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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.

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine
10 January 1750 – 17 November 1823

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Thomas Erskine

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine was the third and youngest surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, and was born in a tenement at the head of South Grays Close on the High Street in Edinburgh. His older brothers were David (Lord Cardross and later the 11th Earl of Buchan) and Henry (later Lord Advocate of Scotland). His mother, Agnes Steuart, was the daughter of a solicitor general for Scotland and undertook much of her children’s education as the family, though noble, were not rich. The family moved to St Andrews, where they could live more cheaply, and Erskine attended the grammar school there. The family’s money having been spent on the education of his older brothers, Erskine, aged fourteen, reluctantly abandoned his formal education for the time being and went to sea as a midshipman. His family meanwhile moved to Bath to become members of the Methodist community headed by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. One of Erskine’s sisters, Anne Agnes, was to become treasurer of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon’s charities.

Erskine went to sea as a midshipman in the Tartar, under captain Sir David Lindsay, who was a nephew of Lord Mansfield and a friend of the Erskine family. The Tartar set sail for the Caribbean, where Erskine was to spend the next four years, rising to the rank of acting lieutenant. When Erskine was eighteen he resigned from the Navy. His ship had been paid off, there were no commissions available, and he didn’t want to return to sea as a midshipman after having been an acting lieutenant. The 10th Earl of Buchan had recently died, and Erskine now had just enough money to buy a commission in the army, becoming an ensign in the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. He was stationed first at Berwick and then on Jersey. On 29 March 1770 Erskine married Frances Moore at Gretna Green, against the wishes of her father, Daniel Moore who was member of parliament for Great Marlowe. Frances was the granddaughter of John Moore, who had been attorney general of Pennsylvania. Erskine’s regiment was then posted to Minorca, and Frances went with him. Before meeting Frances, Erskine had written about the qualities he was looking for in a bride: “Let then my ornament be far from the tinsel glare, let it be fair yet modest, let it rather delight than dazzle, rather shine like the mild beams of the morning than the blaze of the noon. I seek in my fair one a winning female softness both in person and mind”. Erskine appears to have found these qualities in Frances: she is described on her memorial in Hampstead Church as “the most faithful and affectionate of women”. The couple had four sons and four daughters.

While he was stationed in Jersey and Minorca, Erskine had on occasion preached sermons to his men, prompting one biographer to say that “a taste for oratory that ultimately would lead on to his true career originated in those soldier sermons”.

He also demonstrated his future skills as an advocate in a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Prevailing Abuses in the British Army Arising from the Corruption of Civil Government with a Proposal toward Obtaining an Addition to Their Pay“.

Whilst on leave in London in 1772, the charming and well-connected young officer was able to mix in literary circles and met Dr Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, recalled meeting “a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honorable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the Bar in Westminster-hall”. Although Erskine was appointed a lieutenant in April 1773, he decided to leave the army and, with the encouragement of his family and Lord Mansfield, study for the Bar.

Erskine was admitted as a student of Lincoln’s Inn on 26 April 1775. He discovered that the period of study required before being called to the Bar could be reduced from five years to three for holders of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities. He therefore on 13 January 1776 entered himself as a gentleman commoner on the books of Trinity College, Cambridge where, as the son of an earl, he was entitled to gain a degree without sitting any examinations. He did however win the English declamation prize for an oration on the “glorious revolution” of 1688. At the same time, he was a pupil in the chambers of first Francis Buller and then George Wood. These were years of poverty for Erskine and his growing family: he installed Frances and the children in cheap lodgings in Kentish Town and survived on a gift of £300 from a relative, and the sale of his army commission. Jeremy Bentham, who knew Erskine at this time, described him as “so shabbily dressed as to be quite remarkable”.

In the summer of 1778 Erskine was awarded a degree and was called to the Bar on 3 July. While many newly qualified barristers, especially those without contacts to put briefs their way, took years to establish themselves, Erskine’s success was immediate and brilliant. His first case, that of Thomas Baillie, came to him by chance. The case involved the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, of which Captain Baillie was lieutenant-governor. Baillie had uncovered abuses in the management of the hospital and, having failed to interest the directors and governors of the hospital or the lords of the Admiralty, he published a pamphlet and was then sued by the agents of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was first lord of the Admiralty and had been placing his agents in positions of authority in the hospital. Hearing of a newly qualified barrister who had himself been a seaman and was sympathetic to his cause, Baillie appointed Erskine to his team although he already had four counsel. Erskine was the most junior, but it was his brilliant speech that won the case and exonerated Baillie. Despite a warning from the judge, Erskine attacked Lord Sandwich calling him “the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity”. After his success in the Baillie case, Erskine had no shortage of work and a few months later was retained by Admiral Augustus Keppel in his court martial at Portsmouth. Keppel was acquitted and gave Erskine £1,000 in gratitude. For the first time in his life Erskine was financially secure.

