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

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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 4 of 6)
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him guilty of too much presumption on her goodness if he
should take the liberty of enquiring after her health. She
gave him a suitable answer and they parted.

44 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

The smitten silk-man paid her a visit the next day
about twelve o'clock and was received with much decorum.
She did not offer to impose on him a well invented tale, as
she had done on the Jew merchant. Her appearance,
everything about her, the very house she lived in pro-
claimed her a lady of easy virtue. Such a one her new
acquaintance wished her to be, and he made no scruple of
making her an advantageous proposal that very hour,
which she thought proper to accept, and from that day
commenced an intimacy between them.

He was a man who had seen more of the world than the
generality of people in his sphere of life are supposed to do.
He had fine parts well cultivated by a good education, and
a large share of experience of mankind. He was of a
generous disposition, and susceptible of the most tender
passions, particularly that which the little god Cupid
inspires. No wonder therefore if Miss Catley appeared so
charming in his eyes. His heart had imbibed a passion,
which nothing, to all appearance, could ever eradicate.
Unfortunately he was married to a very virtuous and
beautiful woman, who had brought him two fine children,
a boy and a girl.

Notwithstanding all his allurements to love his own
family alone, he became so infatuated with the charms
of his new mistress, that forgetful of the ties of nature,
he attached himself entirely to her.

The better to carry on this intrigue, 'twas agreed
between them, that our heroine should become a customer
of the shop, and as such, frequently go thither under
pretence of buying goods : but in reality to take off all
suspicion of any criminal intercourse between them. The
mercer took his leave, slipping a 20 note into her

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 45

hands, and she promised to go next day to his house to
look at some new fashioned silks that were just made up
purposely for the spring wear.

She did not fail to go the next forenoon according to the

appointment with Mr. S 1, and was introduced into

the parlour behind the shop, by his wife, who not knowing
her character, treated her with all the good manners she
was mistress of. After having looked over a large quantity
of different patterns, she ordered some of those which she
liked best to be sent home to her lodgings, and was about
to take her leave which she was prevented from doing by
the mercer and his wife, who both pressed her in the most
obliging manner imaginable, to stay and drink tea with
them. She consented after much entreaty ; which being
over, she went away, her lover slipping a note into her
hand at parting.

Eager to know the contents of the billet, as soon as she
reached her lodgings, she opened it and read the following

" Dear Charmer,

The infinite pleasure your sweet company gave
me this afternoon has by far overpaid me for the trifling
things you had out of my shop ; I therefore beg of you to
accept of them as a token of my love. My wife is im-
moderately fond of you and wishes for the pleasure of
seeing you often. By compliance with her request, you will
oblige me beyond expression, as you thereby afford me an
opportunity of enjoying the sweets of your angelic con-
versation. I am, loveliest of your sex,

Your sincere admirer

W. S 1."

46 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

Two days after Miss C y received a visit from the

enamoured mercer, who brought her a present of a beautiful
set of Dresden china, and some of the finest tea that could
be purchased. They made themselves very merry at his
wife's credulity and passed the time in a most agreeable
manner till it was time for him, that he might not give

Mrs. S 1 any cause of suspicion, to return home, which

he did with the utmost reluctance.

Their intrigue did not (happily for the mercer) last
above six months. During this short period, our heroine
had cost him about five hundred pounds in presents of
different kinds, including her weekly allowance of five
guineas. An accident, however, happened, which termi-
nated their guilty intercourse, occasioned by the mercer's
being arrested for a large sum, and was as follows.

The reader need not be told that it is no uncommon
thing for men in a large and extensive way of trade to be
obliged to give very long credit, and that they sometimes
meet with heavy losses. This was exactly the case of Mr.

S 1, who, in making up great payments, had offered

several notes and bills which he had received as money,
and by the drawers he was forced either to take up
himself, or be liable to be sent to prison for the sum of two
thousand pounds, which was demanded of him at that time,
and being unable to answer it, he was arrested and carried
to the King's Bench, to the no small grief of his affectionate
wife and family.

