Posts Tagged ‘Hannah More’

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.

Elizabeth Carter
16 December 1717 – 19 February 1806


Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter was born in Deal, Kent, Elizabeth Carter was the oldest child of Rev. Nicolas Carter, perpetual curate of Deal, and his first wife Margaret (died c. 1728), only daughter and heir of Richard Swayne of Bere Regis, Dorset, who died when Elizabeth was ten. Her redbrick family home can still be seen at the junction of South Street and Middle Street, close to the seafront. Encouraged by her father to study, she mastered several modern and ancient languages (including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic) and science.

Carter rendered into English De Crousaz’s Examen de l’essai de Monsieur Pope sur l’homme (Examination of Mr Pope’s “An Essay on Man”, two volumes, 1739); Algarotti’s Newtonianismo per le dame (Newtonianism for women); and wrote a small volume of poems. Carter’s position in the pantheon of 18th-century women writers was, however, secured by her translation in 1758 of All the Works of Epictetus, Which are Now Extant, the first English translation of all known works by the Greek stoic philosopher. This work made her name and fortune, securing her a spectacular £1000 in subscription money.

Carter was a friend of Samuel Johnson, editing some editions of his periodical The Rambler. He wrote, “My old friend, Mrs. Carter could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem.”

Carter was friends with many other eminent people, as well as being a close confidant of Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More, Hester Chapone, and other members of the Bluestocking circle. Anne Hunter, a minor poet and socialite, and Mary Delany are also noted as close friends. The novelist Samuel Richardson included Carter’s poem “Ode to Wisdom” in the text of his novel Clarissa (1747–48) without ascribing it to her. It was later published in a corrected form the Gentleman’s Magazine and Carter received an apology from Richardson.

Carter appeared in the engraved (1777) and painted (1778) versions of Richard Samuel’s The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain (1779) but the figures in the painting were so idealised that she complained she could not identify herself or anyone else in the work. Samuel had not done any sittings from life when preparing the work.

Fanny Burney is quoted in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson as saying in 1780 she thought Carter “a really noble-looking woman; I never saw age so graceful in the female sex yet; her whole face seems to beam with goodness, piety, and philanthropy.” However, Betsey Sheridan, sister of the playwright, described her five years later in her diary as “rather fat and not very striking in appearance”.

Carter kept an interest in religious matters. She was influenced by Hester Chapone, and she wrote apologetic treatises of the Christian faith, asserting the authority of the Bible over human matters. One of these works, known as Objections against the New Testament with Mrs. Carter’s Answers to them and was published in the compilation of writings Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter by Montagu Pennington, which also included her Notes on the Bible and the Answers to Objections concerning the Christian Religion. Her deep belief in God is also reflected in her poems “In Diem Natalem” and “Thoughts at Midnight” (also known as “A Night Piece”).

  • Elizabeth Gaskell, the 19th-century novelist, refers to Carter as an epistolatory model, bracketing her in Cranford with Hester Chapone, a self-taught Bluestocking.
  • Virginia Woolf saw her as a feminist precursor – urging “homage to the robust shade of Eliza Carter – the valiant old woman who tied a bell to her bedstead in order that she might wake early and learn Greek.”

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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 Sherman
21 February 1796 – 15 February 1862


James Sherman

James Sherman was the son of an officer in the East India Company, he was born in Banner Street, St. Luke’s, London, on 21 February 1796. After some education from dissenting ministers, he spent three years and a half as apprentice to an ivory-turner.

Sherman entered, on 6 November 1815, the Countess of Huntingdon’s Cheshunt College. He preached his first sermon in London in Hare Court chapel, Aldersgate Street, in 1817, and on 26 Nov. 1818 he was ordained to the ministry in Sion Chapel, Whitechapel. After preaching for some time in the Countess of Huntingdon’s chapel at Bath, Somerset, he was appointed permanent minister of her chapel at Bristol, where he made the acquaintance of Hannah More and of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. In April 1821 he moved to Castle Street chapel, Reading, Berkshire.

James Sherman was a prominent supporter of missionary work, principally the work of the non-denominational London Missionary Society. The missionary Rev. Samuel Oughton was sent to Jamaica from Sherman’s Surrey Chapel in 1836; an arrangement on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Society, a body that worked closely with the LMS, and practiced congregational principles of church governance.

Shortly before 1840, James Sherman became a founding trustee and director of the Congregationalist’s new non-denominational enterprise – Abney Park Cemetery.

All parts of the grounds were to be open for burial to everyone, regardless of denomination, without invidious dividing lines. It became the first garden cemetery in Europe to be wholly non-denominational in this respect whilst also having just one chapel, to be shared by everyone.

James Sherman’s earliest works were devotional, but in the 1840s he developed his writing skills as a biographer. In 1848 James Sherman wrote The Pastor’s Wife, a biography of Mrs Sherman in memory of her death. Recently he had also completed a biography of the Quaker philanthropist William Allen.