In 1781 Erskine had his first opportunity to address a jury when he defended Lord George Gordon who had been charged with high treason for instigating the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Erskine’s defence not only achieved Gordon’s acquittal but also dealt a blow to the English legal doctrine of constructive treason. The case established Erskine as the country’s most successful barrister. By 1783, when he received a patent of precedence, he had earnt enough to pay off all his debts and accumulate £8–9,000. He could afford a country house, Evergreen Villa, in Hampstead as well as a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1783, when the Fox-North Coalition came into power, Erskine entered parliament as Whig member for Portsmouth. Erskine’s friend Charles James Fox had been eager to have such a brilliant lawyer join the ranks of Whig members, but Erskine’s speeches failed to make the impact in parliament that they did in court. Erskine lost his seat the following year in the general election, becoming one of “Fox’s martyrs” when Pitt’s party made large gains, although he would regain the seat in 1790.

The loss of his parliamentary seat enabled Erskine to concentrate on his legal practice. In 1786, when he was thirty-six years old and had been practising at the Bar for only eight years, he was able to write: “I continue highly successful in my profession, being now, I may say, as high as I can go at the Bar. The rest depends on politics, which at present are adverse.” Amongst his notable cases in 1780s was his successful defence of William Davies Shipley, dean of St Asaph (and son of Jonathan Shipley) who was tried in 1784 at Shrewsbury for seditious libel for publishing Principles of Government, in a Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer, a tract by his brother-in-law Sir William Jones advancing radical views on the relationship between subjects and the state. Erskine’s defence anticipated the Libel Act 1792, which laid down the principle that it is for the jury (who previously had only decided the question of publication) and not the judge to decide whether or not a publication is a libel.

In 1789 he was counsel for John Stockdale, a bookseller, who was charged with seditious libel in publishing John Logan’s pamphlet in support of Warren Hastings, whose impeachment was then proceeding. Erskine’s speech, which resulted in the Stockdale’s acquittal, argued that a defendant should not be convicted if his composition, taken as a whole, did not go beyond a free and fair discussion, even if selected passages might be libellous. Henry Brougham considered this to be one of Erskine’s finest speeches: “It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury”.

Three years later he would, against the advice of his friends, take on the defence of Thomas Paine who had been charged with seditious libel after the publication of the second part of his Rights of Man. Paine was tried in his absence; he was in France. Erskine argued for the right of a people to criticise, reform and change its government; he made the point that a free press produces security in the government. But in this case his arguments failed to convince the special jury, who returned a verdict of guilty without even retiring.

Erskine’s speech is also remembered for a passage on the duty of barristers to take on even unpopular cases:

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.”

Erskine’s decision to defend Paine cost him his position as attorney-general (legal advisor) to the Prince of Wales, to which he had been appointed in 1786.

In 1794 William Pitt’s government, fearful of a revolution, decided to take action against people who were campaigning for parliamentary reform. Habeas corpus was suspended and twelve members of radical societies were imprisoned and charged with a variety of offences amounting to high treason. Erskine and Vicary Gibbs were assigned as counsel to seven of them. They were not paid for their services, as it was considered unprofessional to take fees for defending people charged with high treason. The treason trials began on 28 October before Lord Chief Justice Eyre at the Old Bailey with the trial of Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and secretary of the London Corresponding Society. After eight days of evidence and speeches, including Erskine’s seven-hour speech on the final day, and several hours deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Erskine was hailed as a hero by the crowds outside who unharnessed his horses (which he never saw again ) and pulled his carriage through the streets. Although it was usual in cases where several people were jointly charged with high treason to discharge the rest if the first was acquitted, the government persisted with the trials of John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. They too, defended by Erskine and Vicary Gibbs, were acquitted and it was only then that the prosecution was halted. A disappointed government had to scrap a further 800 warrants of arrest.

Notable amongst the later cases of Erskine’s career was that of James Hadfield, a former soldier who had fired a shot at the king in Drury Lane Theatre. The shot missed and Hadfield was charged with treason. Erskine called a large number of witnesses who testified to Hadfield’s sometimes bizarre behaviour, a surgeon who testified to the nature of the head injuries that Hadfield had sustained in battle, and a doctor, Alexander Crichton, who gave evidence that Hadfield was insane. Erskine argued that, although Hadfield could appear rational, he was in the grip of a delusion and could not control his actions. He summed up: “I must convince you, not only that the unhappy prisoner was a lunatic, within my own definition of lunacy, but that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease”. The judge, Lord Kenyon, was convinced by Erskine’s evidence and argument and stopped the trial, acquitted Hadfield and ordered him to be detained. The trial led to two acts of parliament: the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800 which provided for the detention of people who were acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, and the Treason Act 1800.

