for serious love affairs, but the
military heroes of the locality had their eyes upon her, as
beasts of prey watch their destined victims until they

6 Life of Miss Anne Catlet.

arrive at a proper time and place to spring upon them.
They were all, however, disappointed ; Nan, before she
arrived at her second teen, listened to the love-lore of a
young linen draper in the Minories, and in a very short
time returned his passion with equal ardour.

And now that charming voice for which she afterwards
became so justly celebrated began to increase in strength
and melody ; insomuch that, at the recommendation of
some friends, Mr. Bates gladly accepted her as an appren-
tice by indenture, with a penalty of ,200 for the father in
case of misconduct.

Upon attaining proficiency she made her first appearance
in public at Vauxhall in the summer of 1762 ; and on the
8th of October in the same year she appeared for the first
time on the stage at Covent Garden, in the character of the
Pastoral Nymph in Comus, and gained uncommon applause.

Bates and Catley, however, soon found they could not
agree. She had discovered a mortal dislike to her master,
and her conduct became most irregular. It was in vain he
solicited and threatened at one time he declared that he
would turn her out of doors and sue her father for the
.200 in vain also were her father's entreaties, her conduct
became so irritating that at last Bates agreed to allow her
25 a year for her board and lodging, and take her salary
to himself. This arrangement, however, did not long

The succeeding year she became an object of public
attention from a very remarkable circumstance. Sir
Francis Blake Delaval, one of the most notorious and
abandoned characters of the times, being charmed with her
beauty, and understanding that the master and his fair
apprentice could not agree, resolved on releasing her

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 7

entirely from the coercion of Bates, and making her his
mistress. Accordingly, it was agreed that Sir Francis
should pay Bates the penalty of the father's bond, and also
give him <2Q0 more in lieu of what she might earn for
him by the engagement that he had made for her with the
managers of Covent Garden Theatre and Marylebone
Gardens. In this purpose Mr. Fraine, an attorney, was
ordered to draw up a proper transfer of her indentures
from Bates to Sir Francis, and she and her mother were
removed into lodgings, where she lived publicly with Sir
Francis, was attended by his servants, and rode out with
him every day.

The attorney, having made the father a party to the
articles, waited on him to have his signature and seal. Mr.
Catley lived at this time with the very respectable Mr.
Barclay, of Cheapside, and, having got possession of the
articles, consulted his master on the nature of them.

The honest Quaker, shocked at the wickedness of trans-
ferring a girl by legal process, for the purpose of prostitution,
advised with his Lawyer, who laid a case before Counsel, and
the ensuing term two motions were made in the Court of
King's Bench on these articles : the first of these motions
was for Habeas Corpus, directed to Sir Francis Blake
Delaval, to bring the body of Anne Catley into Court ; and
the second was for a rule to shew cause why an information
should not be filed against Sir Francis Blake Delaval,
Bates the Master, and Fraine the Attorney, for a conspiracy
to prostitute Anne Catley, under the forms of Law. On the
following day, Catley, in consequence of the Habeas Corpus,
appeared in Court, accompanied by Sir Francis, and was
discharged out of his custody. The affidavits for the prose-
cutor were read, and a day was fixed for cause to be shewn.

8 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

On the young lady's release, her father attempted to seize
her, and carry her off by force. Sir Fletcher Norton,
Counsel for Sir Francis, immediately complained to the
Court, and the violent conduct of the father, was severely
reprimanded by the Chief Justice, Earl Mansfield, who
observed, that though the girl was not of legal age, she was
at full discretion ; and the question being put, whether she
would return with her father, or Sir Francis, she declared
her attachment to the latter, put her hand under his arm,
and making a curtsey to the Judges, and another to the
Bar, walked with him out of Westminster Hall to his
carriage, which waited at the gate, and carried them home.

On cause being shewn, the Court were clearly of opinion
that the information should be granted. Lord Mansfield
observed, that the Court of King's Bench was custos
morum of the country ; and had authority, especially where
the offence was mixed with conspiracy, to punish every
thing contra bonas mores. He called the money given by
Sir Francis to Bates, premium prostitutions, and cited the
case of Sir Richard Sedley, in the reign of Charles II. to
support it.

The consequence of this information against Sir Francis,
Bates, and Fraine, was a trial, and all the defendants being
found guilty by the Jury, were severely fined ; the whole
expense of which, together with the costs to a very con-
siderable amount, fell upon Sir Francis.

The story of her conquest of Sir F. B. D. is told as
follows, in a pamphlet published during her life-time and
professing to contain many curious anecdotes never before
published. She is thus described on the title page

" Queen of Song, of Dance, of Sports,
You scarce will meet her like again."