Of political significance in the 1850s was a semi-fictional book written on one side of the Atlantic, to which James Sherman contributed an introduction written on the other. This was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by the American Congregationalist Harriet Beecher Stowe, with Sherman’s introduction from London. The number of copies of the work sold was unprecedented in American literature. It was written in serial form for The National Era, an abolitionist newspaper, in 1851. When it appeared as a two volume work by March 1852, with Sherman’s introduction, it quickly became a historic work. For the book’s promotional tour in London in the early summer of 1852, Stowe, her husband, and her brother Charles Beecher, stayed at Sherman’s house. At the same time he invited the African-American escaped slave and Congregational minister Samuel Ringgold Ward, and assisted his stay in Britain for nearly a year, helping him raise funds for the Canadian Anti-slavery Society at a time when many escaped slaves from the USA were trying to reach freedom in British Canada.

Sherman became minister at Blackheath Congregational Church 1854-62 and was succeeded at Surrey Chapel by Christopher Newman Hall. Hall continued Sherman’s abolitionist cause by visiting America during the Civil War, and publishing books and making speeches to enlist British support on the side of the north: England should side with the North, he wrote, particularly because emancipation of the slaves is just.

James Sherman died at his home in The Paragon, Blackheath, and was buried in a plain stone chest tomb at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London – the Congregationalist’s novel non-denominational garden cemetery of which he was a founder director and trustee. His memorial stone is visible amongst the undergrowth from the westmost path. A modern marker stone has been placed in front of the original in order to distinguish the grave as seen from the path.

  • Sherman, James (1851) Memoir of William Allen, London: Charles Gilpin
  • Beecher-Stowe, Harriet (1852) Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or life among the lowly…with introductory remarks by J. Sherman, London:H.G.Bohn
  • Beecher-Stowe, Harriet (1875 edn.) Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or life among the lowly…with introductory remarks by J. Sherman, London:George Bell & Sons
  • Dearing, John (1993), The Church that would not die, Baron Birch
  • Sherman, James (1829 edn.) A Guide to Acquaintance with God, Boston: James Loring
  • Sherman, James (1850 edn.) The Pastor’s Wife: a memoir of Mrs Martha Sherman, New York: American Tract Society

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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.

Richard Polwhele
6 January 1760 – 12 March 1838


Richard Polwhele

Richard Polwhele’s ancestors long held the manor of Treworgan, 4 3/4 miles south-east of Truro in Cornwall, which family bore as arms: Sable, a saltire engrailed ermine. He was born at Truro, Cornwall, and met literary luminaries Catharine Macaulay and Hannah More at an early age. He was educated at Truro Grammar School, where he precociously published The Fate of Llewellyn. He went on to Christ Church, Oxford, continuing to write poetry, but left without taking a degree. In 1782 he was ordained a curate, married Loveday Warren, and moved to a curacy at Kenton, Devon. On his wife’s death in 1793, Polwhele was left with three children. Later that year he married Mary Tyrrell, briefly taking up a curacy at Exmouth before being appointed to the small living of Manaccan in Cornwall in 1794. From 1806, when he took up a curacy at Kenwyn, Truro, he was non-resident at Manaccan: Polwhele angered Manaccan parishioners with his efforts to restore the church and vicarage. He maintained epistolary exchanges with Samuel Badcock, Macaulay, William Cowper, Erasmus Darwin, and Anna Seward.

When in Devon, Polwhele had edited the two-volume work Poems Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792) for an Exeter literary society. However, Essays by a Society of Gentlemen at Exeter (1796) caused a rift between Polwhele and other society members. Polwhele had by this time begun the first of his two major county histories, the History of Devonshire. This appeared in 3 volumes, 1793-1806, but his coverage was uneven and subscribers deserted. His seven-volume History of Cornwall appeared 1803-1808, with a new edition in 1816.

Polwhele’s volumes of poetry included The Art of Eloquence, a didactic poem (1785), The Idylls, Epigrams, and Fragments of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, with the elegies of Tyrtaeus (1786), The English Orator (1796), Influence of Local Attachment (1796), and Poetic Trifles (1796). However, The Unsex’d Females, a Poem (1798), a defensive reaction to women’s literary self-assertion, is today perhaps Polwhele’s most notorious poetic production: in the poem Hannah More is Christ to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Satan.

Polwhele contributed to the Gentleman’s Magazine and (1799-1805) to the Anti-Jacobin Review. He published sermons, theological essays for the Church Union Society, and attacks on Methodism (although he befriended his main Methodist antagonist Samuel Drew). At the end of his life, retired to his estate in Polwhele, he worked to produce Traditions and Recollections (2 vols, 1826) and Biographical Sketches (3 vols, 1831).

He died at Truro on 12 March 1838. He was buried at St Clement, Cornwall.

