Mrs Cornelys and Carlisle House

Aileen Ribeiro describes the masquerades and concerts that took place in eighteenth century Soho, as devised by the socialite, opera singer, and adventuress from Vienna. 

In the eighteenth century Soho Square was a centre of fashion and the home of many aristocratic town houses. Among them was Carlisle House, a town house belonging to the Howard family (created Earls of Carlisle in 1661); the first certain occupant was Edward Howard, second Earl of Carlisle, who built the house between 1686 and 1690, and it was lived in by the Howards until 1753. Some years later, and at least by 1760, the house was let to Mrs Theresa Cornelys who began to organize a series of splendid entertainments in the form of masquerades and concerts, which made Carlisle House the most fashionable resort of the decade.

Theresa Cornelys is often described as an ‘adventuress’, an epithet particularly suited to her varied career and achievements. She was born in 1723 in Vienna, the daughter of an actor named Imer; when Casanova met her in Venice in 1740, she was ‘...then in her seventeenth year, pretty, whimsical and a regular coquette. She was practising music with a view to entering the theatrical profession...’

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