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Posts Tagged ‘Horace Walpole’

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.

Catherine “Kitty” Clive
5 November 1711 – 6 December 1785

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Catherine “Kitty” Clive

Catherine “Kitty” Clive was most likely born in London, but her father, William Raftor, was an Irishman and a former officer in the French army under Louis XIV. According to her biographers, Clive worked as a servant in the homes of wealthy London families while young. At the age of 17, she was discovered by the theatre community when she was overheard singing while cleaning the front steps of a home near a tavern that actors and playwrights regularly patronized. She was recommended to Colley Cibber, manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, who hired her.

Clive’s first role at Drury Lane was as the pageboy Immenea in Nathaniel Lee’s tragedy Mithridates, King of Pontus. Throughout the 1730s she went on to play many more roles with much success, becoming Drury Lane’s leading comedic actress. In 1747 she became one of the founding members of David Garrick’s acting company. A soprano, Clive would also occasionally sing on the stage, notably portraying Emma and Venus in the world première of Thomas Arne’s masque Alfred in 1740. She also created the role of Dalila in Handel’s 1743 oratorio Samson.

Around 1732, Clive married George Clive, a barrister brother of Baron Clive. The marriage was not a success and the two separated, though never officially divorced, and Kitty Clive remained economically independent. Because she never openly took on lovers, Clive was able to keep her marriage vows and preserve her public reputation. Her good standing in the public’s eye helped strengthen the reputations of actresses in general, who were often looked down upon as being morally lax.

Clive rose in fame to become of the highest paid actresses of her time and may have even earned more than many of the male performers who were traditionally paid higher wages than their female cast-mates. Her career onstage spanned over forty years, and according to K. A. Crouch, “[h]er pay places her among the very best actresses of her generation.” Kitty Clive became a household name along with other theater greats of the time such as Lavinia Fenton and Susannah Cibber. Perhaps because of her earning power and her fame, Clive became an open supporter of actors’ rights. In particular, she published a pamphlet entitled The Case of Mrs. Clive in 1744 where she publicly shamed managers Christopher Rich and Charles Fleetwood for conspiring to pay actors less than their due. She also challenged the public’s habit of associating actors with beggars and prostitutes.

Clive tried her hand at writing farces, with some success. She wrote several satirical sketches with feminist undertones including The Rehearsal, or Boys in Petticoats (1750); Every Woman in her Humour (1760); and Sketches of a Fine Lady’s Return from a Rout (1763). In these pieces she used humor to criticize the challenges female performers and playwrights faced.

Kitty Clive retired in 1769 to a villa in Twickenham, which had been a gift from her friend Horace Walpole, and died there in 1785. She was buried at St Mary’s, Twickenham, where there is a memorial to her in the north-east corner of the church, on which a poem praises her generosity.

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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.

Charles (Medows) Pierrepont 1st Earl Manvers
4 November 1737 – 17 June 1816

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Charles Medows

Charles Pierrepont 1st Earl Manvers was the great great grandson of Daniel Meadows (d.1659) whose son was Sir Philip Meadows (d.1718), the successful parliamentarian. In 1710, Sir Philip’s fellow parliamentarian, Sir John Guise, 3rd Bart., was “informed by Queen Anne that Sir Philip had been promised the position as Envoy to Hanover, the role Guise had invisaged for himself. Sir Philip Meadows was knighted in 1658, made Knight Marshal of the King’s Palace and sent as an Ambassador to Sweden and Denmark.

In 1717, Sir Philip’s son – also named Sir Philip Meadows (d.1757) – was one of the twelve members of the Board of General Officers, working with Sir Robert Walpole, the First Commissioner (Lord) of the Treasury. Earlier, on 2 July 1700 he was appointed, as his father had been, knight-marshal of the King’s Household, and was formally knighted by King William on 23 December 1700 at Hampton Court. Sir Philip’s daughter, Mary (d.1743), was a Maid of honour to Queen Caroline and his first cousin was Philip Meadows (d.1752), who had been Mayor of Norwich in 1734. On the 29th of May of that year, Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole presented Mayor Meadows with his personal gift: the city’s new silver mace which bore Walpole’s own coat-of-arms. Like Prime Minister Walpole, Mayor Meadows had accumulated vast wealth owing to their success with the South Sea Company.

