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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

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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 3 of 6)
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of a large company who travelled with them, who did not
see the gross conduct of his wife.

Soon after their arrival in Ireland this intrigue came
glaring in his face, and had he permitted his wife to live
with him every boy would have hooted him no legal steps
however were taken in consequence of her conduct, but they
separated by mutual consent ; Sir Henry remaining at his
country seat, and his lady removing to elegant lodgings in
Capel Street, Dublin.

In this situation Lady Echlin gave way completely to
that immoral disposition and habit that had long char-
acterised her, and among other degrading connections formed
one with the son of an attorney, a stupid creature destitute
of every quality that was not merely animal. Another and
another soon succeeded man was her object, sensuality her
pursuit "every rank fool went down." A conduct so
obnoxious, so foreign to the delicacy of her sex, soon re-
duced her to a state of contempt. Wherever she appeared
the women retreated, and even the men were ashamed to
shew her countenance in public. This marked, yet just
punishment of her offences, rendered Dublin a solitude
she found herself without society, and daily experienced
insult, to avoid which she made a trip to London. This
was only changing the scene. In London her pursuits
were the same as in Dublin, and it is generally believed
that in a few years after she died miserably in the garret

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 31

of a wretched lodging house in one of the alleys of Drury

The pursuits of Sir Henry were not more reputable than
those of his lady ; his house exhibited a scene of continued
revelling, debauchery and extravagance mortgage fol-
lowed mortgage foreclosures produced sales, till at last
the unhappy baronet was obliged to fly his country and
was so reduced in circumstances, that he officiated at Paris
in the degrading situation of a waiter. Afterwards, how-
ever, he emerged from that degenerate situation, and
received a trifling pension for the performance of secret

After Miss Catley's quarrel with Sir Francis, and their
separation, she removed to a milliner's shop in Tavistock-
street, Covent Garden, which situation was the more
agreeable to her, as being highly convenient for the
business she carried on. It must however be remarked
that this fall from greatness was highly disgusting to a
person of our heroine's disposition. She was naturally
fond of splendour, and having been accustomed to parade
the streets in her chariot could hardly support the thought
of walking on foot. Being a woman of spirit her change
of circumstance did not affect her so much as it would have
done others. She resolved to cast her eye about for another
lover to supply the place of her former one.

A female performer no sooner starts in a line like this, if
she is only tolerably handsome and has any degree of merit
in her profession, than she has a number of professed
admirers. It is the ambition of every pretty fellow to
aim at being the happy man, and an artful girl acquainted
with the wiles of her class, in such a situation, cannot
fail of attracting a great many lovers. Our heroine's

32 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

talents and beauty were so superior to most contemporaries
in her profession, that the reader need not be surprised to
find her particularly distinguished ; and that the number
of her admirers were in proportion. She had indeed many,
both in England and Ireland, as will be seen in the course of
this work. We may venture to assert, that there never
perhaps was a more sincere devotee to the goddess of love
than this lady, nor one who has made a better use of the
vast sums she has acquired in her profession, in which
she has not only the greatest share of pleasure, but has
also reaped immense profits. She was engaged at Covent
Garden Theatre at this time, where her salary indeed was
but moderate, but which, however, united to the returns of
her other business, placed her in a state of affluence. Add
to this what she gained by singing at private concerts
during the winter season, and her lucrative appointment at
Marylebone Gardens in the summer time, then under the

direction of that arch-priest of Salinus, Tom L of

intriguing memory.

As we have stated, soon after her quarrel with Delaval,
Anne, acting under advice she respected, made a trip to
Ireland. Her reception in the " land of saints," fully
answered her most sanguine expectations ; she drew over-
flowing audiences, who applauded her to " the very echo,"
and raised considerable sums for herself and the manager.
In Dublin, however, a circumstance occurred which for a
time considerably damped her spirits, and mortified her
pride. Nan was not an only child ; she had a sister named
Mary, whom she took into the family, for the purpose of
superintending two children, one of whom she taught to
call Sir Francis Delaval father, the other she honoured
with royal blood, named him Edward, and gave him for
a sire his Royal Highness the late Duke of York.

