Kitty Clive, or The Fair Songster
Title Details

541 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

32 b/w. 32 line. Illustrations

Imprint: Boydell Press

Kitty Clive, or The Fair Songster

by Berta Joncus

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
Kitty Clive (1711-1785) was a top London stage star. She dominated spoken as well as musical comedy. From the 1740s onwards, her reputation suffered a sharp decline. For anyone curious about star production in eighteenth-century Britain, her story is not to be missed.
Kitty Clive (1711-1785) was a top London stage star. Singing powered her ascent and, for twenty years, was foundational to her success as she came to dominate spoken as well as musical comedy. Her protean powers transfixed audiences, whether in low-style productions or in works by masters like Purcell, Shakespeare, and Dryden. Celebrities such as Handel and Henry Fielding wrote vehicles for her.
Clive's career was unique. Despite a sometimes awkward biography - her father was a disgraced Irish Catholic; she defied managers; her marriage was almost certainly a social ruse and her 'husband' a homosexual - her musical voice helped her to become the champion of British song, of patriotism, and of propriety. Yet in the 1740s, critical opinion turned against Clive and the financial power she wielded. Salvaging her career with David Garrick's help, Clive gutted her legacy. She quit serious song and took to caricaturing herself on stage, winning back audiences by disparaging her earlier achievements. Altering works mid-performance, creating and re-shaping stage genres, and leveraging press coverage while seeming not to, she was above all a shrewd manager and a fascinating stage artist.
Clive's career reveals to us gorgeous song otherwise lost and perspectives previously unknown. For music historians, musicologists, theatre scholars, and anyone curious about performance history and star production in eighteenth-century Britain, her story is not to be missed.

BERTA JONCUS is Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The Siren Song: Kitty Clive in the Playhouse
'The Lovely Virgin tun'd her Voice': Henry Carey and the Production of a Native Songster
'Charm'd with the sprightly Innocence of Nell': The Metamorphosis of Miss Raftor
'HINT writes and RAFTOR acts in Drury-lane': Clive, Fielding and Theophilus Cibber
'The pious Daughter, and the faithful Wife': Fielding, Miller and Clive, 1733-35
'A Likeness where none was to be found': Contested Images of Clive, 1734-1737
The Patriot Soprano: British Worthies at Drury Lane
Handel and the Sweet Bird of Drury Lane, 1740-43
The Case of Mrs. Clive
Of Scuffles and Rivalries: The Demise of 'Kitty Cuckoe'
From Miss Lucy to Mrs Riot: Voice and Caricature
Clive on Clive: The Rehearsal: Or, Bays in Petticoats
Conclusion: The Fair Songster
Appendix 1: Catherine Clive's Roles 1728-1769
Appendix 2: Line in Catherine Clive's Repertory 1728-1769
Appendix 3: The Case of Mrs. CLIVE (1744)
Select Bibliography
"Berta Joncus's brilliant new book . . . compels us to imagine London's rich musical scene through the eyes and voice of one of the century's most extraordinary performers, Kitty Clive (1711-1785). . . . Readers . . . will be fascinated by this beautifully written biography, full of intriguing anecdotes and astute cultural criticism, where backstage gossip on one page is followed by keen musical analysis on the next. Moreover, singers will discover an entirely new repertoire to explore, one that puts the music of Handel and his contemporaries into a much clearer focus. Clive is a heroine for all generations, and Berta Joncus is to be praised for letting us hear her voice so clearly today." Wendy Heller, EARLY MUSIC AMERICA
"[An] engrossing history...dubbed the 'songbird of Drury Lane', Clive performed an extraordinary range of musical styles to great acclaim...Joncus gives a fascinating account...painstakingly researched yet written in lively and dynamic prose." BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
"[A] welcome study...Joncus invites us to think harder about what was heard and how music and vocal delivery shaped audience responses." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
"An exhaustive study of Clive's character and work; her roles and songs; her rise and fall; her feminist ambitions...a monumental, worthy, many-sided and richly detailed monograph, providing a strong portrait of Clive as a distinguished actress-songster in Handel's times." HANDEL NEWS
"Berta Joncus has masterfully described the career of singer-actress-playwright Catherine Clive, a neglected star of the eighteenth-century English and Irish theatres from a charismatic ingénue songstress into a plump, carping older woman. Beginning with the acknowledgement that Clive shaped her own public image, Joncus details this stunningly important career with a much-needed emphasis on theatrical music. This brilliant book highlights the triumphs and challenges facing a talented, determined woman in an age that regularly satirized the second sex." Felicity Nussbaum, Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
"[Kitty Clive] is a quite extraordinary story with many applications for the study of celebrity today - the construction of star power, what happens to powerful women as they age and lose attractiveness, how the intricacies of complex networks of obligation, reciprocity and expectation are navigated. More particularly, it is a must for readers with a special interest in English singers and repertoire of the 18th century." Lisa MacKinney, Limelight Magazine

Hardcover

9781783273461

June 2019

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Ebook (EPDF)

9781787445567

November 2019

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Title Details

541 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

32 b/w. 32 line. Illustrations

Imprint: Boydell Press