Another of Sir Philip’s sons, Sir Sidney Meadows, was also knight-marshal of the Kings Palace. Sidney died in Andover in 1792. Like his brother Philip, Sidney was Deputy Ranger of Richmond Park and worked under Prime Minister John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute who, by 1761, had been appointed Ranger by George III. At this time – shortly after he ascended the throne in 1760 – the King was sold the Rangership by his daughter Princess Amelia. King George, having appointed the third Lord Bute as Ranger, continued to keep up an interest in the park and instigated many repairs and improvements with Sir Sidney (and at times his brother Philip) as deputy. When Lord Bute died in 1792 the King took the Rangership back into his own keeping and for a short time areas were given over to farming. Sir Sydney died in 1792, aged 91, having worked alongside the King, managing the park’s agricultural and grazing branches.

Sarah Meadows Martineau was the daughter of Norwich Mayor Philip Meadows. Sarah was baptized at St George’s Church, Colegate, Norwich, Norfolk on 24 February 1725 and died in Norwich on 26 November 1800. Sarah was the subject of published poems by her friend, political writer Anna Letitia Barbauld, who had been “admired” by Horace Walpole, son of Prime Minister Walpole. Sarah Meadows Martineau is recorded as the matriarch of the Meadows of Norwich; “endowed with a strong mind and a well-cultivated understanding….her loss will be severely felt by a numerous family and by many whom her charity daily relieved and also by those who resorted to her judgement for advice”.

Educated at Oxford, Medows became a midshipman in the Royal Navy and was promoted to lieutenant on 7 August 1755. He became a commander on 5 April 1757 in Renown, a 20-gun sloop, but on 17 August the same year was promoted to post-captain in the frigate Shannon, and was ordered to join the Mediterranean Fleet. He commanded her until April 1761, when Vice-Admiral Saunders appointed him to the 50-gun frigate Isis, replacing Captain Edward Wheeler, who had been killed during the capture of the French ship Oriflamme. Medows continued on Isis, in the Mediterranean, until the end of the war in 1763, and in 1769 retired altogether from the Navy.

In 1773, Medows’s uncle, Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, died and left his estates at Thoresby and elsewhere to his wife Elizabeth, Duchess of Kingston, the former wife of the Earl of Bristol. The duke’s nephews challenged the will on the grounds of bigamy, and the proceedings which followed established that the marriage of the Duchess had indeed been bigamous. However, this was found not to affect her inheritance, so she was able to retain the Pierrepont estates until her death, which took place in August 1788. Upon inheriting the estates, Medows adopted the surname of Pierrepont.

A watercolour sketch entitled In Captain Pierrepont’s Grounds was made by the Preston-born artist Anthony Devis (1729–1817).

His family’s political dynasty ensured that Medows was a well connected, if not terribly effective parliamentarian. As a Whig, Medows had been on good terms with Horace Walpole, the son of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. Horace had voiced his concern about the impending death of Medows’ uncle, the 2nd Duke of Kingston. With the patronage of the prime minister’s protégé, Thomas Pelham Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, Medows was returned as one of the Members of Parliament for Nottinghamshire in December 1778. He continued to sit in the Commons as a knight of the shire until he was ennobled in 1796.

In Parliament, Medows (Pierrepont) supported the Duke of Portland, whose influence helped him to be raised to the peerage as Baron Pierrepont, of Holme Pierrepont in the County of Nottingham, and Viscount Newark, of Newark on Trent in the County of Nottingham, on 23 July 1796, and on 1 April 1806 he was promoted to an earldom as Earl Manvers. In the Lords, Manvers supported agricultural reform and was vice-president of the Board of Agriculture in 1803. He died in 1816 and was buried at Holme Pierrepont.