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 33

It must be acknowledged by Nan's best friends that she
did not behave affectionately to her sister Poll. The girl
was kept at a distance, treated as a servant, and, as Nan's
disposition often broke out with all the unbounded viru-
lence of a vulgar termagant, the poor creature suffered not
only from the abuse of her tongue, which was pointed and
poisoned like that of an asp, but also from the violence of
her fists, and sharpness of her nails, which she could
exercise with such agility and effect that a black eye, or
bloody nose and cheeks were frequently the consequence.

This ill usage, which was almost daily repeated, deter-
mined poor Poll to quit her sister. She had a good voice,
though uncultivated, a small, neat, smart person, and good
eyes ; but the smallpox had ravaged the charms of her
face, which, however, displayed the lily and the rose, so
that she was desirable, though not beautiful, and had many
admirers. One of these laid close siege to Poll, who for a
considerable time rejected his addresses. Wearied out,
however, at last, by the repeated ill-usage of her tyrannical
sister, who rendered home a hell, she flew to the protection
of her lover.

The rage of Nan on this occasion is not easily described ;
cups, saucers, every article at hand, flew about the house ;
she felt for the honour of her family, and a violent fit of
hysterics was the consequence. Recovering from this
paroxysm of rage and pride, she became calm and vindic-
tive ; and having relieved her oppressed mind by a shower
of tears, and a torrent of abuse against the cause of her
grief, made a positive vow never to see or relieve her
runaway sister, which vow she kept most religiously.

Poll's charms, as has been already hinted at, were not
very fascinating, and her lover soon became disgusted with


34 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

his mistress, whom he one day caught intriguing with a
student of Dublin College, and of course dismissed her on
this positive proof of unfaithfulness.

Poll's new lover, the collegian, though rich in learning
was poor in purse; but he was young and agreeable,
qualities of high estimation with every female, and which
had such eflect upon this lady that, notwithstanding several
overtures had been made, she rejected them all, and for
near six months lived, or rather starved, in fidelity with
the man of letters. " Love," says the old proverb, " flies
out of the window when poverty enters the door." The
adage, however, was not illustrated by the conduct of Poll,
who, for a considerable time after poverty had taken
possession of her apartment, worked to supply the wants
of her favourite swain. The student was seized with
a severe illness, which, baffling all the efforts of the
physicians, assumed the form of a decline, and in the
end caused his death. Poll, too, was laid up in hospital
for a considerable time, but ultimately recovered ; and,
having a tolerable voice, and a name which would
make an attractive figure in a country playbill, got an
engagement in a strolling company, from which time fame
has neglected to report the incidents of her life.

In Ireland it is certain that Nan had many intrigues, in
most of which she acted with caution and prudence. Such
as had merely pleasure in view were mostly confined to the
gentlemen of the sock and buskin ; with the great, profit
was always her object, and secresy a part of the condition
she imposed upon her lovers. Being herself independent
of the world, and freed from every species of control,
her amours offered no variety of incident. By this
means, and the profits of her profession, Nan's finances

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 35

increased considerably, and she prudently secured and
increased them, always living much below her income.
There never was a greater favourite in Dublin, nor
indeed a more deserving one, for on every opportunity
she obliged the public, and by them was constantly
rewarded at her benefits.

She was perhaps the only woman leading such a life that
ever received countenance on the stage from the modest
women of Ireland; but they looked upon her as an
eccentric character, making proper allowances for her early
habits, and imputed her failings more to early misfortune
than to vice.

