Kitty Fisher: courtesan, style icon and celebrity
Welcome to my new blog! I’m so happy that you’ve stopped by. If you enjoy my ramblings, please do consider signing up for updates. Today I’d like to tell you a little more about my upcoming biography of Kitty Fisher.
Kitty Fisher was a ‘celebrated’ courtesan, a style icon and the eighteenth century's version of today’s ‘it-girl.’ She was catapulted into the blaze of celebrity when she fell off her horse on The Mall, spawning a slurry of satirical poems, pamphlets and prints. Today, Kim Kardashian might have broken the internet but Kitty did the Georgian era’s equivalent. Joshua Reynolds painted her portrait time and time again, and engravings of the earlier ones flew out of the print shops. The general public clamoured to own something connected to the famous Kitty Fisher. Men wanted her and women wanted to look like her. The Kitty Fisher Bonnet was the must-have fashion accessory in 1759 and 1760. Behind the drama though, Kitty was a much-loved daughter, friend and wife.
Kitty Fisher by Nathaniel Hone (oil on canvas, 1765) NPG 2354 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Of course, Kitty Fisher is probably best known today because of the inclusion of her name in a children’s nursery rhyme:
Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it,
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it.
Myths, legends and tall-tales have sprung up about Kitty, all repeated ad infinitum. Was she kept collectively by the men belonging to a London gambling club? Did she eat a banknote, buttered onto a slice of bread? Or, are these apocryphal stories? Could the truth be even more fascinating?
So many questions and I'm going to tease you by not revealing the answers just yet. However, having spent the last few years researching Kitty’s life, and writing her biography, it’s been a rewarding experience to discover the real Kitty, the woman behind the myth. My biography of Kitty Fisher is due for publication in 2022, and I’m looking forward to sharing updates and snippets of information with you over the next few months as well as blog posts about other fascinating characters.
Cover image: The Merry Accident, or, a print in the morning a chair, a chair, for the lady, engraved at Strawberry Hill, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division