He married Anne Orton, daughter of William Mills of Richmond, in 1774. They had five children:

  • Hon. Evelyn Henry Frederick Pierrepont (1775–1801).
  • Charles Herbert Pierrepont, 2nd Earl Manvers (1778–1860).
  • Hon. Henry Manvers Pierrepont (1780–1858).
  • Hon. Philip Sydney Pierrepont (13 June 1786 – 15 February 1864), of Evenley Hall, Northamptonshire, married on 19 August 1810 Georgiana Browne, died without issue.
  • Lady Frances Augusta Pierrepont (d. 1847), married on 20 October 1802 Admiral William Bentinck (1746–1813), married on 30 July 1821 Henry William Stephens.

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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.

Society of Dilettanti
Since 1732 –

Society of Dilettanti is believed to have been established as a London dining club in 1732 by a group of people who had been on the Grand Tour. Records of the earliest meeting of the Society were written somewhat informally on loose pieces of paper. The first entry in the first minute book of the Society is dated April 5, 1736.

In 1743 Horace Walpole condemned its affectations and described it as such; “…a club, for which the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk: the two chiefs are Lord Middlesex and Sir Francis Dashwood, who were seldom sober the whole time they were in Italy”

The group, initially led by Francis Dashwood, contained several dukes and was later joined by Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight, among others. It was closely associated with Brooks’s, one of London’s most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs. The society quickly became wealthy, through a system in which members made contributions to various funds to support building schemes and archaeological expeditions.

The first artist associated with the group was George Knapton.

The Society of Dilettanti aimed to correct and purify the public taste of the country; from the 1740s, it began to support Italian opera. A few years before Sir Joshua Reynolds became a member, the group worked towards the objective of forming a public academy, and from the 1750s, it was the prime mover in establishing the Royal Academy. In 1775 the club had accumulated enough money towards a scholarship fund for the purpose of supporting a student’s travel to Rome and Greece, or for archaeological expeditions such as that of Richard Chandler, William Pars and Nicholas Revett, the results of which they published in Ionian Antiquities, a major influence on neo-Classicism in Britain. One notable member was Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples.

The Society has 60 members, elected by secret ballot. An induction ceremony is held at a London club. It makes annual donations to the British Schools in Rome and Athens.

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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.

Lady Charlotte Finch
14 February 1725 – 11 July 1813

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Charlotte Finch

Lady Charlotte Finch was the second eldest daughter of Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret and his wife Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys. The growing family would come to include ten children: four sons and six daughters. Lord and Lady Pomfret held various court appointments during their lifetimes; the earl served as Master of the Horse to Queen Caroline while his wife was a Lady of the Bedchamber.

Charlotte and her family were well travelled and sojourned to cultural and historical landmarks on the continent. While details on Fermor and her sisters’ education are minimal, mention of them in contemporary diaries implies they were well-educated. She and Lady Pomfret were well-read and interested in theology; Charlotte’s friends included the educated Elizabeth Carter. Charlotte was fluent enough in Italian for Horace Walpole to remark in 1740, she “speaks the purest Tuscan, like any Florentine” and “the Florentines look on her as the brightest foreigner that has honoured their [Accademia].” According to Walpole, Lord Granville, who had been briefly married to Charlotte’s sister Sophia, was “extremely fond” of Charlotte; after Sophia’s death in 1745, Granville gave his deceased wife’s jewels to Charlotte, “to the great discontent of his own daughters”.

On 9 August 1746, Charlotte married the Hon. William Finch (1691–1766), heir to his brother Daniel Finch, 8th Earl of Winchilsea. Shortly after the wedding, Walpole reported that Charlotte had five thousand pounds from her father, a sum that would increase when “Mr Finch settles fifteen thousand pounds more upon her”. William Finch had previously been married to Lady Anne Douglas but had no issue. He was a diplomat who served as envoy to Sweden and the Netherlands in the 1720s before becoming an MP for Cockermouth and Bewdley. Another of his roles, held from 1742, was to serve as vice-chamberlain of the royal household. He and Lady Charlotte had one son and four daughters together. One of their daughters died in 1765. Their only son, George, inherited the earldoms of Nottingham and Winchilsea from his paternal uncle in 1769.

Lady Charlotte Finch’s career as royal governess began in August 1762, when she was appointed a day after the birth of George, Prince of Wales, the eldest son and heir of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Walpole called the decision “a choice so universally approved that I do not think she will be abused even in the North Briton“. Lady Charlotte held the role of royal governess for over 30 years, and oversaw 14 of the king and queen’s 15 children.