  • Six odes presented to That justly-celebrated Historian, Mrs Catharine Macaulay, on her Birth-day, And publicly read to a polite and brilliant Audience, Assembled April the Second, at Alfred-House, Bath, To congratulate that Lady on the happy Occasion. Bath: Printed and sold by R. Cruttwell … sold also by E. and C. Dilly [etc.]. (1777)
  • The Fate of Lewellyn; or, the Druid’s Sacrifice. A Legendary Tale. In Two Parts. To which is added Carnbre’, a Poem. Bath: Printed by R. Cruttwell, for the Author; and sold by E. and C. Dilly … and W. Goldsmith [etc.]. (1777)
  • The spirit of Frazer, to General Burgoyne. An ode. To which is added, The death of Hilda; an American tale. Inscribed to Mrs. Macaulay. Bath: Printed and Sold by R. Cruttwell; sold also by W. Goldsmith [etc.]. (1778)
  • The Art of Eloquence, a didactic poem (1785)
  • The Follies of Oxford: Or, Cursory Sketches on a University Education, from an under graduate To his Friend in the Country. London: Printed for Dodsley, Dilly and Kearsley. (1785)
  • The Idyllia, Epigrams, and Fragments, of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, with the Elegies of Tyrtæus, Translated from the Greek into English Verse. To which are Added, Dissertations and Notes. Exeter: Printed and Sold by R. Thorn [etc.]. (1786)
  • Poems. Namely, The English Orator; An Address to Thomas Pennant … An Ode on the Susceptibility of the Poetical Character; Twenty Sonnets; An Epistle to a College Friend; and The Lock Transformed. With notes on The English Orator. London: Printed for T. Cadell … and C. Dilly [etc.]. (1791)
  • Poems, Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792)
  • Historical Views of Devonshire (1793)
  • The History of Devonshire (1793-1806)
  • Influence of Local Attachment (1796)
  • Poetic Trifles (1796)
  • Essays by a Society of Gentlemen at Exeter (1796), edited by Polwhele
  • The Old English Gentleman (1797)
  • The Unsex’d Females (1798)
  • Grecian Prospects: A Poem, In Two Cantos. Helston: Printed by T. Flindell; For Cadell and Davis … and Chapple [etc.]. (1799)
  • A Sketch of Peter Pindar (1800)
  • Anecdotes of Methodism (1800)
  • Sir Aaron, or The Flights of Fanaticism (1800)
  • History of Cornwall (3 vols., 1803)
  • Polwhele, Richard (1810). Poems. London: Rivington’s. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  • The fair Isabel of Cotehele, a Cornish romance, in six cantos. London: Printed for J. Cawthorn. (1815)
  • Traditions and Recollections (2 vols, 1826)
  • Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (3 vols, 1831)
  • Reminiscences, in Prose and Verse; Consisting of the Epistolary Correspondence of Many Distinguished Characters. With Notes and Illustrations. London: J. B. Nichols and Son … Sold also by Messrs. Rivington. (3 vols., 1836)

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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.

Samuel Hoare Jr.
9 August 1751 – 14 July 1825


Samuel Hoare Jr.

Samuel Hoare Jr. was a wealthy British Quaker merchant and abolitionist born in Stoke Newington, the north of London. He was one of the twelve founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

His parents were Samuel Hoare (1716-1796), a London merchant from an Irish background, and Grizell Gurnell (1722? – 1802), of Ealing. It was a numerous family, although the eldest son, Joseph, died at 25. His only surviving brother Jonathan, merchant of Throgmorton Street, partner in Gurnell, Hoare & Co, built a mansion in what became Clissold Park, across Stoke Newington Church Street from the family home in Paradise Row. Jonathan ran into financial difficulties, which led Samuel Jr to attempt to assist him. One of their sisters married Thomas Bradshaw, a linen manufacturer in Ireland. Another, Mary, married the abolitionist Joseph Woods and bore the more famous botanist and architect son of the same name. The youngest sister Grizell (1757-1835) married Wilson Birkbeck in 1801, having stayed at home as nurse and companion to her father; as a wealthy 72 year old widow, she married William Allen, another notable Quaker abolitionist, with whom she founded Newington Academy for Girls in 1824. Their elderly marriage was greeted by a satirical cartoon entitled “Sweet William & Grizzell-or- Newington nunnery in an uproar!!!” by Robert Cruikshank.

Samuel Jr was sent away to school when he was five years old, returning home only once a year. The school was in Penketh, between Warrington and Widnes on the Irwell, and was run by Gilbert Thompson. In his mid teens he became apprenticed to Henry Gurney in Norwich, a woolen manufacturer. He had some connection with the Freshfield family there; James William Freshfield lived in Fleetwood House on Stoke Newington Church Street. He followed several branches of the Hoare family in pursuing a career in banking.

He married Sarah (1757–1783), the eldest daughter of Samuel Gurney (1723–1770) of the Gurney family (Norwich), and 90 friends and relatives witnessed their marriage. They lived first in Old Broad Street and could afford four servants without scrimping. Their children were Sarah (b. 1777), Hannah (b. 1779), and Grizell (known as Sophia or Sophy) (1781), and a son.

Hannah died ten days later, and was buried at Winchmore Hill. The widower moved his family back to Stoke Newington, in the same street as his father, so that his sisters, particularly Grizell, could help raise the children.

