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 5 of 6)
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averse I was to any connection with him." He could
contain no longer, but throwing his arms round about her
neck, vowed eternal fidelity and love.

Thus did these two lovers re-assume their intercourse
with greater ardour than before, and this peace, which
indeed proved only temporary, lasted about six months.


58 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

Another unhappy accident occasioned a breach, which was
as follows.

Her lover had for some time been confined to his bed by
a violent fit of the gout, a disease he was very much
subject to, and on his recovery had removed to country
lodgings at Kensington, where our heroine visited him as
often as she conveniently could find an opportunity. She
went thither one day, having no employment at the theatre,
to see him. She entered the apartment, but was surprised
that she did not according to her expectation meet with
him at home. She was not a little amazed to see several
letters on his table, the superscriptions of which appeared
to be written in a woman's hand. As they were opened
her curiosity induced her to take up one, in which she read
as follows :

" My dear,

I would have waited on you this evening, but was
hindered by a female friend, who with irresistible force
obliged me to accompany her to the play. I was on thorns
during the whole time of the representation, and could not
in consequence of the uneasiness which I suffered receive
the least pleasure from what I was obliged to be present at.
I hope, however, to-morrow to enjoy the pleasure of your
agreeable company, to which, as you may be well convinced
from the tenor of my whole behaviour hitherto, I shall fly,
borne on the swiftest wings of love, to participate.

Yours eternally, N ."

This letter produced such an effect as is easy for the
reader to guess. She left the house in a rage, vowed never
to see him more, and every one of her actions shewed how
much she took this seeming inconstancy of his to heart.
She returned home in such agitation of spirits that she fell

Life of Miss Anne Catlet. 5

into fits almost instantaneously on entering her own house,
and it was several days before she was entirely recovered.
She could not by any means be prevailed on to repeat her
visits to Kensington, to which place she did not once return
during the whole time the Colonel remained there. When
he came to town she loaded him with the keenest reproaches,
and was not reconciled to him for several weeks. In vain
did he assert his innocency, the letter she had seen was an
incontestable proof of his guilt, and this quarrel must have
necessarily terminated in a final separation, had not a friend
of his, dining one day at the house of our heroine solved
the riddle, by declaring it to be a letter he had received
from his mistress and which he had sent to the Colonel for
his perusal. This declaration produced the desired effect,
and a reconciliation presently took place.

Not to tire the reader with a repetition of these domestic
feuds and uneasiness, we shall only mention one more, and
then proceed to the relation of matters of greater importance.
It happened in the following manner. Our heroine having
one evening appeared in the character of a virgin in a
dramatic poem lately introduced on the stage, called Elfrida,
had given so much pleasure and satisfaction to the Right

Honourable Earl of D , as great an admirer of, as he is

a connoisseur in, the art of music, that his lordship could
not help complimenting her, a few days after, with a ticket
for the Pantheon. She went thither in the habit of a
shepherdess, and on this occasion had taken care not to omit
anything that might be the least addition to her native
beauty. The Colonel accompanied her thither, dressed in a
domino, and though a man of his polite breeding might be
easily supposed to be thoroughly acquainted with such
freedoms as the liberty of a place of that sort affords, yet

Life op Miss Anne Catley.

he could not forbear suffering his troublesome jealous spirit
to reign predominant in his breast on this occasion.
Observing that our heroine, imitating the other masks,
appeared more gay than ordinary, he was highly offended,
and took notice of it afterwards in terms which were highly
disagreeable to her. She resented this behaviour very
much, and refused to have anything to do with him for
several weeks, though he lodged at the same house with her.
At length, being unable to support this cessation of arms in
the cause of love, he acknowledged his error, asked her
pardon, and they became as cordial friends as before.

We may here relate an adventure which happened to our
heroine during the time of her connection with a young
wine merchant near Crutched Friars. He had seen her in
the piazza and had ordered his footman, who attended him,
to watch her home, and bring him word where she lived.
Having received the necessary information, he repaired the
next day to her lodgings and was well received by Miss
Catley, who was struck at the engaging appearance which
he made, and after about an hour's conversation they agreed
to see each other at an appointed place as often as
opportunity offered. Love, ever on the watch, soon
prompted one, and our heroine frequently made excursions
to White Conduit House, and they passed their leisure
hours in the most tender endearments. This lasted about
three years, during which period Miss Catley found
means to ingratiate herself into his good graces so far, that
at the end of it, she found herself about fifteen hundred
pounds in pocket, the fruits of this agreeable intrigue.
The adventure would have probably lasted much longer,
had she not been discovered by her inamorata when she
least expected it, in a private tete-a-tete with one of the

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 61

drawers belonging to a noted place of resort in the gardens.
This caused a rupture between her and her gallant, and his
animosity against her was so great that no persuasion could
ever induce him to consent to a reconciliation with her.

