Josephine made her debut on September 21, 1831, as Belvidera in Otway’s Venice Preserved in Bowery Theatre. This was followed by appearances in the same role at the Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and as Lady Macbeth at the Walnut Street Theatre in the same city. In 1834, after a successful tour of the United States, she set out for London. She appeared as Belvidera at Drury Lane, thus breaking the ground for Charlotte Cushman a decade later, and then for Mrs. Mowatt.
In 1837, Nathaniel P. Willis wrote a tragedy for her, Bianca Visconti, which she produced at the Park Theatre, New York City. H. P. Phelps (post) records her season in Albany in 1837, and lists her parts as Bianca, Mrs. Haller, Clari, Juliet, Lady Free- love, and Jane Shore. He also records that “she seemed likely at one time to rival Charlotte Cushman, ” but that as she grew older, “she became so lymphatic as almost to preclude study. ” Possibly her physical condition in later years was brought on by the revival of a long-dead scandal concerning her mother which was dug up by a scurrilous sheet called the Polyanthus, —the revelations so preying on the mind of Miss Clifton’s younger sister, Louisa Missouri, as to cause her death at the age of seventeen in 1838. From this time the scattered records of Miss Clifton’s appearances grow fewer and fewer.
She died suddenly in 1847. Her body was taken to Philadelphia and laid in the same grave with that of her sister. There was no reference to her in either the New York or Philadelphia papers at the time of her death. The New Orleans Picayune had a short editorial notice, in which it remarked on the fact that she had not acted “in late years, ” but added that no player had enjoyed a career “less checquered by the vacillation of public taste, ” and that she was popularly styled “The magnificent Josephine. ”
In July 1846, Clifton married Robert Place, manager of the American Theatre in New Orleans.