His main interest at this time was the abolition of the slave trade and the establishment of Sunday schools across the country. He was also involved in a plan to establish a free black colony in Sierra Leone. Many of his neighbours were abolitionists. From 1774 James Stephen spent his summers in Stoke Newington at the Summerhouse next to Fleetwood House.

In 1772 he became a junior partner in the Lombard Street bank of Bland and Barnett, which became Barnett, Hoare & Co. The bank traded under the sign of the black horse. Further mergers followed, to form Barnetts, Hoares, Hanbury & Lloyd and unlimately in 1884, Lloyds Banking Company took over Barnetts, Hoares, Hanbury & Lloyd in a bid to gain a foothold in London and acquired the black horse sign which continues in use as the Lloyd’s TSB logo. The leading partner in Barnetts, Hoares, Hanbury & Lloyd, Edward Broadie Hoare, joined the Lloyds board of directors and became Deputy Chairman.

In 1788 he married the nineteen-year-old daughter of Henry and Mary Sterry, of Bush Hill, Enfield and Hatton Garden. The family holidayed in Cromer, and kept up the connections with his first wife’s relatives. Later his illness drove him to take the family to Bath, where a medical man advised him that the New River, running so close to Stoke Newington Church Street and Clissold Park, might be harming his health. In 1790 they moved to higher ground: Heath House, a prominent mansion in Hampstead.

In 1794 they became friends with Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and through her met Joseph Priestley. They knew Amelia Alderson, later Mrs Opie, Mary Knowles, the intimate of Samuel Johnson, and William Savory, a Philadelphia minister. In Bath in a later year he conversed with Hannah More.

In 1802 his daughter Hannah married Thomas Marlborough Pryor. His son Samuel (1783–1847) learned banking in Lombard Street from 1803, and in 1806 he married Louisa Gurney (1784 – 1836) of Earlham Hall near Norwich. This connected the family to (Gurney’s Bank), and also to Louisa’s siblings Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer, Joseph John Gurney and Samuel Gurney, philanthropists, and Daniel Gurney, banker and antiquary. The marriage was strongly supported by Samuel Hoare Jr. According to his daughter Sarah, “I know of no event which gave my father more pleasure than the engagement of his son to the daughter of his old friend. With perfect confidence in her principles, and a persuasion that she would make my brother happy, he was pleased with her being, like my mother, a Norfolk woman, and interested himself much in procuring for them an house at Hampstead that they might be established near him.”

His descendants included Sir Samuel Hoare, M.P., and Viscount Templewood.

His banking firm later merged with those of Joseph John Gurney and Barclays to form part of Barclays Bank

The historian Peter Brock notes that Hoare wasn’t wholly convinced by Quaker pacifism and quotes him as saying that he “looked upon [war] in the present state of society as a necessary evil” and that it “is the duty of a man to defend his country”.

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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.

Elizabeth Montagu
2 October 1718 – 25 August 1800


Elizabeth Montagu

Elizabeth Robinson was born in Yorkshire to Matthew Robinson and Elizabeth his wife née Drake. She was the first of three daughters. Conyers Middleton, the prominent Cambridge don, was the second husband of her Drake grandmother Sarah, and she and her sister Sarah, the future novelist Sarah Scott, spent time as children on extended stays with Dr. Middleton, as both parents were somewhat aloof. The two girls learned Latin, French, and Italian and studied literature. As a child, Elizabeth and Sarah, in particular, were very close.

While young, Elizabeth became a friend of Lady Margaret Harley, the only surviving child of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer. Lady Margaret and Elizabeth corresponded weekly when apart and were inseparable when together. She spent time with Lady Margaret in London and met many of the celebrated figures of the 1730s, including the poet Edward Young and the religious thinker Gilbert West. In Lady Margaret’s household, men and women spoke as equals and engaged in witty, learned banter. Visits to Lady Margaret became more important to Elizabeth when her mother inherited a country seat in Kent and made that her home, with the daughters.

In 1738, Montagu wrote to Harley explaining that she had no desire for men or marriage. She saw marriage as a rational and expedient convention and did not suppose it possible to love a man. In 1742 she married Edward Montagu, grandson of the 2nd Earl of Sandwich, who owned numerous coal mines and had several rents and estates in Northumberland. She was twenty-two and he was fifty years old.
The marriage was advantageous, but it was apparently not very passionate. All the same, she bore a son, John, the next year, and she loved her child immensely. When he died unexpectedly in 1744, she was devastated. She and Edward remained friendly throughout their remaining time together, but there were no more children or pregnancies. Prior to the loss of her son, she had not been very religious, but his death brought her to consider religion more and more. Her sister, meanwhile, Sarah Scott, was growing extremely devout.

Elizabeth kept a female companion with her most of the time. This person was not exactly a servant, but she would act in that role. She would be expected to carry things and aid Elizabeth on her daily round. Barbara Schnorrenberg suggests that Sarah was in this function and says that there is good reason to suggest that she married poorly to escape that situation (Schnorrenberg 723). After Elizabeth’s mother died, her father moved to London with his housekeeper, giving no money at all to his children. When Sarah was removed from her bad marriage, Elizabeth’s father (whose ward she was) not only gave her no financial help but forbade either Elizabeth or Matthew, her brother, from relieving her distress.

