Posts Tagged ‘Charles Lamb’

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Mulready
1 April 1786 – 7 July 1863


William Mulready

William Mulready was born in Ennis, County Clare. Early in his life, in 1792, the family moved to London, where he was able to get an education and was taught painting well enough so that he was accepted at the Royal Academy School at the age of fourteen.


Choosing the Wedding Gown

In 1802, he married Elizabeth Varley, a landscape painter. Their three children, Paul Augustus, William, and Michael also became artists. His relationship with his wife however deteriorated gradually over the years, which is detailed in papers stored at the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum. His strong Catholic beliefs prevented any chance of a divorce but they separated. He accused her of “bad conduct” but shied from providing details. In a letter to him in 1827 she blamed him entirely for the collapse of their marriage, suggesting cruelty, pederastic activities and adultery were the reasons.

Many of his early pictures show landscapes, before he started to build a reputation as a genre painter from 1808 on, painting mostly everyday scenes from rural life. Besides this, he also illustrated books, including the first edition of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare in 1807. His paintings were very popular in Victorian times. His first painting of importance, Returning from the Ale House, now in the Tate Gallery, London, under the title Fair Time, appeared in 1809.


The Sonnet

In 1815 he became an Associate of the Royal Academy (A.R.A.) and R.A. in 1816. In the same year, he also was awarded the French “Légion d’honneur”. Mulready’s most important pictures are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the Tate Gallery. In the former are 33, among them Hampstead Heath (1806); Giving a Bite (1836); First Love (1839); The Sonnet (1839); Choosing the Wedding Gown (1846); and The Butt (Shooting a Cherry) (1848). In the latter are five, including a Snow Scene. In the National Gallery, Dublin, are Young Brother and The Toy Seller. His Wolf and the Lamb is in Royal possession.

In 1840, Mulready designed the illustrations for the postal stationery, known as Mulready stationery were introduced by the royal Mail at the same time as the Penny Black in May 1840, They were issued in two forms; one variant was precut to a diamond or lozenge shape and folded to form an envelope that could be held together by seal at the apex of the topmost flap; and lettersheets that were cut in rectangles, folded over and sealed or tucked in.


Ira Aldridge

Stationery manufacturers, whose livelihood was threatened by the new lettersheet, produced many caricatures (or lampoons) of Mulready’s design. Within two months a decision had been made to replace the Mulready designed stationery. Essentially Mulready’s designs were a folly.

He died at the age of 77 in Bayswater, London and is buried in the nearby Kensal Green Cemetery where a monument to his memory was erected.

Read Full Post »

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Gifford
April 1756 – 31 December 1826


William Gifford

Gifford was born in Ashburton, Devonshire to Edward Gifford and Elizabeth Cain. His father, a glazier and house painter, had run away as a youth with vagabond Bampfylde Moore Carew, and he remained a carouser throughout his life. He died when William was thirteen; his mother died less than a year later. He was left in the care of a godfather who treated him with little consistency. Gifford was sent in turn to work as a plough boy, a ship’s boy, student, and cobbler’s apprentice. Of these, Gifford cared only for the life of a student, and he continued to write verses as he learned the cobbler’s trade. Gifford’s fortunes changed when his first poetical efforts came to the attention of an Ashburton surgeon, William Cookesley. Cookesley raised a subscription to have the boy’s apprenticeship bought out and he returned to school.

By 1779 he had entered Exeter College, Oxford as a bible clerk (that is, a servitor), matriculating on 16 February 1779 and graduating B.A. 10 October 1782. Already while at Oxford, he had begun work on his translation of Juvenal. After graduation, he earned the patronage of Lord Grosvenor. He spent most of the ensuing decade as tutor to Grosvenor’s son. In course of time he produced his first poem, The Baviad (1791), a satire directed against the Della Cruscans, a group of sentimental and to Gifford’s conservative mentality dangerously radical poets. The Baviad is a ‘paraphrastic’ (that is, according to the OED, a work having ‘the nature of a paraphrase’) ‘imitation’ of the first satire of the Roman poet Persius (34–62 A.D.). Persius’s satire deals with the degenerate state of contemporary literature. Both literature and literary taste have become corrupt, and for him as for Gifford, poetic corruption mirrors political corruption: the decline in modern poetry reflects the decline of modern morals.