She presided over the royal nursery, overseeing the staff members designated for each child; the staff included sub-governesses, teachers, personal attendants, and assistant governesses. She oversaw the princes until they became old enough to live in their own households, while the six princesses remained under her supervision until they turned 21.

In the mid-1760s, shortly after her appointment, troubling developments began occurring in Lady Charlotte’s home. One of her daughters died in 1765. Furthermore, William Finch, who was 34 years older than his wife, had by 1765 become senile and mentally unstable. Rumours circulated that he threw her down a staircase. Fearing for her safety, she obtained a formal separation from her husband, taking their children to live with her in an apartment at St James’s Palace and a house in Kew. He died in late 1766. Despite these stresses on her personal life, Finch continued to fulfil her position with zeal. However, when another of her daughters became ill in early 1767, Finch took leave of her job and brought the young girl to various locales in the unsuccessful hope she would survive. Finch left the sub-governess Mrs Cotesworth in charge and returned grieving in November 1767, in time to care for the fifth addition to the nursery, Prince Edward.

Lady Charlotte has been variously described by biographers as warm, competent, and kindly. As was typical for the period, the children were infrequently seen by the king and queen; Finch was the unvarying adult figure in their lives. While the royal princes endured disciplined lessons in an austere educational environment, Finch was loved by her female charges. They affectionately referred to her as “Lady Cha”, and upon returning from a trip to the continent in 1771, Queen Charlotte wrote her, “They can never be in better hands than yours”. Shefrin says that Finch “supervised a progressive nursery focused on child-centred learning” and shared a passion for education with Queen Charlotte, as is evident in their correspondence and the writings of contemporaries; the idea of noble mothers encouraging education for their children – a concept advocated by educators and scholars – was becoming popular, and Finch’s approach at court helped spread these new educational theories. Among the methods she employed was the use of “dissected maps”, some of the earliest jigsaw puzzles, to teach geography.

The historian Flora Fraser writes that “in many ways, the education… ordered for the princesses would be as rigorous as” that which the king ordered for the princes. Queen Charlotte felt that a woman equipped with an education was as able as a man. An accomplished woman herself, Finch, alongside Mrs Cotesworth, organised lessons in the arts and sciences which were taught to both the princes and princesses. Subjects included geography, English, grammar, music, needlework, dancing, and art. A tutor, Julie Krohme, taught the children in the French language. Once old enough, the princesses would travel each day to receive their education at Finch’s new house at Kew alongside the river. Conversely, the princes gradually saw less of Lady Charlotte as they became older and entered into the care of governors.

In 1774, Mrs Cotesworth retired due to ill health. While seeking a successor, Lady Charlotte requested that she devote less time to the children. This was opposed by Queen Charlotte. The monarch felt that Cotesworth’s resignation was partly due to Finch decreasing hours with the children, and also thought the other staff would be encouraged by Finch increasing her presence and “make them look upon it as a less confinement”. Finch replied that she had regularly spent many hours with the princesses, both mornings and evenings, adding:

How can I without deviating from my own principles undertake an additional duty of a kind for which I am conscious I am growing every day more unfit, as your Majesty must know what an uncommon stock of spirits and cheerfulness is necessary to go through the growing attendance of so many and such very young people in their amusements, as well as behaviour and instruction, besides ordering all the affairs of the nursery.

Lady Charlotte threatened to resign so that the queen could hire someone “younger and more fitted for it”, a declaration which ended Queen Charlotte’s quest to increase her hours. Finch remained at her post. A new sub-governess, Martha Gouldsworthy – hired on Finch’s recommendation – now spent frequent time with the princesses, chaperoning and supervising their studies in preparation for their lessons with their teacher Miss Planta. In 1782, the 14th royal child, Prince Alfred, sickened and died at Windsor near the age of two, despite Lady Charlotte’s devoted nursing.

