Sir Walter Besant, in The Fascination of London, published in 1903, continues his survey of Soho Square with this look at Carlisle House, the location of Madame Cornelys’ entertainments in the eighteenth century (demolished in 1791):
One of the former famous houses in Soho square was Carlisle House.
The walls were of red brick, and the date on the cisterns 1669, the date of the creation of the earldom of Carlisle.
In its later days the house became notorious from its connection with Mrs. Cornelys, the daughter of an actor, who was born at Venice in 1723, and who, after a tarnished career in various Continental towns as a public singer, came to the King’s Theatre, London, to take part in one of Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck’s operas.
She took possession of Carlisle House, and projected a series of society entertainments, which proved a marvellous success.
Soho square was blocked with the coaches and chairs of her patrons.
In Taylor’s “Records of my Life” it is stated she had as many as 600 persons in her saloon at one time, at two guineas per head.
Foreign Ministers, many of the nobility, scions of royalty, flocked to her rooms.
She spent profusely and lavishly. The decorations were superb, the entertainments magnificent, in the ceremonious and rather affected style of the period.
In 1770 she was at the climax of prosperity.
“Galas, masquerades, and festivals, all equally splendid, succeeded one another throughout the season” (Clinch); but after her sky-rocket ascent came the fall: fickle Fashion deserted her, and finally the house and its contents were announced in the Gazette for sale.
The Pantheon had proved too formidable a rival.
In 1785 the property was in Chancery, and Mrs. Cornelys died in the Fleet Prison in 1797.