At this time the reverend Dean Bailey was a principal
superintendent to most of the public charities, and it having
been determined that a concert should be performed for the
benefit of the lying-in hospital, the dean, who was par-
ticularly attentive to this charity, took upon him to
engage Catley to sing at the concert, and wrote her a card
to the following purport. " Dean Bailey's compliments to
Miss Catley, and requests to know when she can give him
a night at the lying-in hospital, and her terms." On this
card Nan put a jocular interpretation, and returned for
answer, " Miss Catley presents her compliments to the
Reverend Dean Bailey ; for three nights to come she is
engaged to particular friends, but on the fourth will be
at his service." This produced a laugh against the Dean,
but in the end served the charity, for which Nan sung

The world has often heard of Lord R who some

years ago was tried at the Quarter Sessions at Dublin,
upon a charge, which if true, would have been the most
disgraceful to him, as it is disgusting and shocking to

36 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

mankind. The manners of this nobleman abounded with
peculiarities. He was tall and bony in person, yet ef-
feminate in every action ; with a skin tawny as a mulatto,
and a beard thick, strong and black as that of a Swiss ; he
affected the delicacy and nervous sensations of a sickly
girl. Some ill demon put it into his lordship's head to
have an affair with Miss Catley ; probably for the purpose
of lessening the effect of several evil suspicions which then
flew about, materially to the injury of his character, in
respect to the affection of his passions.

The noble lord had not at this time attained the con-
siderable estates which he afterwards inherited from his
father ; and which might have accounted for the economic
plan by which he approached Miss Catley, if it was not
known that even then he abounded in wealth, and that
parsimony was among his faults. He waited on Nan one
evening soon after she had returned from performing
Captain Flash in the Farce of Miss in her Teens, in which
character, the appearance being masculine, for Nan was
then an excellent breeches figure, she had struck his eye,
and raised ideas very difficult for persons of his lordship's
taste to suppress.

Nan on her return had sat down to prepare supper for a
few theatrical friends whom she intended to treat with a
roast duck and having recently parted with her servant,
was officiating as cook at her chamber fire, where the duck
hung pendant from a string.

His lordship having been announced by the landlady,
was ordered to be ushered in. In a few complimentary
excuses, he apologised for so abrupt a visit, declared his
passion was pure and disinterested and regretted in very
pointed terms that so fine a shape should be concealed by

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 37

petticoats. Nan received his address with affected com-
plaisance and satisfaction ; swore that had she expected
the pleasure of his lordship's company, he should not have
found her in dishabille, and pressed him to do her the honour
of picking the breast of the bird that was then roasting.
Nothing could be more agreeable to his lordship's disposi-
tion than this invitation. He praised Catley for her
economy in doing her own business, and then he praised
the duck. She turned the string, he handed the dredging
box never was lord more happy, till in the midst of his
culinary offices, a knocking at the door gave an alarm.
Nan was then in lodgings, with the exclusive privilege of
monopolizing the hall door to her own use. " It must be
some person for me," said Nan, "for heaven's sake, my lord,
turn the duck while I run to the door." His lordship
obeyed and placing himself upon a little stool, which Nan
had occupied by the fire-side, commenced his new profession
of cook with extraordinary satisfaction and adroitness.

Nan's theatrical friends, for it was they who were at the
door, having been conducted into the drawing room, where
the cloth was laid, she welcomed them with an assurance
that the supper she had provided was not only good but
had been dressed by one of the first cooks in Europe, and
opening the door suddenly introduced the astonished lord
to their wondering eyes.

" Take care cooky, said Nan " if the duck be burned, I
shall certainly discharge you from your place.

The degenerate nobleman felt to the very soul the con-
temptible situation to which his passion for a fine figure
had reduced him. He arose from the stool overwhelmed
with confusion ; his dress was brown velvet embroidered
with gold, point ruffles and a bag, at his side hung a sword



38 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

and elegant knot, in his hand he held a basting ladle
dropping butter.

Fancy may easily paint his lordship's figure on her
tablets ; but to give the true delineation and contour of
humour to the eye, requires the execution of a Hogarth or
a Bunbury. It was nature metamorphosed, by the workings
of shame and surprise, into the most extravagant contor-
tions of caricature. Nor were the painters, the engravers,
or the poets idle on the subject ; his lordship was sketched
in aquafortis, stuck up in every print shop and lampooned
in every newspaper.

