Catherine Clive

1711-1785 [née Rafter; var. Raftor; called Kitty]; dg. of a Kilkenny lawyer who forfeited estates in 1690, fled to France, and later moved to London; she ‘used to run after Robt. Wilkes in the street’ as a young girl (Chetwood); reputedly discovered by Colley Cibber singing on doorstep of Drury Lane Beefsteak Club; employed at Drury Lane, 1728-41 [var. 1742]; enjoyed great success in high-spirited comic roles; briefly m. to a barrister called Clive and separated within the year 1733; travestied part of Portia, 1741; played Dublin season in 1741; admired by Dr. Johnson and Handel; sang Handel’s Samson, 1742; taken on by Garrick at Drury Lane, 1746-69; a defence of her character issued as The Case of Mrs Clive (1744); she wrote four comic sketches as benefit plays during the 1750s and 60s incl. The Rehearsal (1753), and The Faithful Irishwoman (1765), all unpublished; admired by Farquhar and Johnson; pensioned by Walpole, near whose home Strawberry Hill she retired in 1768, living in a house called Cliveden; d. 6. Dec.; there is a life by Percy Fitzgerald (1888); her unprinted plays are held in the Larpent Collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino (Ca.). ODNB GBI DIB DIW OCEL OCIL

[ top ]

Plays, The Rehearsal or Boys in Petticoats, burl. (Drury Lane, 15 March 1750), printed 1753; Every Woman in her Humour, farce (Drury Lane, 20 Mar 1760), Larpent Coll.; The Island of Slaves, farce (Drury Lane, 26 Mar 1761) Larpent Coll.; The Sketch of a Fine Lady’s Return from a Rout, farce (Drury Lane, 21 March 1763), Larpent Coll.; The Faithful Irishwoman (Drury Lane, 18 March 1765), Larpent Coll. Also, The Connaught Wife and Teague’s Rambles in London (Haymarket 1770).

Autobiography, The Case of Mrs. Clive (1744; rep. edn., Augustan Reprints q.d.); also Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald, ed., The life of Mrs. Catherine Clive: with an account of her adventures on and off the stage, a round of her characters, together with her correspondence. (London: A. Reader 1888, facs. rep. New York: B. Blom 1971), viii, 112pp.

NB: Students of her works inc. Felicity Nussbaum (on her cultural influence as a celebrity), Berta Joncus (on her contributions to ballad opera) and Willow White (on her burlesque benefit plays). See notie on Willow White, “The Benefit Plays of Catherine Clive” [PhD prop.] in Literary Encyclopaedia Travel Awards 2019; noticed by Peter Crisp.

[ top ]

Dictionary of National Biography: née. Raftor; employed by Colley Cibber at Drury Lane 1728-42; sang in Handel’s Samson in Dublin; d. 1785.

Oxford Companion to English Literature (ed. Margaret Drabble): ‘renowned for her red face and vulgar good nature’; also renowned for freedom from scandal; retired from stage to ‘Clivenden’ near her friend Horace Walpole, 1768, acting as his hostess.

Harry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (1988) holds that she was born in Ulster, but this is unlikely if her father fled to France after the Battle of the Boyne (see Romance of the Irish Stage, J. Fitzgerald Molloy, i, p.101).

[ top ]