By 1792, Lady Charlotte Finch had become ill and deaf. Princess Sophia remarked that autumn, “I am grieved to death about her, she is if possible more kind to us than ever. Indeed, both [Mrs Gouldsworthy] and her are so good to us that we should not be deserving of having such treasures about us, if we did not feel their kindness in the highest degree”. Finch resigned from her role in November 1792 and retired on 5 January 1793, though she continued to correspond with members of the royal family and receive gifts from them. She received £600 in yearly payment, supplemented by income from the South Sea Company, until her death on 11 July 1813 at St James’s Palace.

She was buried in the family vault at Ravenstone, Buckinghamshire and five royal dukes attended her funeral. Her youngest daughter was allowed to maintain their apartments at St James’s. Her will was mainly portioned out between her three surviving children. Her memorial by Francis Leggatt Chantrey, is in Holy Cross Church, Burley, adjacent to Burley House, the Rutland mansion of her son, George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea.

  • Charlotte Finch
  • George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (4 November 1752 – 2 August 1826)
  • Sophia Finch, married Captain Charles Fielding in 1772 and had issue
  • Henrietta Finch
  • Frances Finch (?–1765)

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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.

William Roscoe
8 March 1753 – 30 June 1831

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William Roscoe

William Roscoe was born in Liverpool, where his father, a market gardener, kept a public house called the Bowling Green at Mount Pleasant. Roscoe left school at the age of twelve, having learned all that his schoolmaster could teach. He assisted his father in the work of the garden, but spent his leisure time on reading and study. “This mode of life,” he says, “gave health and vigour to my body, and amusement and instruction to my mind; and to this day I well remember the delicious sleep which succeeded my labours, from which I was again called at an early hour. If I were now asked whom I consider to be the happiest of the human race, I should answer, those who cultivate the earth by their own hands.” At fifteen he began to look for a suitable career. A month’s trial of bookselling was unsuccessful, and in 1769 he was articled to a solicitor. Although a diligent student of law, he continued to read the classics, and made the acquaintance with the language and literature of Italy which was to dominate his life.

In 1774 he went into business as a lawyer, and in 1781 married Jane, second daughter of William Griffies, a Liverpool tradesman; they had seven sons and three daughters. Roscoe had the courage to denounce the African slave trade in his native town, where, at that time, a significant amount of the wealth came from slavery. Roscoe was a Unitarian and Presbyterian. His outspokenness against the slave trade meant that abolitionism and Presbyterianism were linked together in the public mind.

In 1796 Roscoe gave up legal practice, and toyed with the idea of going to the bar. Between 1793 and 1800 he paid much attention to agriculture, and helped to reclaim Chat Moss, near Eccles, Lancashire. He also succeeded in restoring to good order the affairs of a banking house in which his friend William Clark, then resident in Italy, was a partner. This led to his introduction to the business, which eventually proved disastrous.

Roscoe was elected member of parliament for Liverpool in 1806, but the House of Commons was not for him, and at the dissolution in the following year he stood down. During his brief stay however, he was able to cast his vote in favour of the successful abolition of the slave trade.
In the early 1800s, he led a group of Liverpool botanists who created the Liverpool Botanic Garden as a private garden, initially located near Mount Pleasant, which was then on the outskirts of the city. In the 1830s the garden was moved to Wavertree Botanic Gardens; remnants can now be found at Croxteth Hall.

The commercial troubles of 1816 brought into difficulties the banking house with which he was connected, and forced the sale of his collection of books and pictures. Dr S.H. Spiker, the king of Prussia’s librarian, visited Roscoe at this difficult time. Roscoe said he still desired to write a biography of Erasmus but lacked both leisure and youth. The project was never carried out. After five years struggling to discharge the liabilities of the bank, the action of a small number of creditors forced the partners into bankruptcy in 1820. For a time Roscoe was in danger of arrest, but ultimately he received honourable discharge. On the dispersal of his library, the volumes most useful to him were secured by friends and placed in the Liverpool Athenaeum. The sum of £2,500 was also invested for his benefit.

Having now resigned commercial pursuits entirely, he found a pleasant task in the arrangement of the great library at Holkham, the property of his friend Thomas Coke.

Roscoe showed considerable moral courage as well as devotion to study. He had many friends. Posterity is not likely to endorse the verdict of Horace Walpole, who thought Roscoe the best of our historians, but his books on Lorenzo de’ Medici and Pope Leo X remained important contributions to historical literature.