Beginning in 1750, she and Edward established a routine where they would winter in London in Mayfair and then, in the spring, go to Sandleford in Berkshire. He would then go on to Northumberland and Yorkshire to manage his holdings, while she would occasionally accompany him to the family manor-house at East Denton Hall, a clean-lined mansion of 1622 on the West Road in Newcastle upon Tyne.

She was a shrewd businesswoman, despite affecting to patronise Northumbrian society for its practical conversation. Though acting as Lady Bountiful to her miners and their families, she was pleased at how cheap this could be. She was also glad to note that: ‘Our pitmen are afraid of being turned off and that fear keeps an order and regularity amongst them that is very uncommon.’ Elizabeth enjoyed hearing the miners singing in the pit, but found, alas, that their dialect was ‘dreadful to the auditors’ nerves.’


In London, Elizabeth began to be a celebrated hostess. She organized literary breakfasts with Gilbert West, George Lyttelton, and others. By 1760, these had turned to evening entertainments with large assemblies. Card playing and strong drink were forbidden from these convocations, which were now known as blue stocking events.

By 1770, her home on Hill Street had become the premiere salon in London. Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, and Horace Walpole were all in the circle. For writers, being introduced there meant patronage, and Montagu patronized a number of authors, including Elizabeth Carter, Hannah More, Frances Burney, Anna Barbauld, Sarah Fielding, Hester Chapone, James Beattie, and Anna Williams. Samuel Johnson’s hostess, Hester Thrale, was also an occasional visitor to Hill Street.

Among the blue stockings, Elizabeth Montagu was not the dominant personality, but she was the woman of greatest means, and it was her house, purse, and power that made the society possible. As a literary critic, she was a fan of Samuel Richardson, both Fieldings (Henry Fielding and Sarah Fielding), and Fanny Burney, and she was pleased to discover that Laurence Sterne was a distant relation. She was related to Laurence Sterne through the Botham family. Sterne entrusted her with the disposition of his papers upon his departure for France. He was in ill health and the prospect of his dying abroad was real. She was a supporter of Bishop Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.

She also held similar events at her residence in the centre house of the Royal Crescent in Bath.

In 1760, George Lyttleton encouraged her to write Dialogues of the Dead, and she contributed three sections to the work, anonymously (her authorship of these is testified to elsewhere). It is a series of conversations between the living and the illustrious dead and works as a satire of 18th century vanity and manners. In 1769, she published An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear. In it, she proclaims William Shakespeare the greatest English poet and, in fact, the greatest poet of any nation.

She also attacks Samuel Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare from 1765 for not having gone on to praise Shakespeare’s plays enough. While Johnson had dealt with text, history, and the circumstances of editing, Montagu wrote instead about the characters, plots, and beauties of the verse in Shakespeare and saw in him a championing of all things inherently English. When the book was initially published anonymously, it was thought to be by Joseph Warton, but by 1777 her name appeared on the title page. Johnson, for his part, was estranged from Montagu at this point.

In the late 1760s, Edward Montagu fell ill, and Elizabeth took care of him, although she resented giving up her freedom. He died in 1775. In 1776, she adopted her nephew, the orphan of her brother. Matthew Robinson, the child, kept his family name, but he was named Elizabeth’s heir. At that point, the coal and land holdings Montagu passed on to Elizabeth accounted for an income of £ 7,000 a year. She managed her wealth and estates well, and by her death her coal income was worth 10,000 pounds a year.

In 1777, she began work on Montagu House in Portman Square in London, moving in in 1781, on land leased for 99 years. She also expanded Sandleford’s Montagu House in the 1780s, and she got Capability Brown to design its gardens. She died in Montagu House in London on 25 August 1800 and left all of her money to Matthew Robinson, her nephew.

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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.

Thomas de Quincey
15 August 1785 – 8 December 1859


Thomas de Quincey

De Quincey was born at 86 Cross Street, Manchester, England. His father was a successful merchant with an interest in literature who died when he was quite young. Soon after his birth the family went to The Farm and then later to Greenheys, a larger country house in Chorlton-on-Medlock near Manchester. In 1796, three years after the death of his father, Thomas Quincey, his mother – the erstwhile Elizabeth Penson – took the name “De Quincey.” In the same year, De Quincey’s mother moved to Bath and enrolled him at King Edward’s School, Bath.

De Quincey was a weak and sickly child. His youth was spent in solitude, and when his elder brother, William, came home, he wreaked havoc in the quiet surroundings. De Quincey’s mother (who counted Hannah More amongst her friends) was a woman of strong character and intelligence, but seems to have inspired more awe than affection in her children. She brought them up very strictly, taking De Quincey out of school after three years because she was afraid he would become big-headed, and sending him to an inferior school at Wingfield in Wiltshire. It is purported that at this time, in 1799, De Quincey first read Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge.