The rest of our story is connected with an entirely new
aspect of this singular woman's life, with the period dating
from her marriage with the Colonel Lascelles. For several
years she had lived with him merely as his mistress, during
which time several children were born. Then her former
levity gave way to domestic decorum^ and her faults were
only to be found in a retrospective view of her life. This
behaviour raised such a disinterested and generous affection
in the heart of her friend, that he resolved to bestow upon
her the highest reward in his power, and actually made her
his wife.

Nan would not be outdone in generosity; before she
accepted the hand of the Colonel (for he was a Colonel when
he married her) she insisted that certain preliminary articles
should be ratified. The principal of these were, that her
fortune should go to her children, that she should continue
to play while her health permitted her, and that the
marriage should be kept secret till she retired from the

She did not however long continue in a public line, after
she became a wife; the ensuing season she engaged with the
manager of Covent Garden Theatre, and it proved the last
of her appearances. Her voice was then considerably
weakened, and her vivacity evidently diminished. She
attempted the character of Macheafh, in the Beggars* Opera,
but she was then nothing better than the shadow and echo
of what she had been, and her exertions to please only
excited the pity, not the approbation, of the audience.

62 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

After leaving the stage she took up her abode at Ealing
in Middlesex, and was much respected by the better sort of
people in the neighbourhood, and beloved by the poor, to
whom she became a beneficent friend. She died in this
retirement, in the 44th year of her age, and was buried in
Ealing Church, with every mark of attention and respect
that a husband could possibly shew to a wife whom he
tenderly loved.

Her disease was a consumption, to which she had been
inclined from her youth, and which probably was accelerated
by her early indulgencies in dissipation, and great exertion
of voice which injured her lungs. She bore its progress
with resignation, and died in that most enviable of all
states, at peace with the world, and in strong hopes of
eternal bliss.

Miss Catley had great capabilities for an actress, and
notwithstanding her vivacious appearance would have
succeeded not only in comedy, but tragedy, had she made
them her study ; but her voice was so exquisite, she had no
occasion for further aid. Its native strains exceeded the
vocal powers of all who went before her, yet she often
evinced a deficiency of judgment.

Rosetta in Love in a Village, and Euphrosyne in Gomus,
were her best performances. In the latter it may not be
going too far to assert she never was equalled, particularly
in the song of " The wanton god that pierces hearts," which
she gave in a characteristic style of levity, that left all
competition at a distance. And in the former, her singing
was truly exquisite and replete with native humour. Soon

after the affair with Lord R and the roast duck, which

has been stated, that nobleman came into the stage-box
whilst she was singing " The wanton god," and when she

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 63

came to the line "No squeamish fop shall spoil my rest,"
she turned full upon his lordship with a look of archness,
so pointed and so marked with contempt, that the mortified
nobleman rose from his seat and left her to enjoy the
thundering plaudits of the audience, which were given in
peals accompanied by bursts of laughter.

In The Maid of the Mill she often performed Patty, and
not without pathos, and when Mrs. Abingdon was in
Ireland, during the late Mr. Mossop's management, Catley
often performed in a style of the highest spirit and humour
Captain Flash, in contrast to the other lady's Fribble, which
was also excellent. Catley was not vain, for though she
took every possible pains to set off her person and face to
advantage when she appeared in juvenile parts, yet, as
the representative of old Dorcas in Thomas and Sally,
she was equally attentive to appear ancient.

Catley was not beautiful but pleasing. Her face was
oval, her features petite, and her eyes small ; her forehead
being remarkably high, she always wore her dark hair,
which was thin and lank, cut down upon it like a fan, and
this at last became a general fashion under the denomination
of Catlified hair, and as it gives a peculiar archness to the
countenance, remained in vogue for years among the lower
classes of those ladies who stroll the streets.

Catley was remarkably thin, her bones small, her skin
brown, and all covered over with freckles, yet her tout en-
semble was pleasing, when she was made up and on the

Much has been said of Miss Catley's wit, by those who
have mistaken her talent; her bon mots were those of
broad and vulgar humour, they were deficient in that polish
sharpness and neatness, which produce the genuine bright-

64 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

ness of conversation, her points were not those of raillery,
but of railing, they came out gross, as if issuing from a
cellar in St. Giles's, or, which was the fact, as if they had
received their original impression in a garret near the

A retrospect of Miss Catley's life when compared with
that of the celebrated Nell Gwynn, exhibits many incidents
of strong similitude. Nell was born of obscure parents, so
was Nan. Nell was born in a cellar in the Coal-yard,
Drury-lane ; Nan was born in a garret in a wretched alley
near Tower-hill. Nell, when first taken notice of, sold
oranges, and resorted to public houses. Nan, when young>
sang in alehouses for hire. Nell when almost a child was
decoyed from the path of virtue by a merchant; Nan
suffered similarly soon after entering her teens, at the
hands of a linen draper. Nell was remarkable for smart-
ness of conversation, so was Nan. Nell was an actress
in great vogue, so was Nan. To Nell, lords and dukes
paid their addresses, so they did to Nan. Nell was
the mistress of a king, Nan that of a prince of the blood

" This shews that sultans, emperors, and kings,
When blood boils high will stoop to meanest things."