The Baviad was followed by another satire, The Maeviad (1795), against some minor dramatists. His last effort in this line was his Epistle to Peter Pindar (Dr. John Wolcot) (1800), inspired by personal enmity, which evoked a reply, A Cut at a Cobbler and a public letter in which Wolcot threatened to horse-whip Gifford. Gifford and Wolcot met in Wright’s bookshop in Piccadilly on 18 August 1800. According to most contemporary accounts, Wolcot attempted to cudgel Gifford; however, the diminutive but younger satirist wrested his stick from him and proceeded to lay about Wolcot, forcing him to flee down Piccadilly.

The earlier satirical writings had established Gifford as a keen, even ferocious critic, and he was appointed in 1797 editor of the Anti-Jacobin, which Canning and his friends had just started, and later of the Quarterly Review (1809–24). As editor of the Anti-Jacobin, Gifford published the pro-Tory satires and parodies of George Canning, John Hookham Frere, and George Ellis. Gifford edited The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin in 1799.

By the turn of the century, Gifford’s efforts as a poet were all but over, and he spent the rest of his career as an editor, scholar, and occasional critic. From 1809 to 1824, he edited the Quarterly Review; in this capacity, he became an icon of Tory journalism. Though he contributed rarely, his style marked the periodical in all respects. Gifford was popularly supposed to have penned the attack on Keats’s ‘Endymion’ (the review was actually by John Wilson Croker), which Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron erroneously blamed for bringing about the death of the poet, ‘snuffed out’, in Byron’s phrase, ‘by an article’. Contributors to the review included Charles Lamb, Walter Scott, and Robert Southey; the last had been among the poets satirised in the previous decade by the Anti-Jacobin.

His work as translator and editor was only slightly less contentious than his work as editor. The translation of Juvenal, published in 1800 earned high praise. Even William Hazlitt, elsewhere a frank enemy, praised the preface, in which Gifford describes his difficult childhood. This edition remained in print for the next century. Near the end of his life, he produced a translation of Persius. As an editor, Gifford shared the age’s interest in Renaissance drama. He brought out editions of Massinger, Ben Jonson, and Ford.

Gifford gave up the editorship of the Quarterly in 1824, only two years before his own death; he was succeeded in that position by John Taylor Coleridge. John Gibson Lockhart took over in 1826.

Gifford never married, although he had a close, probably Platonic, relationship with Ann Davies, a servant; she died in 1815. His salary with the review amounted to nine hundred pounds a year by 1818, and his friendship with various wealthy Tories further insulated him from want. Indeed, when he died his will was proved at 25,000 pounds, the majority of which he bequeathed to the son of Cookesley, his first benefactor.

As a poet, Gifford is commonly judged to have reached his peak with the Baviad. In this work, which led to the more or less complete eclipse of the Della Cruscans, his lifelong tendency to unmoderated invective was restrained (though not completely) to produce a work that effectively satirised the Della Cruscan’s sentimentality and tendency to absurd mutual compliment. In later work, his interest in vituperation is judged to have overwhelmed any element of wit. Still, Byron named him the best of the age’s satirists. His satires are in heroic couplets after the manner of Alexander Pope; assorted other verse, little of it memorable, adopts the highly mannered style of the late eighteenth century.

As a critic he had acuteness; but he was one-sided, prejudiced, and savagely bitter, and much more influenced in his judgments by the political opinions than by the literary merits of his victims. These were faults he shared with his querulous and factional time; however, Gifford was among the most virulent practitioners of the art of partisan review. As an editor, he played an important role in the revival of Jonson’s reputation after a period of neglect.

His satirical poems are included in volume 4 of British Satire 1785–1840, 5 vols (2003), ed. John Strachan. The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin was edited by Graeme Stones in 1999 (Pickering and Chatto). Everyman publishes Gifford’s Juvenal.

Kathryn Sutherland, professor of the Faculty of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, has studied the manuscript of a discarded chapter of Jane Austen‘s Persuasion and has conjectured that much of Austen’s polished style is probably the result of editorial tidying by Gifford, who worked for the publisher John Murray. There is no direct evidence that Gifford edited the work, however.

Read Full Post »

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Kenney
1780 – 25 July 1849


James Kenney

Kenney was an English dramatist, the son of James Kenney, one of the founders of Boodles’ Club in London.

His first play, a farce called Raising the Wind (1803), was a success owing to the character of “Jeremy Diddler”.

Kenney produced more than forty dramas and operas between 1803 and 1845, and many of his pieces, in which Sarah Siddons, Madame Vestris, Maria Foote, Monk Lewis, John Liston and other players appeared .

His most popular play was Sweethearts and Wives, produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1823; and among the most successful of his other works were: False Alarms (1807), a comic opera with music by Braham; Love, Law and Physic (1812); Spring and Autumn (1827); The Illustrious Stranger, or Married and Buried (1827); Masaniello (1829); The Sicilian Vespers, a tragedy (1840).

