The life of actress Charlotte Charke transports us through the splendors and scandals of eighteenth-century London and its wicked theatrical world
Her father, Colley Cibber, was one of the eighteenth century's great actor/playwrights-the toast of the British aristocracy, a favorite 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.
Kathryn Shevelow, an expert on the sophisticated world of eighteenth-century London (the setting for classics such as Tom Jones and Moll Flanders), 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.