In 1800, De Quincey, aged fifteen, was ready for the University of Oxford; his scholarship was far in advance of his years. “That boy,” his master at Bath had said, “could harangue an Athenian mob better than you or I could address an English one.” He was sent to Manchester Grammar School, in order that after three years’ stay he might obtain a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, but he took flight after nineteen months.

His first plan had been to reach William Wordsworth, whose Lyrical Ballads (1798) had consoled him in fits of depression and had awakened in him a deep reverence for the poet. But for that De Quincey was too timid, so he made his way to Chester, where his mother dwelt, in the hope of seeing a sister; he was caught by the older members of the family, but, through the efforts of his uncle, Colonel Penson, received the promise of a guinea a week to carry out his later project of a solitary tramp through Wales. From July to November 1802, De Quincey lived as a wayfarer. He soon lost his guinea by ceasing to keep his family informed of his whereabouts, and had difficulty making ends meet. Still apparently fearing pursuit, he borrowed some money and travelled to London, where he tried to borrow more. Having failed, he lived close to starvation rather than return to his family.

This deprived period left a profound mark upon De Quincey’s psychology, and upon the writing he would later do; it forms a major and crucial part of the first section of the Confessions, and re-appears in various forms throughout the vast body of his lifetime literary work.

Discovered by chance by his friends, De Quincey was brought home and finally allowed to go to Worcester College, Oxford, on a reduced income. Here, we are told, “he came to be looked upon as a strange being who associated with no one.” In 1804, while at Oxford, he began the occasional use of opium. He completed his studies, but failed to take the oral examination leading to a degree; he left the university without graduating. He became an acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, having already sought out Charles Lamb in London. His acquaintance with Wordsworth led to his settling in 1809 at Grasmere, in the Lake District. His home for ten years was Dove Cottage, which Wordsworth had occupied and which is now a popular tourist attraction. De Quincey was married in 1816, and soon after, having no money left, he took up literary work in earnest.

His wife Margaret bore him eight children before her death in 1837. Three of De Quincey’s daughters survived him. One of his sons, Paul Frederick de Quincey (1828–1894), emigrated to New Zealand.

In July 1818 De Quincey became editor of The Westmorland Gazette, a Tory newspaper published in Kendal, after its first editor had been dismissed. He was unreliable at meeting deadlines, and in June 1819 the proprietors complained about “their dissatisfaction with the lack of ‘regular communication between the Editor and the Printer'”, and he resigned in November 1819. De Quincey’s political sympathies tended towards the right. He was “a champion of aristocratic privilege,” reserved “Jacobin” as his highest term of opprobrium, held reactionary views on the Peterloo Massacre and the Sepoy rebellion, on Catholic Emancipation and the enfranchisement of the common people, and yet was also a staunch abolitionist on the issue of slavery.

In 1821 he went to London to dispose of some translations from German authors, but was persuaded first to write and publish an account of his opium experiences, which that year appeared in the London Magazine. This new sensation eclipsed Lamb’s Essays of Elia, which were then appearing in the same periodical. The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater were soon published in book form. De Quincey then made literary acquaintances. Thomas Hood found the shrinking author “at home in a German ocean of literature, in a storm, flooding all the floor, the tables, and the chairs – billows of books …” De Quincey was famous for his conversation; Richard Woodhouse wrote of the “depth and reality, as I may so call it, of his knowledge … His conversation appeared like the elaboration of a mine of results …”

From this time on De Quincey maintained himself by contributing to various magazines. He soon exchanged London and the Lakes for Edinburgh, the nearby village of Polton, and Glasgow; he spent the remainder of his life in Scotland. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and its rival Tait’s Magazine received a large number of contributions. Suspiria de Profundis (1845) appeared in Blackwood’s, as did The English Mail-Coach (1849). Joan of Arc (1847) was published in Tait’s. Between 1835 and 1849, Tait’s published a series of De Quincey’s reminiscences of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Robert Southey, and other figures among the Lake Poets – a series that taken together constitutes one of his most important works.

Along with his opium addiction, debt was one of the primary constraints of De Quincey’s adult life. He pursued journalism as the one way available to him to pay his bills; and without financial need it is an open question how much writing he would ever have done.

De Quincey came into his patrimony at the age of 21, when he received £2000 from his late father’s estate. He was unwisely generous with his funds, making loans that could not or would not be repaid, including a £300 loan to Coleridge in 1807. After leaving Oxford without a degree, he made an attempt to study law, but desultorily and unsuccessfully; he had no steady income and spent large sums on books (he was a lifelong collector). By the 1820s he was constantly in financial difficulties. More than once in his later years, De Quincey was forced to seek protection from arrest in the debtors’ sanctuary of Holyrood in Edinburgh. (At the time, Holyrood Park formed a debtors’ sanctuary; people could not be arrested for debt within those bounds. The debtors who took sanctuary there could only emerge on Sundays, when arrests for debt were not allowed.) Yet De Quincey’s money problems persisted; he got into further difficulties for debts he incurred within the sanctuary.

His financial situation improved only later in his life. His mother’s death in 1846 brought him an income of £200 per year. When his daughters matured, they managed his budget more responsibly than he ever had himself.