Our heroine who was totally ignorant of the affair,
accidentally called at his shop the very day this misfortune

happened, and, seeing Mrs. S 1 in tears, earnestly

desired to know the cause of her grief. The mercer's wife
told her and Miss Catley cried out " my dear Mr.

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 47

S 1 ! " She could say no more, but swooned. Mrs.

S 1, astonished at her behaviour, as soon as she was a

little recovered asked her what had caused such an emotion,
but our heroine, unable to answer her question properly,

only replied, "that the compassion she felt for Mr. S 1

on this melancholy occasion had caused her present illness."
Having said this, she desired a chair might be called, into
which she got and was carried home immediately.

Mrs. S 1 went to her husband directly, and related

to him every circumstance of Miss Catley's behaviour. Her
narration filled him with the utmost confusion, from which
being somewhat recovered, he threw himself on his knees
before her, and gave her a circumstantial account of the
infamous connection that had so long subsisted between
him and the object of his lawless flame.

He was often interrupted by sighs and tears during
the melancholy relation of his former vices. His wife
wept bitterly over his past misconduct, but at the same
time was greatly comforted at the signs he gave of the
most genuine repentance. Heaven itself was also pleased
to approve his reformation and to reward it.

He that day received a letter, acquainting him that his
elder brother was dead in Bengal, and left him master of
a very ample fortune, and the same post which brought
him this welcome news, brought him also bills of exchange
payable at sight to the amount of upwards of 30,000.

He was immediately released from confinement, and
returned home to his own house. He left off trade as soon
as he conveniently could, and bought a large estate in the
country, to which place he removed his family, where he
now lives in the sweet society of his virtuous wife and
amiable offspring ; he adoring the kind interposition of

48 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

providence, which had thus miraculously snatched him from
inevitable ruin, and she blessing his return to goodness, and
offering up her daily prayers at the throne of grace for the
prolongation of his life.

We now proceed to the relation of an adventure which
she had with an old gentleman, a widower, who lived at
Epsom, for the better understanding of which it will be
proper to speak in this place, first, of her amour with his
son, who was at that time a student in the university of
Oxford. This young gentleman, after the example of most
of the Oxonians, being tired of the vigorous discipline of
the college, would, at certain intervals, make little excur-
sions to London, in order to unbend his mind by partaking
of the amusements that great metropolis afforded. In one
of these journeys chance directed him to the theatre, where
our heroine's voice so enchanted him that as soon as the
play was over he enquired who she was and where she
lived, and paid her a visit next morning.

Miss C y was struck at the first sight with his

genteel mien and address, and, considering him as a pretty
fellow with whom she could pass away her leisure hours
agreeably, she leaped into his embraces without the least
hesitation. They saw each other frequently during his
stay in London, which lasted about a fortnight, and on
parting he presented her with a purse of gold.

The reader will please to take notice that he went by the
name of H s, though his real name was B te.

To return to her intrigue with the old gentleman. She
had been to Epsom to see an acquaintance, a lady who had
retired on an easy fortune to the village already mentioned,
where her remains of beauty had wrought so powerfully on
the affections of a barrister-at-law that he had married her.

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 49

Old Mr. B te used to visit at the house, and had

frequent opportunities of seeing our heroine there. He
was struck with her charms, perceiving which she resolved
to try what effect her voice would have on him. She knew
he was rich, and would therefore have gladly drawn him in
for a husband. Accordingly, one afternoon, when he went

to the house of Mrs. M , he found her playing on the

harpsichord and singing an Italian air. Highly delighted
with the melody of her pipe, he desired her to repeat her
song, which request she as obligingly complied with.

When she had done he passed the highest praises on her
musical talents, and expressed a desire that she would
undertake to teach his daughter, a girl of about fourteen
years of age, to sing. Nan, who desired above all things
an opportunity of introducing herself into his house, readily
consented, promising to attend the young lady as often as
business or pleasure should draw her into the country.
She was as good as her word, and after the time of her
visit to her friend at Epsom had expired she constantly
went thither three times a week from London.