Many of his collection of paintings, dispersed in auctions during his financial troubles, remained in Liverpool and later reached the Walker Art Gallery, which in 2015 had extra labels marking them out as once part of Roscoe’s collection. Roscoe was a relatively early collector of the “Italian Primitives”.

His poem, Mount Pleasant, was written when he was sixteen, and together with other verses, now forgotten, won the esteem of good critics.

He wrote a long poem published in two parts called The Wrongs of Africa (1787–1788), and entered into a controversy with an ex-Roman Catholic priest called Fr Raymond Harris, who tried to justify the slave trade through the Bible (and was generously paid for his efforts by Liverpool businessmen involved with the slave trade). Roscoe also wrote a pamphlet in 1788 entitled ‘A General View of the African Slave Trade’. Roscoe was also a political pamphleteer, and like many other Liberals of the day hailed the promise of liberty in the French Revolution.

Meanwhile he had pursued his Italian studies, and had carried out research, which resulted in his Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici, which appeared in 1796, and gained him a reputation among contemporary historians. It was often reprinted, and translations in French, German and other languages show that its popularity was not confined to Britain. Angelo Fabroni, who had intended to translate his own Latin life of Lorenzo, abandoned the idea and persuaded Gaetano Mecherini to undertake an Italian version of Roscoe’s work.

His translation of Luigi Tansillo’s Nurse appeared in 1798, and went through several editions. It is dedicated in a sonnet to his wife, who had practised the precepts of the Italian poet.
The Life and Pontificate of Leo the Tenth appeared in 1805, and was a natural sequel to his previous work of history. The new work, whilst it maintained its author’s fame, did not meet with so favourable a reception as the Life of Lorenzo. It was frequently reprinted, and the insertion of the Italian translation in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum did not prevent its circulation even in the Papal States.

He wrote the Sonnet on Parting with his Books on the 1816 sale of his library. In 1822 he issued an appendix of illustrations to his Lorenzo and also a Memoir of Richard Robert Jones of Aberdaron, a remarkable self-taught linguist. The year 1824 was memorable for the death of his wife and the publication of his edition of the works of Alexander Pope, which involved him in a controversy with William Lisle Bowles. His versatility was shown by the appearance of a folio monograph on the Monandrian Plants, which was published in 1828. The last part came out after his recovery from a stroke.

In addition to these, Roscoe wrote tracts on penal jurisprudence and contributed to the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Linnean Society. The first collected edition of his Poetical Works was published in 1857, and is sadly incomplete, omitting, with other verses known to be from his pen, the Butterfly’s Ball, a fantasy, which has charmed thousands of children since it appeared in 1807. Other verses are in Poems for Youth, by a Family Circle (1820).

Roscoe and his wife had seven sons and three daughters, including William Stanley Roscoe (1782–1843), a poet, Thomas Roscoe (1791–1871), translator from Italian, and Henry (1800–1836), a legal writer who wrote his father’s biography. Henry’s wife, Maria Roscoe (née Fletcher) (1798-1885), was the author of Vittoria Colonna: Her Life and Times. Daughter Mary Anne was known as a poet by her married name Mary Anne Jevons.

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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.

Anne Seymour Damer
8 November 1749 – 28 May 1828

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Anne Seymour Damer

Anne Seymour Damer (Conway) was born in Sevenoaks into an aristocratic Whig family; she was the only daughter of Field-Marshal Henry Seymour Conway and his wife Caroline Bruce, born Campbell, Lady Ailesbury, and was brought up at the family home at Park Place, Remenham, Berkshire.

In 1767 she married John Damer, the son of Lord Milton, later the 1st Earl of Dorchester. The couple received an income of £5,000 from Lord Milton, and were left large fortunes by Milton and Henry Conway. They separated after seven years, and he committed suicide in 1776, leaving considerable debts. Her artistic career developed during her widowhood.

Anne was a frequent visitor to Europe. During one voyage she was captured by a privateer, but released unharmed in Jersey. She visited Sir Horace Mann in Florence, and Sir William Hamilton in Naples, where she was introduced to Lord Nelson. In 1802, while the Treaty of Amiens was in effect, she visited Paris with the author Mary Berry and was granted an audience with Napoleon.

