Harold Simpson.

A century of famous actresses, 1750-1850 online

. (page 6 of 27)
Online LibraryHarold SimpsonA century of famous actresses, 1750-1850 → online text (page 6 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The loyalty displayed by Kitty Glive on this occasion
was the subject of an encomium from Fielding. In the
preface to his farce, " The Intriguing Chambermaid,'" in
which Kitty created the part of Lettice, he writes as
follows: "The part you have maintained in this dis-
pute between the players and patentees, of 1733, is so
full of honour that had it been in higher life it would
have given you the reputation of the greatest heroine
of the age. You looked on the cases of Mr. Highmore
and Mr. Wilks with compassion, nor could any promises
or views of interest sway you to desert them ; nor have
you scrupled any fatigue (particularly the part which
at so short a warning you undertook in this farce) to
support the cause of those you imagined injured ; and
for this you have been so far from endeavouring to exact
an exorbitant reward from persons little able to afford
it, that I have known you to offer to act for nothing,
rather than that the patentees should be injured by the
dissensions of the audience."


After more homage to her behaviour on a particular
occasion, Fielding goes on : " But great a favourite as
you are at present with the audience, you would be
much more so were they acquainted with your private
character ; could they see you laying out a great part
of the profits which arrive to you for entertaining them
so well in support of an aged father : did they see you,
who can charm them on the stage with personating the
foolish and vicious characters of your sex, acting in
real life the part of the best wife, the best daughter,
the best sister, and the best friend."

As to the expression ''best wife" in the above it is
curious to note that, shortly after the words were
written, Kitty Clive and her husband parted, as we
have seen, after a very short period of married life, for
some reason which has never transpired. But the
epithets "best daughter" and "best sister" were
certainly fully deserved ; for Kitty Clive supported her
family and was in every respect a model daughter ;
while for her brother, "Jimmy" Raftor, a very poor
actor, she did everything that was possible to advance
him in his profession. We find him at the same
theatre, where she no doubt got him engaged, and
coupled with her in benefits, which he was certainly
otherwise not entitled to. In spite of all her efforts,
however, Raftor achieved no fame except that which
was reflected on him by the greatness of his sister.

In 1742 Mrs. Clive accepted an invitation to go to
Dublin with Quin, Ryan, and a dancer, Madame
Chateneuf. They appeared at the theatre in Aungier
Street, and the season commenced with "a brilliancy
never known in Irish annals." Mrs. Clive aroused
great enthusiasm by her Lappet in " The Miser.'' This
part was one of the usual chambermaids, and Clive


was at her very best in it. Hitchcock says of her
Lappet that "she certainly was one of the best that
ever played it." He however goes on to say : "It
will scarcely be credited that so finished a comic actress
as Mrs. Clive could so far mistake her abilities as to
play Lady Townly to Mr. Quin's Lord Townly and
Ryan's Manly; Cordelia to Mr. Quin's Lear and
Ryan's Edgar. However, she made ample amends
by her performance of Nell^ ' The Virgin UnmasK dy
' The Country Wife,' and Euphrosyne in ' Comtis,'
which was got up on purpose and acted for the first
time in this kingdom."

Like so many of her contemporaries, Kitty Clive
had throughout her career an inclination to play parts
for which she was entirely unfitted. In the "Dramatic
Censor" this propensity was commented upon as
follows : —

"The applause with which she acted Portia for many
years was disgraceful both to herself and to the
audience ; the spirited scene she spoke with the same
delicacy as if she had been acting Lappet or Flippanta^
and in the blank verse she was awkwardly dissonant.
In the trial scene, which the author beyond a doubt
meant to be solemn and affecting, she turned the whole
into burlesque by her mimicry of some well-known
lawyer. She was so absurd as to act Zara for her
benefit in 1753 ; her voice was dreadful for serious
speaking, her person rendered all the King's amorous
compliments ludicrous, and justified Osmyn's coolness,
even if he had had no other attachment."

Towards the end of her career her increasing age
and bulk made this little weakness of hers a source of
no little embarrassment to her manager, for she often
insisted upon playing the part of quite a young girl,


nor would any amount of either severity or persuasion
turn her from her purpose.