She found means to steal so far into the good graces of
the whole family that the old gentleman's esteem for her
ripened by degrees into a confirmed passion. He was,
however, willing to try her some time longer before he
made a formal declaration of love. She continued to do
all in her power to please him, and was so punctual in her
assiduities that he could no longer resist the impulse of his
heart, which, with uninterrupted emotions, incited him in
the strongest manner possible to make a formal profession
of his flame. He did so, and had the happiness, as he
esteemed it, to find that his suit met with a favourable
reception. Our heroine could not have refused so advan-


50 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

tageous an offer without being guilty of the greatest folly
imaginable. But that she might reap as much profit as
ever she could from this union she told him that, previous
to her giving him her hand in marriage, she insisted on his
signing a paper, properly drawn up by an attorney, to
screen her from any insults which might be offered her by
his children, in case she should survive him, after his
decease. This he readily agreed to, and the conditions
were as follows :

First, that he should settle a thousand pounds on her, to
be paid within one month after his funeral, and one
hundred pounds a year during her natural life.

Secondly, that he should settle the like annuity on every
one of the children she might have by him, to be paid them
also during the term of their natural lives.

Thirdly, that previous to their marriage he should vest a
sum or sums sufficient to produce the aforesaid annuities in
any of the public funds, or lend the same on mortgages, on
lands or houses, or on eligible securities, for the payment
of them.

Fourthly, that in case of failure in any of the said
conditions the marriage shall be null and void, and she
shall be at liberty to marry again.

These conditions, however extravagant they may appear
to the reader, he readily complied with, and the writings
were accordingly drawn up with all convenient expedition,
and signed by him in the presence of several witnesses.
Preparations were now made for the nuptials with all
imaginable haste, a Dew equipage was bespoke, an additional
train of servants was hired, the wedding clothes were
ordered, the ring was bought, the license was procured,
and everything seemed to concur in making our heroine the

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 51

happiest of women, when an accident intervened which put
an end to her approaching felicity. The old gentleman
wrote a letter to his son, acquainting him with his intended
wedding, and demanding to see him immediately. The
young student hastened to London directly on the receipt
of his father's epistle, and arrived at his house the very
next day.

As soon as he came he was introduced to his intended
mother-in-law, but who can describe the amazement which
appeared in their countenances when they saw each other !

Old Mr. B te, surprised at this extraordinary behaviour,

hastily enquired into the reason of it. His son for some
time could not utter a word, but at length, resuming his
courage, he fell on his knees and spoke as follows :

"Your pardon, honoured sir, for what I am going to
acquaint you with. About two months since, unknown to
you or any of my friends, I left the college and took a
journey to London. In the course of my rambles I made
acquaintance with this infamous woman, whom, to the
eternal disgrace of your family, you are going to raise to
the dignity of being your wife. I have seen my folly, and
promise in the sincerest manner possible never to be guilty
of the like again, provided you have the goodness to pardon
this slip of youth; and I flatter myself that which has been
the happy means of rescuing my family from dishonour will
contribute somewhat towards effecting a reconciliation with


His father kept a profound silence all the while he was
talking, and for some minutes after. When he had done
speaking he made him a sign to follow him into his
closet, when having shut the door, he ordered him to relate
in the most circumstantial manner possible the whole

52 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

series of his adventures with Miss Catley. Young B te

obeyed and his father forgave him, overjoyed at this lucky
discovery. He then returned to the parlour where he left
our heroine, and told her that he had been happy in finding
out what sort of a woman she was, before it was too late,
and therefore desired her to go away immediately. She did
not hesitate to comply with his request, and mounted a
chaise which conveyed her to her lodgings in town.