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 9

Singing at Marylebone Gardens, her beauty, joined to
her superior excellence in singing, could not fail of creating
her a great number of admirers. Among the rest of her
numerous votaries, Sir F. B. D. obtained the preference.
He took her home with him in his chariot one night from
the gardens.

She was not ignorant of the conquest her charms had
made, and was resolved to make the utmost advantage of
it. The Knight who loved her to desperation, on their
arrival at his house, asked her on what terms she would
consent to live with him. She heartily replied, that the
happiness of being loved by him was, in her opinion, a
sufficient reward for any favours that she could bestow.
Pleased with this answer, he presented her with a diamond
ring which he took from his finger, worth a hundred
guineas, as an earnest of what he intended to do in the

Her conversation during supper was witty, spirited and
enlivening ; she sung him several songs, all of which were
on the subject of love and omitting nothing that she
thought likely to increase his passion for her, the evening
was passed in the most agreeable manner imaginable.

The next day he sent for his coachmaker, and ordered
him to make for her a very elegant equipage. He fixed
her in genteel lodgings at two guineas per week, and
assigned her an allowance of five guineas.

Our heroine seemed now arrived at the pinnacle of her
glory, her inamorata was too fond to deny her anything
she asked him. She also, on her part resolved to give him
every satisfaction in her power, and accordingly requested
the favour of him to accompany her to a house near
Hampstead, prepared by her appointment, to partake of an

10 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

entertainment she had provided. She forgot nothing that
might make everything agreeable to him ; the most
delicate viands and the choicest wines were served up with
a degree of elegance, which plainly shewed that the mis-
tress of the feast was no novice in the art of doing the
honours of the table with propriety. All the time they
sat at table, two bands of music composed of the most
celebrated vocal and instrumental performers, played and
sung. The knight was in raptures, but his fair flame
desired him to forbear being so lavish in his thanks till
after supper, when she hoped to present him with a scene
that would be more deserving of them.

Miss Catley made a short meal, and retired somewhat
abruptly. This behaviour surprised her lover, and he
waited the issue of the event with impatience. When the
things were removed she sent a servant to desire Sir F. to
walk into a large hall below stairs, where a theatre
appeared, representing a forest at a distance, with a
beautiful valley stretching out towards it. Fields and
orchards seemed in full bloom ; the rivulets wandered
along, and their banks were decked with woodbines and

Here our heroine, who had only retired to dress, appeared
as Celia asleep ; three shepherds came slowly forward, the
music playing, and one of them sung as follows

Soft advances let us make

Towards my lovely enemy ;
Let us, let us not awake

Her sleeping cruelty.

Then all three sang the following trio

Sleep on, and take that sweet repose,
Ye bright victorious eyes,

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 11

Which the hard law that you impose
To other hearts denies.


Silence, ye birds, ye zephyrs, peace,

Let all a sacred silence keep ;
Ye purling streams, your murmurs cease,

For 'tis Celia that's asleep.


Sleep on, and take the sweet repose,

Ye bright victorious eyes,
Which the hard law that you impose

To other hearts denies.

This was sung admirably well ; and when the shepherds
had done, several shepherdesses came out of the wood.
They advanced to the sleeping beauty in graceful measure,
as the music played, and when they came to the bank of
flowers she reclined on, one of them sang, incomparably
fine, these words

Come, Celia with your charms,

Come view the innocent delights,
To which, with smiles and open arms,

Our peaceful wilderness invites.
Here seek no grandeur of a Court,
Love's alone our harmless sport :
Love crowns the night, love crowns the day,
And love's the burthen of the lay.

Here Celia awakened, and, singing, said to Strephon,
who stood gazing on and admiring the wonders of her face,

O what cruelty you shew,
To follow me where'er I go !


Whom would you have me, fair, pursue,
But she, alas ! I love but you ?

12 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

What is it, shepherd, that you mean ?

Fair shepherdess, I mean to die ;

Die at your feet and end my pain,
Since at your feet I sigh.

Hence, Strephon, hence, I fear that I shall prove
Pity within my breast transform'd to love.

Or from pity or from love

It is graceful to be tender !
Shepherdess, enough you've strove,

To his flame yon must surrender.
Or from pity or from love,

It is graceful to be tender.

Too long I've been, too long, severe,

Your ardent vows have treated ill ;
Here, take my heart, here, Strephon, here,

Of just revenge here take your fill.


O heavens ! shepherds ! Celia, why
Transport me thus ? If joy can kill, I die.


This prize is worthy of thy fidelity ;
Thus blest, who but must envy thee !