Nell was of a gay frolicksome disposition, so was Nan ;
of Nell many droll passages have been reported, so of Nan,
but in respect to both ladies, some of their sayings should
be suppressed as being too loose for the public ear.

Nell's air was free and degagee, so was the carriage of
Nan. Nell had spirit and pleasantry, so had Nan. She
had professed more charity and generosity than most
women of her situation in life, so did Nan, and here an
instance may be given, which illustrates this part of our

Life op Miss Anne Catley. 65

heroine's character. Mr. Linton, a musician belonging to
Covent Garden Theatre, having been inhumanly murdered
by footpads, Mr. Harris the manager, gave his widow and
children a free benefit. A short time previous to the
benefit night, Nan went to a masquerade in the character
of an orange girl, with several dozen box tickets in her
basket, these she disposed of among the company for a very
considerable sum over their usual price, which with ten
guineas added by herself, she sent the next day to the
unfortunate family.

As in their lives, so in their deaths, there was a strong
similarity between Nell Gwynne and Ann Catley, except
that Nell lived to be much older than Nan. But she
certainly died with a moral and religious mind, or Dr.
Tenison, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, would not
have preached her funeral sermon. And this was the
opinion of Queen Mary, who, when the Earl of Jersey
urged the circumstance to prevent the doctor's preferment
to the diocese of Lincoln, answered, " It was a sign that
this unfortunate woman died penitent, for if I can read a
man's heart through his looks, had she not made a truly
pious and christian end, the doctor wonld never have been
induced to speak well of her." Just such an end did Catley
make, dying in charity with the world, and in lamenting
that the early parts of her life had not been equally
virtuous and honourable with her latter days.

A writer in the History of the English Stage says,
" Her goodness of heart and benignity of disposition
appear in many charitable works which would have done
honour to more high-born dames ; her wanderings cannot
be called errors, but misfortunes, the common result of
a bad education. Though she came into the world without


66 Life op Miss Anne Catley.

reputation, she left it with a good character, a sufficient
proof that all her levities proceeded from inexperience and
not from natural depravity."

The following eulogium was paid to her memory in the
public prints :

"She was the favourite of Thalia, the favourite of the
Town, and the favourite of Fortune.

Her theatrical representations will be remembered as
long as the fame exists of the poets that pourtrayed them.
The discussion of her professional merit should be the
subject of a volume ; we shall therefore only add, that her
voice and manner were, perhaps, never equalled in the same
style. Her person all but equalled her accomplishments,
and nearly to her death she was the centre of attraction.

Beauty is a captivating syren, and to resist her enchant-
ments man must possess something more or something less
than the usual portion of humanity. The allurements a
theatrical life holds out to lovely women, admit, the same
observation, and justify the application with tenfold
force. All that can be said is, Alas poor human nature !
She possessed many virtues, and the greatest of all
humanity. The generous hand often lightened the heavy
heart. Feelingly alive by nature to every impression of
sensibility, this amiable virtue accompanied her elevation
to rank and riches, and joined others that adorn the first
stations in society, and which alone make them respectable.
She was the good mother, the chaste wife and accomplished
woman. Prudery certainly formed no part of her
character, but where is the prude that ever owned half her
merit ! Her openness, goodness, knowledge and generosity,
added to her personal accomplishments, rendered her an
acquisition of which the worthiest might be proud. This

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 67

morality of players, like that of princes, is exempt from the
precision of vulgar rules."


Engraved on a tree at George Stainforth, Esq's., in Hertford-
shire, formerly the cottage of Anne Catley.

Catley, the once famed Syren of the stage,

Melodious heroine of a former age,

Her labours o'er, here fix'd her glad retreat ;

These her lov'd fields, and this her fav'rite seat.

Hither at early dawn she bent her way,

To mark the progress of the new mown hay ;

Partook the toil, joined gaily in the throng,

And often cheer' d the rustics with a song;

Nor with a song alone, her liberal heart

In all their little sorrows bore a part,

And as they simply told their tale of grief

Her head gave counsel and her hand relief.

