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Elizabeth Craven and the Marquis d'Argens

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What possible connection could there be between Elizabeth Craven, the Georgian feminist writer, and the Marquis d'Argens, the French writer and philosopher? Craven was born in 1750, and d'Argens died in 1771, and as far as is known they never met. Both were writers, both went to Constantinople and both were considered to have misbehaved extensively in the course of their lives. Both loved the theatre, and and both spent part of their lives in a German court, running the theatrical entertainments.


King Frederick II of Prussia and the Marquis d'Argens  by Johan Christoph Frisch
D'Argens worked for many years for King Frederick the Great of Prussia, holding the post of Chamberlain which made him responsible for court entertainments such as theatre and opera. He was expected to organize troupes of professional actors, singers and dancers to put on productions in King Frederick's rather grand opera houses and palaces of Sans-Souci and Charlottenburg.


Sans-Souci Palace, Pot…

An Arcadian Pastoral: A Musical Entertainment by Elizabeth Craven and William Beckford

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In 1782 Elizabeth Craven and the brilliant but wayward young writer William Beckford collaborated on a musical entertainment called An Arcadian Pastoral. It was performed in London by a choir of children, with professional musicians taking the solos and providing orchestral accompaniment.

No 1 Ouverture
Title-page

The score was preserved among Beckford's papers, and catalogued by the Bodleian Library under his name, without reference to Elizabeth Craven. In a letter of 1782, Beckford wrote that she had written the words and he had composed the music. When we look closely at the score, it actually says that Elizabeth Craven wrote the music too, for the second of its five Acts. This is not the only example of her writing music, though little of it survives.

The items of the Pastoral are numbered, but number 8 is missing. However, it may not be lost entirely. In a letter she enclosed a words of a song about Cupid and Hymen for which she wrote both the words and music, and which had o…

Pleasant Pastime for A Christmas Evening. A Christmas Entertainment by Elizabeth Craven.

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A Pleasant Pastime for A Christmas Evening, or, the Predictions of Cosmopolitus Occultarius Philanthropos Foresight, is the title of a rare book in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, in Paris. It is a small volume bound in leather beautifully tooled with gold leaf and it is unique in the world. No other copy has survived of this book, written by Elizabeth Craven in 1795 as a Christmas gift for her favourite son, Keppel. 
We could have guessed the authorship from the fact that it says it is "Dedicated, without permission, to the Hon. Richard Keppel Craven" - very typical of Elizabeth Craven's whimsical sense of humour. In case we were in any doubt, somebody, possibly Keppel himself, has inscribed on it in best copperplate script "By HSH the Margravine of Anspach".




The book is a parody of the sort of superstitious, astrological fortune-telling books that were then sold widely, particularly at Christmas when people were curious to hear predictions for the coming…