The following may be cited as an example of that
avariciousness of spirit which has been said to have dis-
tinguished this woman. In 1771, soon after her return to
England, a singing performer belonging to Covent Garden
Theatre, Mr. D 1 my, had obtained permission from the
Lord Chamberlain to have a play acted for his benefit
at the Haymarket play-house. Thinking our heroine's
appearance might be a means of drawing a crowded

audience, he waited on Miss C y to be informed on

what terms she would represent her celebrated character of
Rosetta. She demanded the sum of forty guineas, but was
told that her price was too extravagant. She answered she
would not play for less money. He expostulated in the
strongest terms with her on the exorbitancy of her
demands, and succeeded so far as to obtain a promise from
her of playing for twenty. He issued his tickets, and
caused bills to be printed in which was her name. The
time now drew near for the fulfilling her engagement, when
she gave a signal proof of her avarice ; the night before the
representation, she sent him a card acquainting him that
she was taken suddenly ill, and could not possibly perform
the next evening. He plainly discovered the meaning of
the message and went to her. He represented the great
inconveniency a disappointment of this nature would

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 53

subject him to, and entreated her in the warmest manner
to oblige him with her appearance on the promised night.
She at last told him that unless he would give her thirty
guineas, she would not perform. He complied and lost by
his benefit.

Her engagement at Covent Garden Theatre, the ensuing
season, was purely accidental. Mrs. Pinto had given notice
to the managers that she would not renew her engagement
for any longer time, as they refused to come to her terms,
i.e. twenty guineas per week. They were therefore at a
loss to find a proper woman to supply her place, and

accordingly cast their eyes on our heroine; Mr. C n was

deputed by his colleagues to treat with her, and easily
complied with her demands of fifteen guineas per week.
She appeared soon after in public, and for the two first
nights brought amazing great houses. But the company
after this time began to decrease, and she received a second

visit from Mr. C n, who acquainted her that he,

unknown to his brother managers, had agreed to give her
her price, but that as the success had not answered their
expectations, they could not think of paying her so
extravagant a salary. To this harangue she returned the
following answer. " Sir, I thought you were the sole
acting manager, or else your law-suit has been decided to
very little purpose; however, my engagements were with
you, and I expect you will fulfil them."

Saying this, she turned out of the room, singing the air
of the last new birthday minuet.

She had long desired to be connected with Mr. Th 1 w
the S 1 tor G r 1, but was disappointed ; that gentle-
man, being already provided with a favourite, did not choose
to enter into an intimacy with her. He, however, paid her

54 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

some occasional visits, which would have paved the way to
a further correspondence, had he not, unfortunately for her,
found her one morning, when he went to her lodgings,
with a silk mercer's clerk, who occasionally visited her.
Their intimacy accordingly broke off, and he never visited
her any more.

To return to Colonel Lascelles : We have already observed
that his fortune was but small, too small for the complexion
of his unbounded wishes. Notwithstanding the disagree-
able, as well as involuntary indigence to which he was often
reduced, he always found means to render himself agreeable
to the fair sex, to whom he was so lavish in his adorations,
by his genteel air and engaging deportment, which was ever
such as could not fail to captivate the hearts of all those
with whom he conversed, particularly such as, unmindful of
the more refined and superior excellent interior accomplish-
ments, are attached in a more peculiar manner to those of
the outside. His connection with our heroine had, besides
her transcendent charms, another more potent object. I
mean her immense profits, of which he longed to become a
sharer. There was no other way of gaining this point than
by professing himself her avowed admirer, which, we have
already seen, he did in a most effectual manner.

It has been already remarked that to the most engaging
person were added the most insinuating arts. We shall
not therefore enter into a further detail of his beauties, for
such they appeared in the eyes of every female beholder,
but proceed to the relation of matters of greater consequence.
Though they always lived in a state of the strictest unity
and love, yet their close connection, like that of matrimony,
how sweet soever it may be, was sometimes embittered
by little bickerings arising from the mutual jealousy

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 55

they entertained of each other ; thus it happened that the
sweetness of their intimacy, which would otherwise have
been very insipid, was tempered to such a degree by the
acrimony of their differences, that their intimacy became
the most agreeable imaginable. It was like the acid, of
which a proper quantity being infused in the composition
of what is generally known by the name of punch, renders
that liquor agreeable to the taste and grateful to the palate.