Let not the wedded dame who wanders here,

Disdain o'er Catley's turf to shed a tear ;

Nor the fond virgin, sheltered by this tree,

Withhold the drop of sensibility.

What though stern Hymen may no sanction give

In nature's tenderest page the tear shall live ;

An anxious parent, to her offspring just,

True to her promise, sacred to her trust ;

Firm in her friendship, faithful in her love,

Who will the mourn'd remembrance disapprove ?

The celebrated Anne Catley, formerly a member of Covent
Garden Theatre, died the beginning of this season (Oct. 14,
1789), at General Lascelles' house, near Brentford, to
whom it is said she was married.

This lady was a striking example of what merit can do,
unaided by birth or interest. She was born in 1745, in an

68 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

Alley, near Tower Hill, " of parentage obscure," her
father being a hackney coachman (afterwards the keeper of
a public house near Norwood), and her mother a washer-
woman. Her extraordinary vocal abilities soon discovered
themselves, for at the early age of ten years she sung at
public houses in her father's neighbourhood, and for the
officers on duty at the tower ; her situation of course exposed
her to seduction but who that considers her then helpless
condition of life, will not curse the seducer, and pity the
seduced !

Her musical talents soon spread their own fame ; and one
Bates, a musician, who lived in the west end of the town,
entered into an article with her father and took her
apprentice ; but Bates and Catley could not agree, and the
former, it is said, was once so provoked as to threaten to
turn her out of doors, and sue her father for 200, the
penalty of the bond executed when she was bound.

Her first appearance was 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.

The succeeding year she became the object of public
attention from a very remarkable circumstance : Sir Francis
Blake Delaval, being smitten with her beauty, and under-
standing that the master and fair apprentice could not
agree, resolved on releasing her entirely from the coercion
of Mr. 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 two hundred pounds
more in lieu of what she might earn for him, by the engage-
ment he had made for her with the managers of Covent
Garden Theatre and Marybone Gardens. For this purpose

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 69

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. Bar-
clay, of Cheapside, as private coachman, and having got
possession of the articles, consulted his master on the nature
of them. The honest quaker, shocked at the wickedness of
transferring 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 to
the court founded on these articles.

The first of these motions was for a habeas corpus,
directed to Sir Francis Blake Delaval, to bring the body of
Anne Catley into court. The second was for a rule to shew
cause why an information should not be granted 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 ensuing day, our heroine, in consequence of the
habeas corpus, appeared in court, accompanied by Sir
Francis, and was then discharged out of his custody ; the
affidavits for the prosecutor were read, and a day was fixed
for cause to be shewn. On the 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 very severely reprimanded by the Chief
Justice, Earl Mansfield, who observed that, though the
girl was not of legal age, she was at full years

70 Life of Miss Anne Catley.

of 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 shown, the court was 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 everything
contra bonos mores. He called the premium given by Sir
Francis to Bates premium prostitutionis, and cited the case
of Sir Richard Sedley in the reign of Charles II. to prove 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 severally fined, the whole
expense of which (with the costs to a very considerable
amount) fell npon Sir Francis.

After this she sung at Marybone Gardens, and became a
pupil of Mr. Macklin, who procured her an engagement at
Dublin from Mossop, where she met with great success and
brought crowded houses. Many anecdotes are related of
her while on her visit to Dublin; the following are the
most remarkable. A merchant, with a wife and family,
having been smitten by her charms, sent her a billet-doux
requesting an appointment to supper, and accompanied his
request with a large hamper of champagne. Catley
returned the wine untouched, with a direction to the
amorous trader's spouse, enclosing his note under a cover.
At supper the wife declared she had a longing for cham-
pagne, and must have a glass ; the husband reprobated
such extravagance. " But I will treat you, my dear," said

Life of Miss Anne Catley. 71

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 London in the
most indigent circumstances.

When Dean Bailey was a principal superintendent to the
public charities of Dublin, it was determined by the
governors that a concert should be performed for the
benefit of the Lying-in-Hospital, whereupon the Dean took
it upon hi in to engage Catley as a singer, and wrote her a
card requesting that she would give him a night, and
mention when she should be disengaged. The answer was
that Miss Catley was specially engaged for a week, but
after that time, as the Dean was a charitable man, she
would give him a night gratis. Our heroine kept her word,
to the great emolument of the hospital, and told the story,
which produced a general laugh against the ecclesiastic.

She paid another visit to Dublin during Ryder's
management, when her Juno, in the Golden Pippin, was
highly applauded, and her song of " Push about the Jorum "
universally encored. Perhaps the manner of performing
burlettas there, where the recitative is generally spoken as

1 2 3 5

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 5 of 6)