Friday, September 4, 2009
Tart of the Week: Catherine Macaulay
Dear Catherine was never known for her beauty, but she was known for her spunk. In fact, she was one of the few female celebrities of the time who gained her fame, not through sexual antics, but through the venom of her pen.
Not much is known of Catherine's early life except that she was born to a land proprietor in Kent in 1731. In 1763 Catherine began causing a fuss (a habit she never broke) when she wrote A History of England (Volume 1). This shocked the public. A woman writing the history of the greatest country in the world? An outrage! But when people actually opened it up and read it, they found it to be a masterpiece. Catherine had left her mark.
Catherine continued to write and also involved herself in political activism. She loved the idea of Republicanism and wasn't afraid to tell Edmund Burke where to shove it...repeatedly. She published many pieces on how she thought the country should be run which only made her more of a celebrity. It didn't mean that she was loved by everyone though, her outspokenness earned her some criticism. Samuel Johnson and his circle openly mocked Catherine. That never seemed to stop Catherine. She openly supported the American Revolution and regularly corresponded with George Washington until her death. She even toured the new United States and stayed with the Washingtons on her trip.
In her old age Catherine finally caused a scandal, not with her writing, but with a man. Her failing health led her to try some of the wacky treatments of Dr. Graham. The quack's treatment actually seemed to work for her so she thoroughly endorsed him, which the public found to be the craziest thing she ever did. Then she shocked everyone by marrying the doctor's younger brother, William. He was twenty-one and she was fifty-two. The age gap, as well the the relationship to a known quack caused the press to go crazy. Catherine was now out of the public's favor. Despite this, the marriage appeared to be a happy one and the two were seen together often up until Catherine's death in 1791 at the age of sixty. Sadly though, her actions at the end of her life left a sour taste in people's mouth so for many years she was unrecognized for her accomplishments.