From 1818, Anne Damer lived at York House, Twickenham. She died, aged 79, in 1828 at her London house in Grosvenor Square, and is buried in the church at Sundridge, Kent, along with her sculptor’s tools and apron and the ashes of her favourite dog.

The development of Anne Seymour Damer’s interest in sculpture is credited to David Hume (who served as Under-Secretary when her father was Secretary of State, 1766–68) and to the encouragement of Horace Walpole, who was her guardian during her parents’ frequent trips abroad. According to Walpole, her training included lessons in modelling from Giuseppe Ceracchi, in marble carving from John Bacon, and in anatomy from William Cumberland Cruikshank.

During the period 1784–1818, Damer exhibited 32 works as an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy. Her work, primarily busts in Neoclassical style, developed from early wax sculptures to technically complex ones in works in terracotta, bronze, and marble. Her subjects, largely drawn from friends and colleagues in Whig circles, included Lady Melbourne, Nelson, Joseph Banks, George III, Mary Berry, Charles James Fox and herself. She executed several actors’ portraits, such as the busts of her friends Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Farren (as the Muses Melpomene and Thalia).

She produced keystone sculptures of Isis and Tamesis for each side of the central arch on the bridge at Henley-on-Thames. The original models are in the Henley Gallery of the River and Rowing Museum nearby. Another major architectural work was her 10-foot statue of Apollo, now destroyed, for the frontage of Drury Lane theatre. She also created two bas reliefs for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery of scenes from Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.

Damer was also a writer, with one published novel, Belmour (first published on 1801).

Damer’s friends included a number of influential Whigs and aristocrats. Her guardian and friend Horace Walpole was a significant figure, who helped foster her career and on his death left her his London villa, Strawberry Hill. She also moved in literary and theatrical circles, where her friends included the poet and dramatist Joanna Baillie, the author Mary Berry, and the actors Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Farren. She frequently took part in masques at the Pantheon and amateur theatricals at the London residence of the Duke of Richmond, who was married to her half-sister.

A number of sources have named Damer as being involved in lesbian relationships, particularly relating to her close friendship with Mary Berry, to whom she had been introduced by Walpole in 1789. Even during her marriage, her likings for male clothing and demonstrative friendships with other women were publicly noted and satirised by hostile commentators such as Hester Thrale and in the anonymous pamphlet A Sapphick Epistle from Jack Cavendish to the Honourable and most Beautiful, Mrs D— (c.1770).

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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.

Lady Mary Coke
6 February 1727 – 30 September 1811

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Mary Coke

Lady Mary Coke was the fifth and youngest daughter of the soldier and politician John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (1680–1743), and his second wife, Jane (c.1683–1767), a maid of honour to Queen Anne and Caroline, Princess of Wales, and grew up in Sudbrook or in London, visiting her father’s ancestral estate at Inveraray in Argyll at least once and possibly more often.

She married on 1 April 1747, Edward Coke, Viscount Coke (1719–1753; son of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Their courtship had been strained, and in retaliation Edward left her alone on their wedding night and from then on virtually imprisoned her at his family estate at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. She reacted by refusing him his marital rights. She never used the title Viscountess.

Their families went to litigation, and eventually produced a settlement in 1750 whereby Lady Mary could live with her mother at Sudbrook but had to remain married to Edward until his death, which came in 1753, when Mary was 26. Already having received a handsome legacy from her father, she set out on her life of independence (she never remarried), that became (as her DNB entry puts it) “marked by gossip, travel, devotion to royalty, and self-imposed misadventure”.

Mary occupied Aubrey House, in the Campden Hill area of Holland Park from 1767 to 1788. A London County Council blue plaque commemorates her and other residents of the house.

In her grandiose shows of grief on the death of Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany in 1767, Lady Mary alleged in veiled hints that they had been secretly married, a claim that brought her further derision. He had been a subject of an intensely emotional and lengthy flirtation, which she alleged had been passionate on both sides. According to most accounts, the relationship had been one-sided, with York (12 years her junior) regarding it and her as a joke.

