Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.
1 July 1792 – 29 December 1878
Harriet Grote was born Harriet Lewin at The Ridgeway, near Southampton. Her father, Thomas Lewin, after spending some years in the Madras civil service, came back in the same ship with the divorced Madame Grand (from Pondicherry) who afterwards married Talleyrand, and remained with her for a time at Paris in the years preceding the French Revolution. Settling then in England, and marrying a Miss Hale (daughter of General Hale and a Miss Chaloner, descended from Thomas Chaloner the regicide), who brought him a large family, he lived in style, keeping a house in town as well as in the country.
Harriet Lewin grew up a high-spirited, brilliant girl, and at the age of twenty-two, her father then residing at The Hollies, near Bexley in Kent, attracted the devotion of George Grote, her junior by two years, who lived with his parents not far off. They were married in 1820. She began to cultivate foreigners, especially French public men. During Grote’s parliamentary period she supported to him by holding together the party of radical reformers socially; and later supported his scholarly work.
Their circumstances became easier in 1830; from 1832 till 1837 they lived mainly at Dulwich Wood, then, for greater convenience of parliamentary attendance, at 3 Eccleston Street, which they did not give up till 1848 for the well-known 12 Savile Row, associated with the literary fame and administrative activity of all Grote’s later years. From 1838 they also established a country house at East Burnham (near Burnham Beeches) in Buckinghamshire, and this they maintained till 1850. It was replaced by a small place, which they built in the neighbourhood and occupied, under the name of ‘History Hut,’ from the beginning of 1853 till the end of 1857. Then, for reasons detailed by Mrs. Grote in an Account of the Hamlet of East Burnham (privately circulated at the time), they decided to leave the area.
They took from 1859 the spacious Barrow Green House in Surrey, which once had been occupied by Jeremy Bentham; but it was inconvenient for visits to London, and was given up in 1863. In 1864 they settled finally at Shiere, Surrey, in ‘The Ridgeway’ as it was called by Mrs. Grote, after the place of her birth. Herself an accomplished musician, she cultivated friendly relations with Mendelssohn and other composers and performers, including Jenny Lind.
Though her health suffered from a fever following on premature delivery in 1821 of an only child (a boy), who lived just a week, she had an excellent constitution. Her nephew was the actor William Terriss, the father of Ellaline Terriss. She remained active to the last. She died at Shiere on 29 December 1878, in her eighty-seventh year, and was buried there.
Her first acknowledged work was a Memoir of the Life of Ary Scheffer, the painter, a graphic sketch that reached a second edition in 1860, the year of its publication. Two years later she issued a volume of Collected Papers (some unpublished). A keeper of diaries and notebooks, as well as a sprightly letter-writer, she began to write a biographical account of her husband while he was still alive. The work was rapidly pushed forward on his death in 1871, though she had already reached her eightieth year, and was published in 1873 as The Personal Life of George Grote.
She had previously (in 1866) printed for private circulation a sketch entitled The Philosophical Radicals of 1832, including a Life of Sir William Molesworth. She also wrote a pamphlet (1878), A brief Retrospect of the Political Events of 1831-1832, as illustrated by the Greville and Althorp Memoirs.