The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)

(Item #4764) The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3). Sex Work, Elizabeth Steele, LGBTQ.
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)
Intertwining Sophia Baddeley's public fame as a courtesan with her happy domestic life and "companionate marriage" with Elizabeth Steele
The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (6 vols. in 3)

Clerkenwell: Printed for the author at the Literary Press, 1787. First edition. Six volumes bound in three. Contemporary polished calf with gilt and morocco labels to spines. Front joint of volume I repaired, all others cracked and tender but holding. Some chipping to spine ends. Bookplates of Frank Muir to front pastedown of each. Overall square and pleasing. Measuring 165 x 100mm and collating [4], 199, 1, blank]; [4], 5-223, [1, blank]; [4], 215, [1, errata]; [4], 5-240; [4], 5-228; [4], 5-199, [5]: complete, including all half titles and errata. Volume I with one page roughly cut with loss to fore-edge but not text affected (volume II pages 119-20) and offsetting to pages 222-23 of the same. With the exception of offsetting to pastedowns, an internally unmarked and bright text. The last copy to sell at auction appeared in 1981. The present is the only example on the market.

"The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley is rarely mentioned in the discussions of the life writing of 18th century courtesans, as scholars have tended to focus on the more scandalous of the memoirists" (Thompson). Less interested in gossip or intrigue, "the actress and courtesan Sophia Baddeley and her biographer and companion Elizabeth Steele challenged conventional narratives of female identity...In their brief years of cohabitation, recounted here, they exchanged traditional domesticity for financial independence and established a prominent place on the public stage. In her writing, Steele exploits the generic flexibility of of the scandal memoir in order to recuperate Baddeley's reputation, and she presents their bond as a companionate marriage. Steele imagines a fluid model of gendered identity in a text punctuated by cross-dressing, bed-swapping, and duels. However, she also translates the women's experience of domestic violence, financial exploitation, and sexual double standards into a feminist polemic and satire of fashionable society" (Culley). Documenting the period of 1769-1774, The Memoirs begin at the height of Baddeley's success both on stage and in sex work; this part of her life is connected with, rather than opposed to, her domestic life with Steele, residing together in the fashionable West End as friends, lovers, and business partners. Together, the women reap economic and social rewards -- with Steele operating as an agent and procurer for Baddeley, and the pair sharing in fineries and luxuries. Yet what could be a flat glorification of obscene wealth or a reveling in excess is balanced out. "Steele's most persistent strategy for liberating herself and Baddeley from the flattened roles of bawd and courtesan is to configure their unconventional bond as an idealized companionate marriage" in which Baddeley is "a tender and endearing partner" (Culley). Though the end of Baddeley's life would be marked by economic precarity, battles with addiction, and illness, Steele's memoir reminds readers of that at their height, the women could mutually enjoy life with their cats, their canaries, and "the placid satisfaction that no place but home with quiet affords."

A significant text highlighting the interconnectedness of theatrical and sexual performance, women's economic and sexual precarity, social double standards, and the supportive spaces that women, sex workers, and queer peoples could build outside of traditional boundaries.

ESTC T114315. English Theatrical Literature 2397.
(Item #4764)

Price: $3,750