Friday, April 17, 2009

Tart of the Week: Kitty Clive

Catherine Raftor was born in 1711 to a family neither well-off, nor poor. Her Irish father actually served Louis XIV in the french army. However, a soldier's salary was not great means of income so by the age of seventeen Kitty was pursuing acting since she seemed to have a knack for it. It also didn't hurt that she was pretty as well. Kitty was blessed with a light complexion, dark hair, and light eyes. But underneath the pretty facade Kitty had a bad temper that would become slightly notorious.

Kitty, being a Londonite, quickly secured a job at Drury Lane. Her story is similar to many other tartly actresses. Being young and full of life, she quickly grew in popularity and had an affinity for comedic acting. So of course, Kitty decided to put a deterrent on her fame by getting married to a George Clive. What is interesting about Kitty is how she was able to keep most of her private life under wraps. Her marriage quickly disintegrated but instead of George abusing or abandoning her, the two agreed to a mutual separation. They probably just grew sick of each other!

Luckily for Kitty, her dappling with marriage didn't seen to hurt her career. She continued on stage as Mrs. Clive. Of course, Kitty had her dalliances with men, and the press was always suspicious; but Kitty was always clever enough to manage to keep her affairs under wraps. Soon she was beginning to get noticed for a singing talent as well. One of the people who noticed her was Handel who she became close friends with. Another person whose friendship couldn't be avoided on Drury Lane was David Garrick. He also noticed Kitty's talent. She became one of his original company members in 1747. Kitty's temper tried Garrick's patience many a time, but she stayed with the company for twenty-two years.

After over forty healthy years on stage Kitty decided it was time for her to let the new pretty little actresses try their hand in the business. She retired to a cozy house in Twickenham that her friend Horace Walpole had secured for her. He called it Clive's Den but she dubbed it "Little Strawberry Hill" after his estate. Kitty died in 1785, after 75 happy years of life.


  1. This tart seems to have come out ahead of the game. More power to her. And Horace Walpole for a friend is doing pretty well. He could be a gossipy old fishwife when he wanted, so she must have had some smarts and/or charm.
    Glad to back in the gossip loop. Now I need to back and read all the wonderful posts I missed!

  2. Finally! A story with a happy ending!

  3. Yes sometimes they do actually have happy endings! Not often, but sometimes!

  4. Wow, what a character. I wonder why she had such a temper.

  5. Dr Johnson rather liked her by all accounts, and he was difficult to impress! He told Boswell: "Clive, Sir, is a good thing to sit by; she always understands what you say."