When Mrs. Clive returned to London at the close of
the Dublin season, it was unfortunate that after all her
sacrifices she should again find herself, during the
Drury Lane season of 1742-3, under the direction of
a spendthrift. Fleetwood, young and gay, with ;6^6ooo
a year, now came into the patent in place of Highmore,
who, broken and bankrupt, had retired abroad.
Salaries were unpaid, mortgagees and bailiffs were in
possession, and Macklin, who was acting as Fleet-
wood's deputy, declared himself unable to do anything
to mend matters. The discontent which had been
steadily growing among the players in consequence,
came to a head in the following season. Garrick, who
was nominally in receipt of an enormous salary — ;^630
and two " benefits" — found it a moral impossibility to
get his money.

The smouldering spark of rebellion burst at last into
flame, and, headed by Garrick, who was the prime
mover in the affair, the players, who included Macklin,
Barry, Mills, Mrs. Pritchard, and Kitty Clive, deter-
mined to leave and set up for themselves in the

Not only was this conspiracy totally unsuccessful,
but it was the cause of bitter quarrels and recrimina-
tions amongst the conspirators themselves. The Duke
of Grafton, to whom they had to apply for a licence
for the little theatre in the Haymarket, bluntly refused
to grant it. Meantime Fleetwood had quietly filled up
his ranks with the best players he could manage to
procure from the country, and the revolters found
themselves left out in the cold. In the end, urged by
the others, Garrick was obliged to give way igno-


miniously. Negotiations with Fleetwood were opened
up, and the manager, thoroughly triumphant, and
now able to pick and choose, promised to receive the
players back on his own terms, but positively refused
to reinstate Macklin, whom he held responsible for the
whole trouble.

When Garrick, faced by disaster both to all the
others as well as to himself, gave in, Macklin was
furious. He taunted Garrick with treachery and with
having induced the others to go back while leaving
him, Macklin, out in the cold. Garrick did all he
could to appease him, offering to pay him £6 a week
out of his own pocket until Fleetwood could be in-
duced to take him back, and promised, besides, to
secure an engagement for Mrs. Macklin. Macklin's
only reply was the issuing of a pamphlet assailing
Garrick's honour ; and on the night on which the
latter appeared as Bayes, brought a crowd of sup-
porters to the theatre, with the intention of driving
Garrick from the stage. The presence, however, of a
number of professional pugilists, hired by Fleetwood,
frustrated Macklin's design, and the affair ended in his
complete discomfiture.

Clive was another who had strongly disapproved of
Garrick's weakness, as she considered it. Full of im-
pulsive indignation she promptly went over to Covent
Garden, where the management had for some time
been holding out the bait of a higher salary than she
was getting at Drury Lane. But the moment they
saw that she was anxious to come, they reduced their
offer, and she eventually found herself very little, if
any, better off for the change.

In the season of 1745-6 we find her back at Drury
Lane, having passed the interval in more quarrels and


bickerings with her new manager at Covent Garden.
Ciive was not a woman to sit down under a grievance.
On 2nd November, 1744, was published an absurd
diminutive pamphlet, entitled " The Case of Mrs. Clive,
submitted to the Public." This contained a long vindica-
tion of her conduct, which she considered had been
misunderstood by the public, and a recital of all the
slights which had been shown her by the respective
managers of the two patent theatres. The pamphlet
vastly amused the town. Mrs. Clive had a fondness
for rushing into print, in spite of the fact that she was
as notoriously weak in her grammar as in her spelling.

In 1747 began her long connection with Garrick,
who had now become manager of Drury Lane ; she
remained with him for twenty-two years as '' leading
comick " or "singing chambermaid." With such
players around her as Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard,
Peg Woffington, Barry, and Macklin, Mrs. Clive's
powers rapidly matured, and it was during this period
that she rose to the full height of her ability as an
actress. Amongst the vast number of characters with
which she enchanted the town we may single out her
Nell in ''The Devil To Pay;' Lappet in " The Miser,"
half a dozen Kittys, but above all Kitty in ''High Life
Above Stairs;' Muslin in " The Way to Keep Him" and
Mrs. Heidelberg in "The Clayidestine Marriage" — all
of them her own creations — as those which served to
display her genius to particular perfection.