Another adventure which took place nearly at the same
period as the foregoing, does equal credit to Nan's humour
and understanding. She had long been an object of atten-
tion to an old and dissipated rake following the wine
business, by whom she had been very much annoyed. This
fellow in appearance and mind was the perfect representa-
tive of a satyr, he was completely worn out with debauchery
and dissipation, yet, notwithstanding his ugliness and de-
bility, was inflated with vanity to an enormous extent and
imputed to the influence of his address, person, and conver-
sation the success and attachments which resulted solely
from the power of his money, or rather indeed the money
of his creditors, which he squandered in a most shameful
manner, though husband to an amiable wife and father of
several children.

Nan having repelled all his efforts successfully, he resolved
to attack her gratitude by paying tribute to her avarice, and
for this purpose sent a billet-doux requesting an appoint-
ment to supper and with it a large hamper of champagne,
assuring her that the cellar it came from was at her service,
and afforded as great a variety as France, Spain, Portugal,

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 39

or Italy could supply. The wine was received, and a verbal
message of thanks returned, but the very same evening it
was sent back to the merchant's house with a card directed
to his wife informing her of the fact.

At supper the wife declared she had a longing for cham-
pagne and must have a glass. The husband stared and
railed at her extravagance. "But I will treat you, my
dear," said the wife, " you may see I have received a
present," on which she put Catley's note into his hands.
It is easy to conceive the domestic quarrel that ensued, and
the person here alluded to has for years back lived in Lon-
don in the most indigent circumstances.

It has already been observed that Miss Catley was
avaricious, yet she had her favourites who succeeded in
duping her even out of her money, as for instance in the
case of Major P m g. Her connection with this man,
who was aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
when she resided in that kingdom, was by no means ad-
vantageous. The major was penurious, not only from dis-
position but necessity, and Nan shared with him not only

her favours but her purse. With Captain C e, who

succeeded the major, she was equally infatuated, and yet
never did nature produce a stronger contrast between two

men. F g, was tall, strong, and manly. Clarke was

not above the middle size, weak and effeminate, he patched
and painted like a woman, and, in appearance, bore a
stronger resemblance to an eunuch than to a man. Yet to
this insect was Catley attached, on this insect she bestowed
considerable sums, though she used frequently, and even in
his presence, to rally her own choice, declaring that he was
in no respect suited to a woman of spirit and gallantry.

From the fascinating spell with which this petit maitre

40 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

trammelled the affections of Nan she was freed by the
exorcisms of General Lascelles, then only a captain in the

One very peculiar attachment she formed was to Mr.

P , and this deserves to be noticed among the various

oddities of the age. He was possessed of near three hun-
dred pounds a year, of which he did not save a farthing
though a bachelor, and a parsimonious man to all outward
appearance. He was neither a patriot nor a ministerial
advocate. His sentiments in politics indeed he had never
revealed, but from the tenor of his whole conduct he seemed
not to care a farthing which courtier enjoyed the post of
prime minister. It was extremely difficult to form a just
idea of his sentiments upon any subject whatever, as he
seldom spoke unless it was to ask for the necessaries of life.

He took up his lodgings at an inn in the city in which he
resided several years. For the first six months he frequently
went to a very noted and genteel public-house, being a great
admirer of fine ale, but having an utter aversion to the
trouble of dress, and having a particular attachment to one
shirt for a number of weeks, it was hinted to him by the
master of the house how necessary it would be to clean
himself if he proposed resorting thither, as the other gentle-
men were offended at his appearance.

Mr. P was affronted at this insinuation, and showed

his resentment by never going thither afterwards, for con-
sidering his shirt as the nearest thing to him in the world
he resolved not to part with it as long as it would stick by
him. For this reason he was confined to his hotel, where
he admitted no one into his room, making his own bed, if
ever it was made, and doing everything for himself. For fear
of being robbed, imitating thereby the French poet, who

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 41

threw his money among his faggots, Mr. P upon the

receipt of a sum used to give it a jerk under the bed, and
as long as he could find a single guinea without trouble, he
never thought of a clean shirt or the bank. He was, how-
ever, once, unfortunately, reduced to his last moidore, and
arrived at the ne plus ultra of filth and rags, and must
have been reduced to the mortifying necessity of changing
his linen, pulling up the heels of his shoes thereby to
conceal the holes in his stockings, which were at that time
very conspicuous, in order to repair to the bank to receive
his last half-year's interest, which always lay dormant till
he was in the greatest distress.