A number of medical practitioners have speculated on the physical ailments that inspired and underlay De Quincey’s resort to opium, and searched the corpus of his autobiographical works for evidence. One possibility is “a mild … case of infantile paralysis” that he may have contracted from Wordsworth’s children. De Quincey certainly had intestinal problems, and problems with his vision – which could have been related: “uncorrected myopic astigmatism … manifests itself as digestive problems in men.” De Quincey also suffered neuralgic facial pain, “trigeminal neuralgia”  – “attacks of piercing pain in the face, of such severity that they sometimes drive the victim to suicide.”

As with many addicts, De Quincey’s opium addiction may have had a “self-medication” aspect for real physical illnesses, as well as a psychological aspect.

By his own testimony, De Quincey first used opium in 1804 to relieve his neuralgia; he used it for pleasure, but no more than weekly, through 1812. It was in 1813 that he first commenced daily usage, in response to illness and his grief over the death of Wordsworth’s young daughter Catherine. In the periods of 1813–16 and 1817–19 his daily dose was very high, and resulted in the sufferings recounted in the final sections of his Confessions. For the rest of his life his opium use fluctuated between extremes; he took “enormous doses” in 1843, but late in 1848 he went for 61 days with none at all. There are many theories surrounding the effects of opium on literary creation, and notably, his periods of low usage were literarily unproductive.

He died in Edinburgh and is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard at the west end of Princes street. His stone, in the southwest section of the churchyard on a west facing wall, is plain and says nothing of his work.

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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.

Thomas Babington Macaulay 1st Baron Macaulay
25 October 1800 – 28 December 1859


Thomas Babington Macaulay

Macaulay was the eldest child of Zachary Macaulay, a Scottish Highlander, who became a colonial governor and abolitionist and Selena Mills who was a former pupil of Hannah More. Thomas Macaulay was born in Leicestershire, England, where he was noted as a child prodigy. As a toddler, gazing out of the window from his cot at the chimneys of a local factory, he is reputed to have asked his father whether the smoke came from the fires of hell.

He was educated at a private school in Hertfordshire and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge he wrote much poetry and won several prizes, including the Chancellor’s Gold Medal in June 1821. In 1825 he published a prominent essay on Milton in the Edinburgh Review. He studied law and in 1826 he was called to the bar but showed more interest in a political than a legal career.

Macaulay, who never married and had no children, was once rumoured to have fallen for Maria Kinnaird, the wealthy ward of “Conversation” Sharp (who was a hat-maker, banker, merchant, poet, critic and British politician). But in fact, Macaulay’s strongest emotional ties were to his youngest sisters, Hannah and Margaret, who died while he was in India. As Hannah grew older, he formed the same close attachment to Hannah’s daughter Margaret, whom he called “Baba”.

Macaulay retained a passionate interest in classical literature throughout his life, and prided himself on his knowledge of Ancient Greek literature. While in India, he read every ancient Greek and Roman work that was available to him. In his letters, he describes reading the Aeneid whilst on vacation in Malvern in 1851, and being moved to tears by the beauty of Homer’s poetry. He also taught himself German, Dutch, and Spanish, and remained fluent in French.

In 1830 the Marquess of Lansdowne invited Macaulay to become Member of Parliament for the pocket borough of Calne. His maiden speech was in favour of abolishing the civil disabilities of the Jews in the UK.

Macaulay made his name with a series of speeches in favour of parliamentary reform. After the Great Reform Act of 1832 was passed, he became MP for Leeds. In the Reform, Calne’s representation was reduced from two to one; Leeds had never been represented before, but now had two members. Though proud to have helped pass the Reform Bill, Macaulay never ceased to be grateful to his former patron, Lansdowne, who remained a great friend and political ally.

Macaulay was Secretary to the Board of Control under Lord Grey from 1832 until 1833. After the passing of the Government of India Act 1833, he was appointed as the first Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council. He went to India in 1834, and served on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838.

Later on he introduced English-medium education in India through his famous Minute on Indian Education of February 1835. Macaulay called for an educational system to create a class of anglicised Indians who would serve as cultural intermediaries between the British and the Indians, and brought to an end a lively debate on the appropriate language for education and administration.

Macaulay thereby succeeded in implementing ideas previously put forward by Lord William Bentinck, the governor-general from 1829, who, inspired by utilitarian ideas and calling for “useful learning,” had favoured the replacement of Persian with English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers.

Macaulay convinced the Governor-General to adopt English as the medium of instruction in secondary education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than the Sanskrit or Persian then used in the institutions supported by the East India Company. Macaulay’s argued that Sanskrit and Arabic were wholly inadequate for students studying history, science and technology. Referring to the orientalists, he observed, “I have never found one amongst them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”. He argued, “We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language.” The solution was to teach English. His final years in India were devoted to the creation of a Penal Code, as the leading member of the Law Commission.