Between Kitty Clive and her manager there existed
a curious hostility that was, strange as it may seem,
largely composed of mutual admiration. Quarrels
between them were of such frequent occurrence that the
attention of the whole town became focussed upon
them, their eternal wrangles becoming the subject

(In the char;ictei- of Mr?. Heidelberg.;


of much amused comment. Clive was easily aroused to
a sense of injury, and, at the slightest hint of oppres-
sion, flew, off at a tangent and never rested until her
grievances were redressed. Many a mauvais quart
d'heure did she cause Garrick. Tate Wilkinson said :
'' She knew every sore place in that sensitive being, and
could make his withers wince whenever she pleased."
She was the one player of whom he was afraid, and, pro-
bably for that reason, his admiration of her was very
great. He always called her his *' Pivy," or his *' Clivy
Pivy," and seems to have had a very real affection for
her, in spite of their bickerings. He treated her with
the greatest indulgence, and though she tried his
patience sorely, would strive to ignore the bitterness of
her tongue. It was odd that she should have so loved
to torment him, for at bottom she admired him
immensely. She imagined that he disliked her, and
chafed because she fancied that he denied her the full
recognition of her powers. This antagonism, more
imaginary than real, lasted throughout the long spell
of years during which she remained under his manage-
ment, nor is it easily explained. Mr. John Taylor, one
of the editors of ''The Sun," suggests that as she was
eminent before Garrick's appearance, his love of
excelling threw her and others in the shade, and in
consequence, she took every opportunity of venting
her resentful spleen. And yet the following incident,
narrated by Taylor, shows how greatly she really
admired him : —

''One night," says Taylor, "as he was performing
King Lear ^ she stood behind the scenes to observe him,
and in spite of the roughness of her nature, was so
deeply affected, that she sobbed one minute and abused
him the next, and at length overcome by his pathetic


touches, she hurried from the place with the following
extraordinary tribute to the universality of his powers —
* Damn him ! I believe he could act a gridiron ! ' "

As she grew older her temper became more soured
and her sense of injury more keen. It was well known
that Garrick came to dread an altercation with her so
much, that he would humour her and yield the point
in dispute, sooner than be involved in another/rac^j.
Once when she was growing too old for young parts,
she wanted to play the character of Miss Price in
^^ Love for Love" — the character of a girl of sixteen !
Garrick could only get the part from her by giving her
that of Mrs. Frail, for which she was equally unsuited.

Mrs. Olive's letters to Garrick, couched in the most
violent language, were as frequent as her quarrels in
person. In the main his letters in reply were soothing
(or meant to be so), and, better still, he often answered
them not at all. On one occasion when she sent him
**a violent scolding letter" on recovering from an ill-
ness, he wrote in reply congratulating her on her
recovery, and added : " I am very glad you are come to
your usual spirits."

Later on, however, she came to her senses and
allowed him to see how much she thought of him.
After her retirement the correspondence which con-
tinued between them became more and more friendly
in tone. In one of her letters, written on the eve of his
retirement in 1776, the following passages occur : —

"... While I was under your control, I did not say
half the fine things I thought of you, because it looked
like flattery : and you know your Pivy was always
proud, besides, I thought you did not like me; but now
I am sure you do, which makes me send you this
letter. . . . What a strange jumble of people they have


put in the papers as the purchasers of the patent ! I
thought I should have died of laughter when I saw
a man-midwife (Dr. Ford) amongst them. I suppose
they had taken him in to prevent miscarriages! I
have some opinion of Mr. Sheridan, as I hear every-
body say he is very sensible ; then he has a divine
wife, and I loved his mother dearly. Pray give my
love to my dear Mrs. Garrick ; we all join in that. I
have once since the snow been out in my carriage.
Did you not hear me scream ? " She concludes by ask-
ing him to reinstate her protegee^ Miss Pope, who had
been so unfortunate as to offend him. This Garrick
did, and affectionately endorsed the letter, " My Pivy

It was, however, not only with her manager that
Kitty Clive was constantly embroiled. In the green-
room her peppery temper was dreaded by all. Im-
petuous, frank, and outspoken to the point of positive
rudeness, she was for ever giving offence to the other
leading ladies. " Scenes " were of almost daily
occurrence with one or other of them (always excepting
her great friend, Mrs. Pritchard). Peg Woffington
was the object of her particular aversion, and hostilities
between them were the cause of much scandal, as has
already been recorded in the preceding chapter.