Mr. P was not without vices. Though ostentation

and ambition were not among the number ; he was a great
votary of Bacchus, to whom he devoted not only his nights
and days but also his fortune. Loquacity he contemned,
reason he despised, dress he set at naught, women he was
once passionately fond of, but at the time we are speaking
of, they, Miss Catley excepted, had no charms. But his
jolly god was his constant friend and advocate, with him
alone he used to confer, and he seemed resolved to live
and die in such celestial company. He once obtained a
temporary relief from a disagreeable necessity of going out,
through the industry of an army of moths who had eaten
the lining of an old waistcoat in which were concealed near
thirty guineas and which was going to be thrown upon the

With this charming Adonis did our heroine pass away
now and then a leisure hour, and she would probably have
liked him well enough had he been cleanly. Neatness of
dress she always admired, no wonder then if his excessive
passion for slovenliness disgusted her, and obliged her to


42 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

quit the society of such a man to enjoy the more refined
delights that resulted from the engaging conversation of

Lord B 1, with whom she had at this time contracted a

close intimacy, and who gratified every wish she could form
with the greatest generosity. He had seen her perform on
the stage, was charmed with her and took her home in his
chariot, hired an elegant house for her and maintained her
in the greatest splendour.

Of all the connections formed by Miss Catley, perhaps
the one that ultimately exercised the greatest and most
beneficial influence over her life was that with the General
Lascelles already briefly alluded to; indeed, when her
relationship with this gentleman was settled by her marriage,
it seemed to mark the real turning point of her life. It
appears that the gallant officer, who in 1768 was promoted
to the rank of a lieutenant-colonel of dragoons, went over
to Ireland about that date to join his regiment which
lay in the city of Dublin. Miss Catley had been in that
metropolis three years, in consequence of her having made
an engagement with Mr. Mossop to perform at the theatre,
and where she had been received with almost universal and
justly merited applause, particularly as a vocal performer.
It may easily be supposed that she was no less than a reign-
ing toast in that great city, where the queen of love held as
extensive an empire as in the English metropolis. Colonel
Lascelles went to the play one evening, and having seen our
heroine perform the part of Rosetta, was smitten with love
of her. He accordingly soon got introduced to her behind
the scenes, and the great politeness, refined sense, and un-
wearied assiduity to please her, joined to his personal
recommendations, which were the strongest imaginable and
sufficient to have captivated a heart less susceptible of love

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 43

than Miss C y's, distinguished him from the herd of her

admirers, and she almost as speedily convinced the world
how greatly she was prejudiced in his favour by the
partiality she testified for him, in consenting to live with
him, preferably to any other of her lovers. Before entering
at any length upon this connection, which leads to the
closing scenes of her life, there are two or three other
matters necessary to be narrated in order to make the story

One of her most conspicuous intrigues was with a silk

mercer, Mr. S 1, who lived near Fleet Street. The

manner of their first acquaintance was truly romantic, as
follows :

She was going home one evening from the play, and, it
being moonlight and a frost, she chose to walk rather than
ride in a chair. As she was crossing over the end of James
Street, she perceived a young man before her, who by his
appearance seemed to be very well in his circumstances.
Being now entirely destitute of a keeper, she determined to
throw out a lure to attract his notice. She accordingly had
scarcely reached the opposite footpath when, pretending to
stumble, she caught hold of the skirt of his coat in order to
save herself. He immediately stretched out his hand to
raise her up, and begged to have the honour of being
permitted to wait on her to her lodgings. The kind fair
one, overjoyed at this opportunity which fortune had thrown
in her way, consented, though with some seeming reluctance.
Having escorted her home, he took his leave of her in the
politest manner imaginable, and begged she would not think

1 3 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 3 of 6)