In the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Macaulay’s criminal law proposal was enacted. The Indian Penal Code in 1860 was followed by the Criminal Procedure Code in 1872 and the Civil Procedure Code in 1909. The Indian Penal Code inspired counterparts in most other British colonies, and to date many of these laws are still in effect in places as far apart as Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, as well as in India itself.

In Indian culture, the term “Macaulay’s Children” is sometimes used to refer to people born of Indian ancestry who adopt Western culture as a lifestyle, or display attitudes influenced by colonisers (“Macaulayism”) – expressions used disparagingly, and with the implication of disloyalty to one’s country and one’s heritage.

Macaulay’s Minute formed the basis for the reforms introduced in the English Education Act of 1835. In 1836, a school named La Martinière, founded by Major General Claude Martin, had one of its houses named after him.

In independent India, Macaulay’s idea of the civilising mission has been used by Dalitists, in particular by neoliberalist Chandra Bhan Prasad, as a “creative appropriation for self-empowerment”, based on the view that Dalit folk are empowered by Macaulay’s deprecation of Hindu civilisation and an English education.

Returning to Britain in 1838, he became MP for Edinburgh. He was made Secretary at War in 1839 by Lord Melbourne and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year. In 1841 Macaulay addressed the issue of copyright law. Macaulay’s position, slightly modified, became the basis of copyright law in the English-speaking world for many decades. Macaulay argued that copyright is a monopoly and as such has generally negative effects on society. After the fall of Melbourne’s government in 1841 Macaulay devoted more time to literary work, and returned to office as Paymaster-General in 1846 in Lord John Russell’s administration.

In the election of 1847 he lost his seat in Edinburgh. He attributed the loss to the anger of religious zealots over his speech in favour of expanding the annual government grant to Maynooth College in Ireland, which trained young men for the Catholic priesthood; some observers also attributed his loss to his neglect of local issues. In 1849 he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow, a position with no administrative duties, often awarded by the students to men of political or literary fame. He also received the freedom of the city.

In 1852, the voters of Edinburgh offered to re-elect him to Parliament. He accepted on the express condition that he need not campaign and would not pledge himself to a position on any political issue. Remarkably, he was elected on those terms. He seldom attended the House due to ill health. His weakness after suffering a heart attack caused him to postpone for several months making his speech of thanks to the Edinburgh voters. He resigned his seat in January 1856. In 1857 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Macaulay, of Rothley in the County of Leicester, but seldom attended the House of Lords.

Macaulay sat on the committee to decide on the historical subjects to be painted in the new Palace of Westminster. The need to collect reliable portraits of notable figures from history for this project led to the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery, which was formally established on 2 December 1856. Macaulay was amongst its founding trustees and is honoured with one of only three busts above the main entrance.

During his later years his health made work increasingly difficult for him. He died of a heart attack on 28 December 1859, aged 59, leaving his major work, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second incomplete. On 9 January 1860 he was buried in Westminster Abbey, in Poets’ Corner, near a statue of Addison. As he had no children, his peerage became extinct on his death.

Macaulay’s nephew, Sir George Trevelyan, Bt, wrote a best-selling “Life and Letters” of his famous uncle, which is still the best complete life of Macaulay. His great-nephew was the Cambridge historian G. M. Trevelyan.

Macaulay likely had an eidetic memory.

As a young man he composed the ballads Ivry and The Armada, which he later included as part of Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular poems about heroic episodes in Roman history which he composed in India and published in 1842. The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the oft-quoted lines:
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”

His essays, originally published in the Edinburgh Review, were collected as Critical and Historical Essays in 1843.

During the 1840s, Macaulay began work on his most famous work, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, publishing the first two volumes in 1848. At first, he had planned to bring his history down to the reign of George III. After publication of his first two volumes, his hope was to complete his work with the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

The third and fourth volumes, bringing the history to the Peace of Ryswick, were published in 1855. At his death in 1859 he was working on the fifth volume. This, bringing the History down to the death of William III, was prepared for publication by his sister, Lady Trevelyan, after his death.

Macaulay’s political writings are famous for their ringing prose and for their confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history. This philosophy appears most clearly in the essays Macaulay wrote for the Edinburgh Review and other publications, which were collected in book form and a steady best-seller throughout the 19th century. But it is also reflected in History; the most stirring passages in the work are those that describe the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.

Macaulay’s approach has been criticised by later historians for its one-sidedness and its complacency. Karl Marx referred to him as a ‘systematic falsifier of history’. His tendency to see history as a drama led him to treat figures whose views he opposed as if they were villains, while characters he approved of were presented as heroes. Macaulay goes to considerable length, for example, to absolve his main hero William III of any responsibility for the Glencoe massacre. Winston Churchill devoted a four volume biography of the Duke of Marlborough to rebutting Macaulay’s slights of his ancestor, expressing hope ‘to fasten the label “Liar” to his genteel coat-tails.’ On the other hand, this outlook, together with his obvious love of his subject matter and of English civilisation, helps to place the reader within the age being described in a personal way that no cold neutrality could, and Macaulay’s History is generally recognised as one of the masterpieces of historical writing and a magisterial literary triumph only comparable as such to Gibbon and Michelet.

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