Between Clive and one of the male performers there
was an antipathy that often developed into actual war-
fare. That performer was Woodward ; he and Clive
being wildly jealous of one another. Neither seemed
to be willing to co-operate with the other, chiefly
because the touchy actress imagined that he was always
struggling for his own hand. This jealousy and lack
of sympathy was even extended to the actual boards,
and resulted in comical denouements.


Once, during '' The Taming of the Shrew,'' then
called " Catherine and Petruchio," a strange scene took
place. As Woodward made his exit he threw down
Mrs. Clive with such violence, says Wilkinson, "as to
convince the audience that Petnichio was not so lordly
as he assumed to be." The actress was so furiously
enraged at this treatment that "her talons, tongue,
and passions were very expressive to the eyes of all
beholders, and it was with the utmost difficulty that
she suppressed her indignation."

On a subsequent occasion another amusing passage
occurred between this hot-tempered pair. Davies tells
us that this "caused such repeated laughter in the
theatre as I scarcely ever heard."

During a performance of "77^^ Double Dealer''
Clive had, as Lady Froth, by mistake or in a hurry,
laid on more rouge than usual. Woodward, who
played the valet, instead of saying " Your coachman
having a red face," said " Yotir ladyship has a red face."
Peal upon peal of laughter rang through the theatre,
and Woodward pretended to be utterly abashed and
confounded. On this occasion, however, Clive bore
the incident with fortitude. When they returned to
the green-room, [the players expected a terrible scene
would follow. The inimitable actress disappointed
them. "Come, Mr. Woodward," she said gravely,
" let us rehearse the next scene, lest more blunders
should fall out."

It was always Mrs. Clive's fate to furnish amuse-
ment to the town. Towards the end of her life her
orthography improved and she dropped some of her
colloquialisms, but one letter to the "low comedian,"
Edward Shuter, shows that even in 1761 she could
write the most astonishing epistles when under the


influence of excitement. Shuter was very much in
her bad books, because, some one having written to
the papers a letter exhorting the public not to go to
her benefit because she was giving a French farce,
she had fixed upon Shuter as the writer of it. He,
with malice, had her letter printed verbatim. It ran
as follows : —


'* I much Desire you would do me the Favour to
let me know if you was the author of a letter in ' The
Dayle Gazeteer ' relating to the New Piece I had for
my benefet ; as it was intended to hurt my Benefet and
serve yours, everybody will naturely conclude you
was the author if you are not ashamed of being so I
suppose you will own it : if you really was not con-
cerned in wrighting it I shall be very glad : for I
should be extremely shocked that an actor should be
guilty of so base an action ; I don't often take the
liberty of wrighting to the Publick but am Now under
a Nessity of Doing it — therefore Desier your answer."

It may be added that Shuter, to clear himself,
swore an affidavit before a magistrate that he was

Kitty Clive's last appearance upon the stage was on
24th April, 1769, although she was only fifty-eight years
of age and could have continued to delight the town
for fully ten years longer. The plays chosen for
her farewell performance were '■'■The Wonder'" (which
later Garrick was to choose for his final effort) and
^^ Lethe y'' in which she gave her incomparable Fine
Lady. Garrick played Don Felix in ''The Wonder,'"
King, Lissardo, and Mrs. Barry, Violante — a fine
cast, Mrs. Clive making Flora equal to Felix and


Violante. Drury Lane was packed, and had it been
larger twice the number of people would have found
seats. Clive, after forty years of service on the stage,
took her leave in a weak and tasteless epilogue,
written for her by Horace Walpole.

She has never had a real successor. Her sense
of humour, her infectious laughter, her innate love
of fun, and, in her young days, her marvellous vitality
and enthusiasm, carried her to a position which has
never been equalled on the comic stage. Her spirits
seemed to be always bubbling over, sometimes in
the wrong place. Garrick was the most rigid man
in the world as regards stage discipline, yet even
he was not always proof against her incorrigible
habit of joking during the performance of a play.
Once, when they were acting together in '■'■The Way
to Keep Him^'" Clive whispered some witticism in his
ear. Taken off his guard for the moment, he was
rendered speechless, and after making two or three
ineffectual efforts to find his tongue, was obliged to
retire, followed by roars of laughter from the audience.

