Queer Places:
Whitfield House, Whitfield, Hereford HR2 9BA, UK
St Mary's Churchyard Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London, England

Catherine Clive “Kitty” (Willem Verelst 1740).jpgCatherine Clive (née Raftor; 5 November 1711 – 6 December 1785) was a well-known English actress and occasional singer on London stages. She created the role of Dalila in Handel's 1743 oratorio Samson. She also did some writing. A definitive biography of Clive has been written by Berta Joncus.[1]

Kitty Raftor was probably born in London, but her father, William Raftor, was an Irishman and a former officer in the French army under Louis XIV. Her biographers say she worked as a girl as a servant in the homes of wealthy London families. At the age of 17, she was discovered by the theatre community when overheard singing as she cleaned the front steps of a house near a tavern that actors and playwrights patronized. She was referred to Colley Cibber, manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, who hired her.[2]

Her first role at Drury Lane was as the page boy Immenea in Nathaniel Lee's tragedy Mithridates, King of Pontus.[3] Throughout the 1730s she played further roles with success, becoming Drury Lane's leading comedy actress.[4] In 1747 she became a founding member of David Garrick's acting company. A soprano, she would occasionally sing on stage, notably when portraying Emma and Venus in the world première of Thomas Arne's masque Alfred in 1740. She also created the role of Dalila in Handel's 1743 oratorio Samson. Around 1732, Kitty Raftor married George Clive, a barrister brother of Baron Clive. The marriage was not a success and they separated, although they never divorced. Kitty Clive remained economically independent. Because she never openly took lovers, Clive could keep her marriage vows and preserve her public reputation.[4]

The Clive family arrived at Whitfield House in the 1790s, having previously lived at Wormbridge Court and descendants continued to live in the mansion until recent times. Kitty Clive was an excellent writer of plays and a very good actress – Horace Walpole was so admiring of her that he gave her a cottage, Clivedon, at Strawberry Hill and also wrote an epitaph which is inscribed on her monumental urn. Kitty Clive was just as bubbly and entertaining in her private life, and maintained an unsullied reputation whilst attracting friends of both sexes of high rank. She performed in Dublin, as well as Covent Garden and did her last performance on 24th April 1769 – The Wonder and Lethe – before retiring.

Kitty Clive as Mrs Riot by Peter Van Bleeck c. 1750

Strawberry Hill House

Anne Seymour Damer was the subject of a number of political satires in the XVIII century. After her husband's death, she developed a close friendship with Mary Berry and her home in Strawberry Hill became associated with a sapphic set including the actresses Kitty Clive and Elizabeth Farren. One satire, entitles A Sapphic Epistle, by Jack Cavendish, referred to a Mrs D...r and claimed: Strawberry Hill at once doth prove, Taste, elegange, and Sapphic love, In gentle Kitty. Another referred to Elizabeth Farren before her marriage to Lord Derby, observing: superior to the influence of MEN, she is supposed to feel more exquisite delight from the touch of the cheek of Mrs D...r, than the fancy of any novelties which the wedding night can promise with such a partner as his lordship.

Kitty Clive's good standing with the public helped to strengthen the reputation of actresses in general, who were often looked down on as morally lax.[5] On 15 April 1740 Clive appeared as Mrs Riot, the Fine Lady in David Garrick's first successful play, Lethe; or Aesop in the Shades. Her part at Drury Lane was recorded in a painting and a memorial porcelain figure. She chose this satirical role for her benefit.[6] Clive rose to become one of the best paid actresses of her time, perhaps more than many male performers, who were traditionally paid more their female counterparts.[7] Her career on stage spanned over forty years. According to K. A. Crouch, "her pay places her among the very best actresses of her generation."[8] Kitty Clive became a household name along with other theatre names of the time such as Lavinia Fenton and Susannah Cibber. She brought her earning power and fame to play as an open supporter of actors' rights, notably in a 1744 pamphlet, The Case of Mrs. Clive, where she publicly shamed the managers Christopher Rich and Charles Fleetwood for conspiring to pay actors less than their due.[5] She also railed against the public's habit of associating actors with beggars and prostitutes.[9] Clive tried her hand at writing farces with some success. Her several satirical sketches with feminist undertones included The Rehearsal, or Boys in Petticoats (1750); Every Woman in her Humour (1760); and Sketches of a Fine Lady’s Return from a Rout (1763).[9] In these she used humour to criticize the challenges that female performers and playwrights faced.[4]

In 1761 Kitty Clive lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. She retired in 1769 to a villa in Twickenham, which had been a gift from her friend Horace Walpole. She died there in 1785 and was buried at St Mary's, Twickenham, where there is a memorial to her in the north-east corner of the church,[10] inscribed with a poem that praises her generosity. A pair of Bow figures of Clive and Henry Woodward as "the Fine Lady" and "the Fine Gentleman" in David Garrick's mythological burlesque Lethe, 1750–1752, may be "the earliest full-length portrait figures in English porcelain".[11] The Foundling Museum in London explored her life and career in an exhibition, Kitty Clive: The Creation of a Female Celebrity, between 21 September 2018 and 30 December 2018.[12]

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