It cannot but be agreeable to our readers to mention a
few of the trifling disputes which often happened between
this loving pair; we shall therefore in order to gratify their
wish, relate a few, though we must beg to be excused if,
like Vellum in the comedy of The Drummer, or the
Haunted House, we confine ourselves to three only.

The first which we find standing on record is one which
occurred in consequence of her keeping a genteel footman,
whom our officer considered as a rival to his happiness.
The affair was as follows. Our heroine was without a man-
servant ; several were recommended to her, amongst whom
was a young fellow of very genteel mien and address ; he
was about eighteen; tall, handsome, and extremely well
made. He had not been many months in town, and was
an utter stranger to the manners of it. This simplicity
gained him the approbation of Miss Catley, who never
appeared so well pleased as when she was attended and
served by him. His obliging manner and the address with
which he executed her commands, had made so great an
impression on her, that she could no longer resist the temp-
tation, and actually entertained a passion of the softest
kind for him. She was so unguai'ded as not to be able to
help betraying it in her looks, and often, while he was
waiting at table, could not help casting affectionate glances
towards him.

56 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

This behaviour, though it was the effect of pure accident,
was taken notice of by her lover, whose jealousy immediately
taking fire, caused him to upbraid her in the strongest
manner for her infidelity. This gave rise to a violent
quarrel which lasted several days, during which time they
did not see or speak to each other.

During this interval both parties were equally uneasy,
and longed for a reconciliation, though neither made the
smallest advance towards an accommodation.

Our heroine was the first to offer terms of peace. It was
easily produced by the immediate discharge of the footman.
Miss Catley however, out of regard, provided for him in a
very decent manner till she could put him in another place,
which she found an opportunity of doing in a very short

The next source of uneasiness which arose between this
loving pair, was owing to the restless temper of Miss Catley,
who having been one day to a noted milliner's in the Strand,
to buy some rich laces, besides other goods furnished by
those people, made use of in the article of dress, accidentally
met her dear inamorata at the same place. Finding him
in deep discourse with one of the young women behind the
counter, she in her turn grew jealous, and was for a
considerable time implacable in her resentment, which she
took every opportunity of shewing. The lovers at length
being heartily tired of living in this state of indifference,
resolved to be reconciled, which was very easily brought to

The third quarrel we shall mention owed its origin to the

following accident. Miss C y had once returned a very

humorous answer to a billet-doux which was sent her one
evening while she was performing at the theatre. Her

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 57

lover was in the green room when she received it, and
mistaking the contents of her answer, imagined she had
given him an assignation. This occasioned a great
altercation between them, which was succeeded by a mutual
silence on each side, which lasted for above a month,
although they saw each other and ate at the same table
every day. Their reconciliation was brought about as
follows. She, one day while they were at table, having
eyed him attentively for some time, burst out into a loud
fit of laughter, which he observing, put on a look which
but too plainly showed the great displeasure he conceived
at her behaviour. He still however maintained a profound
silence, which she obliged him to break by extending her
hands and speaking to him in these words : "My dear
colonel, you are certainly very little versed in the ways of
women, or you would be convinced that they are actuated
principally by whim and caprice. You are therefore not to
wonder at their actions, nor easily to take umbrage at what
may at first sight appear a levity in their conduct. You

were present when I received a note from the Earl of H

and you saw me write an answer to it, which I should have
shown you had I the least suspicion of your being jealous.
To show you how little reason you have for this odd
behaviour, I do assure you, and call heaven to witness, that
I did not return any other answer to him than an order
to admit one into the boxes, which plainly evinces how

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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 4 of 6)