In spite of her exhibitions of temper and "contrari-
ness," Kitty Clive strikes us as having been a genuine
character. She was loyal and faithful to those under
whom she served. She was passionately devoted to
her profession, and made it the first object in her life.
Although separated from her husband, the breath of
scandal never once touched her name. Her warm
temper and her proneness to take offence were
blemishes in a character otherwise distinguished by
common sense and good feeling. Champion of the
down-trodden — generous encourager of the youthful
aspirant — firm in her friendships — implacable in her
hatreds — downright in her opinions — plucky, honest


and high above all petty meanness — Kitty Clive stands
for a sterling good sort, who added to the gaiety
of nations, and whose very faults and weaknesses
endeared her to some of the most distinguished persons
of her day.

Amongst these was Dr. Johnson, who called her
"the best player he ever saw." He was a great
admirer of hers, and used to sit beside her in the green-
room listening to her witty stories; '*a good thing
to sit by," was how he described her on one occasion.

Henry Fielding was another great admirer of hers.
He wrote '■^ The Intriguing Chambermaid''^ in 1734,
having adapted it from Regnard especially for her.
In 1735 he wrote another farce, " The Virgin Unmask' d,''
which was obviously intended to display the talents
of Clive. In it she was provided with her favourite
part of Hoyden. She herself was reputed the authoress
of two plays, called respectively ^'' The Rehearsal, or
Bayes in Petticoats,'" and '■^ Every Woman in her
Humour.''' The former was produced by Garrick in
1750 and the latter in 1760. It was the opinion of
many, however, that Fielding had taken a large part
in their creation. In any case, neither play achieved
much success.

But her greatest friend, and one whose companion-
ship she enjoyed to the end of her life, was Horace
Walpole. He made her a present of " little Strawberry
Hill " at Twickenham, close to his own house, and
christened it ''Cliveden." Up to the time of her
retirement she was only there occasionally — that is to
say between the theatrical seasons — but after her
farewell to the stage she took up her residence there
altogether, having her brother, Jimmy Raftor, to live
with her. To him she had clung tenaciously all her


life. He was, as Lord Nuneham described him, "a
wretched actor, hideous in person and face, and
vulgarly awkward in his general appearance — but a
man of much observation and possessing an extra-
ordinary fund of original humour. In his talent of
telling a story he was unrivalled. One of his stories
no doubt he told with humour ; that of a town lady,
who, being asked why she did not live in the country,
said she had *just bought some rural object— a cuckoo
clock.'" This entertaining fellow attracted Walpole,
who conceived quite a friendship for him, and always
invited him with his more gifted sister. At all petits
soupers Raftor was to be found in her company. Even
at the Coronation, when seats were so eagerly sought
after, Walpole found a place for him at his town house,
amongst the ladies of title.

** Raftor," said Walpole in 1770, " has left the stage.
Mrs. Clive has very kindly taken him to live entirely
with her, and I hear he is exceedingly happy at it."

Jimmy Raftor died in 1790, some five years after his
gifted sister. A friend recalled one last touch of his
character. "We remember," he says, "her acting
Bayes in ' The Rehearsal ' with her brother, a very
inferior actor, speaking, as usual, like a mouse in a
cheese, in the character of Bold Thunder! * O fie, Mr.
Raftor,' said she ; 'speak out like a man. Surely you
might have learned more assurance from your sister I ' "

Mrs. Clive spent a very happy old age at Cliveden,
taking part in pleasant little card and supper parties,
and enjoying the society of her large circle of friends
and acquaintances. Men and women of "quality,"
actors, authors, distinguished people of all sorts
helped to make her retirement pleasant. The Thames
Valley was at that time a favourite locality for actors


and actresses. The Garricks were at Hampton ;
Bellamy at Richmond ; Clive, Abington, and Mrs.
Pritchard at Twickenham. Amongst Mrs. Clive's
near neighbours were Sir John Hawkins, Lady
Tweeddale, George Steevens and many others equally
well known.

Mrs. Clive gave delightful little parties at Cliveden,
and a brilliant company would often cross the meadows
from Horace Walpole's house to partake of the hospi-
tality of his old friend. Walpole's letters contain many
allusions to her, and from them a delightful picture can
be drawn of the intimacy that gave so much pleasure
to both. As early as 1748, long before Clive's retire-
ment, he writes in a letter to George Montagu : —

*' I am now expecting the house of Pritchard, Dame

Online LibraryHarold SimpsonA century of famous actresses, 1750-1850 → online text (page 6 of 27)