On her first trip to Europe in 1770–71, Lady Mary became a friend of Maria Theresa of Austria and was warmly welcomed at the Viennese court. She alienated her friend on her third visit in 1773 by interfering in court intrigue. Mary, however, did not see that this predicament had been self-inflicted and from then on saw any disaster – servants’ incompetence, unsuccessful auction bids, rheumatism – as part of a Maria Theresa-instigated plot pursuing her across Europe. Emily Barry (née Stanhope, Countess of Barrymore, and wife of the 6th Earl) was accused by Mary of luring away her previously faithful servant whilst she was in Paris in 1775, to aid an alleged assassination plot against her by Maria Theresa’s daughter Marie Antoinette and her underlings.

It was the 1775 event which finally drove away another of Mary’s close friends, Horace Walpole. Though devoted and mock-gallant in his flattery of her (his The Castle of Otranto in 1765 was dedicated to her), he also could see that her lack of a sense of humour and pride in her own self-importance made most of her misfortunes self-inflicted. He called her and two of her sisters (Caroline Townshend, Baroness Greenwich, and Lady Betty Mackenzie) the three furies, and wrote elsewhere:

‘She was much a friend of mine, but a later marriage, which she particularly disapproved, having flattered herself with the hopes of one just a step higher, has a little cooled our friendship. In short, though she is so greatly born, she has a frenzy for royalty, and will fall in love with and at the feet of the Great Duke and Duchess, especially the former, for next to being an empress herself, she adores the Empress Queen, or did—for perhaps that passion not being quite reciprocal, may have waned.
However … Lady Mary has a thousand virtues and good qualities: she is noble, generous, high-spirited, undauntable, is most friendly, sincere, affectionate, and above any mean action. She loves attention, and I wish you to pay it even for my sake, for I would do anything to serve her. I have often tried to laugh her out of her weakness, but as she is very serious, she is so in that, and if all the sovereigns in Europe combined to slight her, she still would put her trust in the next generation of princes. Her heart is excellent, and deserves and would become a crown, and that is the best of all excuses for desiring one.’

Lady Mary saw evidence of a conspiracy (this time a Catholic one against the Protestant succession) in Margaret Nicholson’s attempt to assassinate George III in 1786 and Maria Fitzherbert’s rumoured marriage to George, Prince of Wales.

Some of her observations were more accurate, for example her praise of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’spolitical skill, in 1787: “As soon as ever any young man comes from abroad he is immediately invited to Devonshire House and to Chatsworth—and by that means he is to be of the [Whig] opposition”. She avidly collected political information, deploying it to protect herself, her friends and her family, and passing it on to her sisters in her journal. She was a frequent visitor to the Houses of Commons and Lords, witnessing political controversies such as Warren Hastings’s trial and the debate over the Cumberland election petition in 1768 (in which she backed Sir James Lowther).

She bought Morton House, Chiswick four years before her death there in 1811. She appreciated that Sir Stephen Fox had built it late in the 17th century and the house had been little altered since. She was buried in Westminster Abbey in her father’s family vault on 11 October 1811.

Lady Mary is mainly known from her journal, never intended for publication and instead written for self-amusement and for the amusement of her sisters, most especially Anne (1719/20–1785), who had married William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford, in 1741. Her DNB entry states: “The journal ranges from banal descriptions of card games and weather to perceptive social observation and expressions of sincere affection, often closely and unselfconsciously juxtaposed. The personality which emerges from the whole combines elements of the mundane and the preposterous with the deeply sympathetic.”

She began writing it in August 1766 and stopped making regular additions in January 1791, when Anne’s husband died. The published edition includes entries only up to December 1774. (Her great-great-great-nephew James Archibald Home edited this edition.) After 1791, Lady Mary continued to pass on her opinions to friends and relatives, such as her niece Lady Frances Scott (her sister Caroline’s daughter by her first marriage to Francis, earl of Dalkeith) and her first cousin once removed Lady Louisa Stuart. Louisa Stuart in 1827 wrote an acerbic memoir of Lady Mary, which is another major source for her life.

The letters and journals of Lady Mary Coke, Volume 1, London, Kingsmead Bookshops, 1889

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