Kenney, who numbered Charles Lamb and Samuel Rogers among his friends, died in London in 1849. He married the widow of the dramatist Thomas Holcroft, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

Read Full Post »

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Charles Lamb
February 10 1775 – December 27 1834


Charles Lamb

Lamb was born in London, the son of Elizabeth Field and John Lamb. Lamb was the youngest child. John Lamb was a lawyer’s clerk, to Samuel Salt who lived in the Inner Temple. It was there in Crown Office Row that Charles Lamb was born and spent his youth.

Lamb created a portrait of his father in his “Elia on the Old Benchers” under the name Lovel.

It appears that Charles’ Aunt Hetty often cared for him and this caused tension with his mother. Some of Lamb’s fondest childhood memories were of time spent with Mrs. Field, his maternal grandmother, who was for many years a servant to the Plummer family. After the death of Mrs. Plummer, Lamb’s grandmother was in sole charge of the large home and, as Mr. Plummer was often absent, Charles had free rein of the place during his visits.

Little is known about Charles’s life before the age of seven. It is believed that he suffered from smallpox during his early years. After his recovery Lamb began to take lessons from Mrs. Reynolds, a woman who lived in the Temple and is believed to have been the former wife of a lawyer. In 1781 Charles left Mrs. Reynolds and began to study at the Academy of William Bird.

By 1782 Lamb was enrolled in Christ’s Hospital, a charity boarding school chartered by King Edward VI in 1552. The headmaster, Mr. Boyer, has become famous for his teaching in Latin and Greek, but also for his brutality. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was also a student and one with whom Charles developed a friendship that would last for their entire lives. Lamb did well at Christ’s Hospital.


Portrait of Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb suffered from a stutter thus disqualifying him for a clerical career. Coleridge and other scholarly boys were able to go on to Cambridge, Lamb left school at fourteen and was forced to find a more prosaic career.

For a short time he worked in the office of Joseph Paice, a London merchant and then he held a small post in the Examiner’s Office of the South Sea House. It fell when the bubble burst and Lamb left. Later in 1792 he went to work in the Accountant’s Office for British East India Company. Charles would continue to work there for 25 years, until his retirement with pension.

In 1792 while tending to his grandmother, Mary Field, in Hertfordshire, Charles Lamb fell in love with a young woman named Ann Simmons. Lamb seems to have spent years wooing Miss Simmons. The record of the love exists in several accounts of Lamb’s writing. Miss Simmons eventually went on to marry a silversmith by the name of Bartram and Lamb called the failure of the affair his ‘great disappointment.’

Charles and his sister Mary both suffered periods of mental illness. Charles spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital during 1795. He was making his name as a poet at the time.

In 1796, a terrible event occurred: Mary was seized and stabbed her mother to the heart with a table knife. There was no legal status of ‘insanity’ at the time, a jury returned a verdict of ‘Lunacy’ and therefore freed her from guilt of willful murder. With the help of friends Lamb succeeded in obtaining his sister’s release from what would otherwise have been lifelong imprisonment, on the condition that he take personal responsibility for her safekeeping. Lamb used a large part of his relatively meagre income to keep his beloved sister in a private ‘madhouse’ in Islington called Fisher House.

In 1799 John Lamb, the father, died. Charles was relieved because his father had been incapacitated since suffering a stroke. It also meant that Mary could come to live with him in Pentonville. In 1800 they set up a shared home at Mitre Court Buildings in the Temple.

Despite bouts of melancholia and alcoholism, he enjoyed an active and rich social life. The London quarters became a weekly salon for many of the most outstanding theatrical and literary figures of the day.

Fortuitously, Lamb’s first publication was in 1796, when four sonnets by “Mr. Charles Lamb of the India House” appeared in Coleridge’s Poems on Various Subjects. In 1797 he contributed additional blank verse to the second edition, and met the Wordsworths, William and Dorothy, on his short summer holiday with Coleridge at Nether Stowey, thereby striking up a friendship with William. In London, Lamb became familiar with a group of young writers who favoured political reform, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt.

Lamb continued to clerk for the East India Company and doubled as a writer in various genres, his tragedy, John Woodvil (1802). His farce, Mr H, was performed at Drury Lane in 1807. In the same year, Tales from Shakespeare was published, and became a best seller.

His collected essays, Essays of Elia(1823) A further collection was published ten years or so later, shortly before Lamb’s death.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts