Charlotte: Being a True Account of an Actress's Flamboyant Adventures in Eighteenth-Century London's Wild and Wicked Theatrical World

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9780312425760: Charlotte: Being a True Account of an Actress's Flamboyant Adventures in Eighteenth-Century London's Wild and Wicked Theatrical World
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Charlotte Charke's father, Colley Cibber, was one of the eighteenth-century's great actor/playwrights--and it was thought that the comedically gifted young Charlotte would follow in his footsteps at the legendary Drury Lane. However, Charlotte's habit of wearing men's clothes off stage as well as on, proved an obstacle to her career.

Kathryn Shevelow re-creates Charlotte's downfall from the heights of London's theatrical world to its lascivious lows (the domain of fire-eaters, puppeteers, wastrels, gender-bending cross-dressers, wenches, and scandalous sorts of every variety) and her comeback as the author of one of the first autobiographies ever written by a woman. Beyond the appealingly unorthodox Charlotte, Shevelow masterfully recalls for us a historical era of extraordinary stylishness, artifice, character, interest, and intrigue.

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About the Author:

Kathryn Shevelow is an award-winning professor at the University of California in San Diego, teaching regular classes in Restoration and eighteenth-century drama. She has published widely on eighteenth-century topics and lives in Solana Beach, California.

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Charlotte
PART ONE 
 
1CIBBERS(1660--1712) 
 
 
 
 
Of all the spectacles in London, one of the most popular was Bethlem Royal Hospital, the madhouse. "Bedlam" drew crowds of the curious, eager to pay admission to stare with horror at the inmates, howling in frenzy or slumped in silent dejection. In 1676, Bethlem Hospital had relocated to Moorfields, just outside the City's northern wall. The stately design of its new building and gardens, said to resemble the Tuileries, contrasted starkly with the brutal treatment of the miserable "lunaticks" inside, who often were bound in chains and manacles, and routinely whipped and bled.Bedlam's entrance gate itself produced an unsettling thrill, for on either side loomed the recumbent statue of a near-naked madman. One, Melancholy, reclined on his side in passive imbecility, gazing openmouthed into space. The other, Raving, thrashed against his chains, his countenance twisted and angry. A little larger than life, these sculpted madmen were reputed to represent actual inmates once incarcerated inside Bedlam. But visitors familiar with Rome might have recognized the influence of Michelangelo's tomb statuary and Bernini's fountain sculptures in the Piazza Navona.Bedlam's disturbing figures had been carved of Portland stone at the end of the seventeenth century by Caius Gabriel Cibber, and were widelyacknowledged as his masterpieces.b To Caius Gabriel's son Colley, the Bedlam statues held more equivocal significance.A common metaphor (then as now) equated artistic productions with children. A playwright might declare a play to be "a brat of my brain"; poets spoke of their poetical "offspring." Colley, the child of the creator of these lunatics, could thus be said to bear a kinship with them: all were "sons" of his father. This metaphorical affiliation provided an irresistible lure to Alexander Pope, who used it to strike a neat blow in The Dunciad. Pope imagined a "Cave" of hack writing, located near Bethlem Hospital, "Where o'er the gates, by his fam'd father's hand, / Great Cibber's brazen brainless brothers stand" (I: 29--32). Pope may not have been the first of Colley's contemporaries to think of this gibe, but he was the one who immortalized it.The Bethlem statues evoke the contradictory legacy that Caius Gabriel Cibber bequeathed to his elder son, Colley, and that he in turn bestowed upon his family, especially his only son, Theophilus, and his youngest daughter, Charlotte. Each generation of Cibbers put its particular twist on that legacy, but the general outline remained constant. Virtually from its emergence into the public eye, the name of Cibber implied the idea of professional prominence marred by arrogance, recklessness, or misjudgment. For three generations (the name died out in the fourth), members of the Cibber family cultivated their inheritance of achievement and ignominy, acclaim and censure.Colley Cibber was the ambitious son of an ambitious father. Like his son and granddaughter after him, Caius Gabriel Cibber, an emigre sculptor born in Flensburg, Holstein, sought and gained a place in the British public eye. He also invented the family name that he and his descendants would make notorious. When young Caius Gabriel (his original full name) immigrated to England from Copenhagen, where his father had moved the family, he added the new surname "Cibber" to his own. Caius Gabriel had studied in Italy, and the name was possibly an Anglicized form of Cibò, an Italian aristocratic patron of the arts, whose coat of arms he adopted.c Like his son after him, Caius Gabriel relished his associations with aristocracy.1Caius Gabriel Cibber immigrated to London in the late 1650s, settling west of the old City walls in Covent Garden, where many of his descendants would also live. He arrived on the cusp of three great events that would shake the country and its capital: the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 after the collapse of the Commonwealth established by the Puritan victors of the English Civil War; the return in 1665 of the Black Death (bubonic plague), which killed nearly 100,000 people; and the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed most of the City of London and left as many as 200,000 people homeless.After 1666, having survived both plague and fire, Caius was well positioned to profit from the latter. The burned-out City had to be rebuilt immediately, so the guilds that controlled London's trades relaxed their traditional restrictions against foreign builders, creating ripe opportunities for the young immigrant sculptor. Caius embarked upon a career that would leave a lasting imprint upon his adopted city.Decades later, Charlotte Charke and her father would frequently have encountered vivid reminders of their family legacy. Charlotte, seeking employment or adventure within the old City walls, might have passed the massive columnar Monument to the Great Fire (it still stands today, on Fish Street Hill) and paused to scrutinize its vigorous bas-relief. If she had reason to enter the south door of St. Paul's Cathedral, she would have passed under the carved phoenix that symbolized London rising from its ashes.If, after his parents' death, Colley ever visited the graceful Danish church in Wellclose Square (now destroyed) where they were buried, he could have admired the four vivid sculptures of burnished wood--Saints Peter and Paul, John the Baptist, and Moses (now displayed in the Danish Church in Regent's Park). In the West End, Charlotte and her father would have walked often through Soho Square, where a statue of Charles II stood (and where it stands again today, though much eroded).2 All of these sculptures, and the design of the Wellclose Square church itself, were the legacy of Caius Gabriel. His work was rewarded in 1693 with his appointment as sculptor in ordinary to William III, a position in the king's household dedicated to the conservation and repair of the statuary at the royal palaces.3 
 
In 1670, as his London career was beginning to flourish, Caius, a recent widower, achieved another kind of success by taking as his second wife, Jane Colley, daughter of an old Rutlandshire gentry family whose forebears had played prominent parts in local and national politics. (Colley Cibber later boasted that his maternal ancestors were recorded "as Sheriffs and Members of Parliament from the Reign of Henry VII.")4 Though the Colley family had lost their land and most of their wealth, they retained vestiges of their former gentility.Jane, who had control of her own considerable income of £6,000, must have found the young sculptor an appealing matrimonial prospect, since Caius's profession, though once ranked among the manual trades, had risen considerably in status. (Charles II, when creating the office of "Master Sculptor," had issued a statement declaring sculpture and carving in wood an "Art of more excellent skill and dexterity" than arts such as carpentry, masonry, and furniture-making.)5 Caius was also a handsome man: in a surviving portrait his dark eyes focus intensely and his stylish mustache gives him a dashing air. A year after their marriage, on November 6, 1671, Jane gave birth to their first child, Colley, christened on November 29 at the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. But whatever prospects of marital happiness Jane may have envisioned were soon dampened if not completely blighted. For all of his public success, Caius left a private legacy of disappointment that would sour his family life and ultimately shape his descendants' history.Caius Gabriel Cibber, observed his younger contemporary, the engraver George Vertue, was a "gentleman-like man and a man of good sense." However, Vertue added, "he died poor." His story was common enough: a wealthier gentleman who lodged in his house supposedly introduced him to gambling, creating an addiction Caius could ill afford.6 Despite Jane's handsome dowry, he ran into debt within a year of their marriage. Bills mounted as he borrowed money from creditors and then defaulted. Finally, when Colley was a little more than a year old, the bailiffs arrested Caius and clapped him into Marshalsea, one of the debtors prisons in Southwark, the rough district south of the river. Caius would become all too familiar with the Marshalsea and King's Bench prisons during the next five years.The threat of debtors prison hovered over the Cibber family during Colley's early childhood. Caius would be released from one incarcerationonly to be arrested again for other debts. Fortunately, this did not entirely impede his career: he sculpted the Monument to the Great Fire during one of his periods of imprisonment, when a magistrate granted him day leave to do the work provided he return to Marshalsea every night. And after the early 1670s, Caius was never again incarcerated, though the bailiffs always loomed since he remained perpetually in debt and was periodically hauled into court by his creditors.7The Cibbers' financial difficulties placed a particular strain upon Jane, who had three more children after Colley, though only one, Lewis, survived infancy. While the family never suffered the privations of the genuinely poor, their straitened circumstances interfered with their aspiration to gentility. As his reputation grew, Caius was often able to escape the stresses of London for months on end, executing commissions at aristocratic country houses such as Chatsworth, the magnificent estate of the Duke of Devonshire. Jane, on the other hand, seems to have remained in town to face the burdens of an insufficient income. She had been raised to expect better. Some years later, an enemy of Colley's described Jane Cibber as nagging and tightfisted, "a very carking, sparing Housewifely Woman."8Among the children, the impact of a ...

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Book Description Picador USA, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Charlotte Charke s father, Colley Cibber, was one of the eighteenth-century s great actor/playwrights - the toast of the British aristocracy, a favourite of the king. When his high spirited, often rebellious daughter, Charlotte, revealed a fondness for things theatrical, it was thought that the young actress would follow in his footsteps at the legendary Drury Lane, creating a brilliant career on the London stage. But this was not to be. And it was not that Charlotte lacked talent - she was gifted, particularly at comedy. Troublesome, however was her habit of dressing in men s clothes - a preference first revealed onstage but adopted elsewhere after her disastrous marriage to an actor, who became the last man she ever loved. Seller Inventory # APC9780312425760

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