This scene of a comedy ballet was finely performed and
beautifully improved by the conclusion taken from Shake-
speare's Tempest ; that is, when the shepherds had done,
Juno, Iris and Ceres appeared, descending in a machine
of clouds, to bless this pair, and sung their blessings on
them. Iris called the Naiads of the winding brooks, by

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 13

command of Juno, summoned the sun-burnt sicklemen to
put their rye-straw hats on and encounter those other
nymphs in country footing. The nymphs and reapers
appeared in a moment properly habited, and concluded the
scene with a graceful dance.

In this manner the time passed away till midnight, the
next day was passed in much the same manner, and he
stayed with her about a week, and she every day entertained
him with some new species of diversion. At the end of
that time he took his leave, and gave her fresh tokens of
his affection.

A writer in the " History of the English Theatre " (1789)
says, " To the man of her choice she was faithful, loving
and submissive." This opinion is certainly not borne out
by facts, and another writer of her times says, " Though of
a sprightly disposition and apparently of a volatile spirit,
she never lost sight of her own interest." Sir Francis had
possession of her person, but was never master of her heart,
and there is no doubt, but that even while she resided
with him, and appeared in public as his mistress, she
privately engaged in intrigues with others for pecuniary
consideration. A diamond to her was as inestimable an
argument as to Madame Sc-l-e-g. It won her last favour
as effectually as it gains the old German's interest. Her
passions were strong, but she was totally destitute of
sentiment and delicacy, and always gratified her appetite
with a view to her interests as well as to her taste ; being
attached to the whole sex without harbouring a particular
fondness for any particular individual, she measured love
by profit, and enjoyed indulgence without the least relish
for mental satisfaction.

Macklin was the person who first discovered her talents

14 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

for the stage, and she cultivated thero under his tuition
with assiduity and success; for notwithstanding she pleased
most when least natural and most outre, yet there was
great capability in her mind ; she could assume chaste
acting, and executed many characters of difficulty with
critical justice.

Time, possession, and infidelity the capricious girl having
confessed to an improper intimacy with no less a personage
than the Duke of York himself, whom she declared to be
the father of her third child, adding with her native pleas-
antry, a hope that he might be wiser than his father

having at last cooled the passion of Sir Francis, he effected
an emancipation from the fascinating chains of his mistress,
who, by the advice of her venerable instructor, the father
of the stage, made a trip to Ireland.

It is evident that while she was making her most fervent
protestations of affection for Sir F., she could not confine her
desires to him alone, but among other adventures listened to
the overtures made her by a rich Portuguese Jew merchant.
Her amour with him seemed to be founded more on in-
terest, than any other motive, and was as follows.

She had been kept by Sir F. about a twelve month, when
returning home in a hackney chair from a visit pretty late
in the evening, a foot-pad presented a pistol to the foremost
man, commanding him in the usual phrase to stand. A
voice at that instant cried out, " hold villain, on your life I
charge you hold ! dare to repeat your insolence, and this
moment shall be your last." The robber obeyed, and a
gentleman, richly dressed, having ordered the chairman to
carry the lady home, escorted her thither himself.

As soon as she arrived at the door of her own house he
handed her out of the chair, and being struck with her

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 15

beauty he asked permission to pay her a visit, which she
readily complied with.

He then respectfully took his leave and went home
ruminating all the way on the pleasure he was likely to
reap from this happy encounter.

Before we proceed any further in the relation of this
adventure, it will not be amiss to give the best account we
could learn of this new adorer of our heroine. He was a
native of Lisbon, his name, Miguel Diaz Fernandes ; he
was very rich, and a widower. He had no children, and
was about fifty years old. As to his person, he was tall
and meagre, of a sallow complexion, and had something
rather forbidding in his countenance. Having given this
description of him, we shall resume the thread of the story.

As soon as he went home he retired to bed, but could
not sleep. He lay awake the whole night, ruminating on
what had passed ; he arose early in the morning, and
despatched his servant with the following billet to Miss

" Divine creature !

I am dying for love of you, and unless you take
pity on me, and condescend to receive this declaration of
my passion favourably, I must inevitably fall a victim to
the ardent flame with which I am fired. I have sixty
thousand pounds, besides a large estate in Portugal, which
I here offer to make you sole mistress of. Deign therefore
to give me permission to hope I am not disagreeable to
you. My servant will deliver your answer to me.

I am, charming miss,

Your sincere admirer,

M. D. Fernandes."

16 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe life of Miss Anne Catley, celebrated singing performer of the last century; including an account of her introduction to public life, her professional engagements in London and Dublin, and her various adventures and intrigues... Carefully comp. and ed. from the best and most authentic records ext → online text (page 1 of 6)