Charke, Charlotte

was youngest daughter of CoUey Cibber the player, and afterwards poet-laureat. At eight years old she was put to school, but had an education more suitable to a boy than a girl; and as she grew up, followed the same plan, being more frequently in the stable than in the bed-chamber, and mistress of the curry-comb, though ignorant of the needle. Her very amusements all took the same masculine turn shooting, hunting, riding races, and digging in a garden, being ever her favourite exercises. She also relates an act of her prowess when a mere child, in protecting the house when in expectation of an attack from thieves, by the firing of pistols and blunderbusses out at the windows. All her actions seem to have had a boyish mischievousness in them, and she sometimes appears to have run great risque of ending them with the most fatal consequences. This wildness, however, was put some check to, by her marriage, when very young, with Mr. Richard Charke, an eminent performer on the violin;*

*

Dr. Burney says he was a dancing-master, an actor, a man of humour, and a performer on the violin, with a strong hand. He was leader of the band at Drury-lane theatre. As a composer, he only distinguished himself by being supposed the first who produced that species of musical buffoonery called a “Medley Overture,” wholly made up of shreds and patches of well-known vulgar tunes. But we believe that this very easy species of pleasantry was first suggested by Dr. Pepusch, in the overture to the Beggar’s Opera, brought on the stage in 1728, and Charke’s medley overture bears date 1755. There is a slang hornpipe under Charke’s name, which used to be a favourite among the tars. We believe him to have been a facetious fellow, gifted with a turn for low humour, of which, and of his tricks and stories, Dr. Arne, in moments of jocularity, used to give specimens. Rees’s Cyclopædia.

immediately after which she launched into the billows of a stormy world, where she was, through the remainder of her life, buffeted about without ever once reaching a peaceful harbour. Her husband’s insatiable passion for women soon gave her just cause of uneasiness, and in a short time appears to have occasioned a separation.

She then applied to the stage, apparently from inclination as well as necessity; and opened with the little part of Mademoiselle in the “Provoked Wife,” in which she met with all the success she could expect. From this she rose in her second and third attempts to the capital characters of Alicia in “Jane Shore,” and Andromache in the “Distressed Mother;” in which, notwithstanding the remembrance of Mrs. Porter and Mrs. Oldfield, she met with great indulgence from the audience; and being remarkable | for reading well, was suffered upon sudden emergencies to read characters of no less importance than those of Cleopatra and queen Elizabeth. She was after this engaged at a good salary and sufficient supply of very considerable parts, at the Haymarket, and after that at Drury-lane. She now seemed well settled, and likely to have made no inglorious figure in theatrical life; but that ungovernable impetuosity of passions, which ran through all her actions, induced her to quarrel with Fleetwood, the then manager; whom she not only left on a sudden without any notice given, but even vented her spleen against him in public, by a little dramatic farce, called “The Art of Management;” and though Fleetwood forgave that injury, and restored her to her former station, yet she acknowledges that she afterwards very ungratefully left him a second time, without any blame on his part.

Her adventures during the remainder of her life are nothing but one variegated scene of distresses, of a kind to which no one can be a stranger, who has either seen or read the accounts of those most wretched of all human beings, the members of a strolling company of actors we may therefore be excused the entering into particulars. In 1755 she came to London, where she published the “Narrative of her own Life:” whether the profits of her book enabled her to subsist for the short remainder of it, without seeking for farther adventures, is uncertain. Death, however, put a period to it, and thereby to one continued course of misery, April 6, 1760. 1

1

Biog. Dram.