In 1806 Erskine was offered the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of All the Talents formed by Lord Grenville and Charles Fox on the death of William Pitt. Fox’s original plan had been to offer Erskine the chief judgeship of the Common Pleas or the King’s Bench when one of the holders was elevated to Lord Chancellor. But both Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of the King’s Bench and Sir James Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, declined the chancellorship. Erskine was therefore appointed although he had no experience in Chancery. He was created a peer to become Lord Chancellor. The Prince of Wales, who had inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, chose Erskine’s title, Baron Erskine of Restormel Castle, while the motto, “trial by jury” was Erskine’s own. Frances Erskine did not live to enjoy the title of Lady Erskine; she died a few weeks before her husband took the seals of office.

Although Erskine lacked experience in equity, only one of the judgements he made during his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor was appealed against and that, concerning Peter Thellusson’s will, was upheld. His handling of the impeachment of Lord Melville was generally admired. Along with Lords Grenville, Spencer and Ellenborough, Erskine was commissioned by the king to enquire into the morals of his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick in what became known as the “delicate investigation”.

Erskine was Lord Chancellor for only fourteen months, having to give up the seals of office when the ministry of all the talents resigned over a disagreement with the king concerning the question of Catholic Emancipation. The king gave Erskine a week to finish pending cases, and Erskine took advantage of this to appoint one of his sons-in-law, Edward Morris, as master of Chancery.

As ex-chancellor, Erskine was not permitted to return to the Bar. He was awarded a pension of £4000 a year and remained a member of the House of Lords. He was only 57 when the ministry of all the talents fell, and hoped that he might return to office when the Prince of Wales became regent. In the event, however, the regent retained the ministry of Spencer Perceval and the Whigs would not be in power again until 1830, seven years after Erskine’s death. Erskine largely retired from public life, rarely speaking in the House of Lords. In 1818 he married for the second time. His bride was a former apprentice bonnet-maker, Sarah Buck, with whom he had already had two children. The couple travelled to Gretna Green for the marriage, with an angry adult son in hot pursuit. It was a tempestuous relationship, and the marriage ended in separation a few years later. In spite of his generous pension and the enormous sums he had earnt at the Bar, Erskine experienced financial difficulties in his later years, having to sell his villa in Hampstead and move to a house in Pimlico. He also bought an estate in Sussex, but his agricultural efforts were not a great success. He wrote a political romance, Armata, which ran to several editions.

Causes which Erskine took up in his retirement were animal rights, Greek independence, and the defence of Queen Caroline. He had always been an animal lover; amongst his favourite animals were a Newfoundland dog called Toss who used to accompany him to chambers, a macaw, a goose and two leeches. He introduced a bill in the House of Lords for the prevention of cruelty to animals, arguing that humanity’s dominion over them was given by God as a moral trust. It was the first time he had proposed a change in the law. The bill was accepted in the Lords but opposed in the Commons; William Windham arguing that a law against cruelty to animals was incompatible with fox-hunting and horse racing. Eventually the bill was introduced in the Commons and passed as statute 3 Geo 4 c71. When Caroline was being prosecuted for divorce Erskine spoke against the Bill of Pains and Penalties and, when the government dropped the bill, expressed his approval: “My Lords, I am an old man, and my life, whether it has been for good or evil, has been passed under the sacred rule of Law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated by that rule being restored”. He was invited to a public dinner in Edinburgh in February 1820, and made his first trip to Scotland since he had left it on the Tartar over fifty years before.

In 1823 Erskine set out by sea on another visit to Scotland with one of his sons, hoping to see his brother the Earl of Buchan. But he became ill with a chest infection on the journey and was put ashore at Scarborough. He managed to travel to the home of his brother Henry’s widow in Almondell in West Lothian, where they were joined by the earl. He died at Almondell on 17 November 1823 and was buried in the family burial-place at Uphall in Linlithgowshire. His widow survived him by over thirty years. She, as reports in the Times revealed, was reduced to poverty and had to rely on a small charitable allowance to survive. Even these meagre payments were withheld by Erskine’s executors when she tried to prevent them sending her son Hampden away to school, and she had to appeal to the lord mayor of London. She died in 1856.

Erskine’s first marriage produced four sons and four daughters:

  • David Montagu Erskine (1776–1855) was a member of parliament and diplomat;
  • Henry David (1786–1859) was Dean of Ripon;
  • Thomas (1788–1864) became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas;
  • Esmé Steuart (1789–1817) fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he lost an arm (his widow Eliza married Admiral James Norton, who also lost an arm in action).
  • Frances (d. 1859) married Samuel Holland, Precentor of Chichester and Rector of Poynings, Sussex (a grandson of Frances and Samuel was Thomas Erskine Holland the jurist);
  • Elizabeth (d, 1800) married her cousin Captain (later Sir) David Erskine, the illegitimate son of the 11th Earl of Buchan;
  • Mary (d. 1804) married lawyer Edward Morris.

With his second wife Erskine had one legitimate son, Hampden (b. 1821) and two children, Agnes and Erskine, born before the marriage.

Erskine’s eldest brother the 11th Earl of Buchan had no legitimate sons and was succeeded by a nephew, the son of Erskine’s brother Henry. When all Henry’s descendants in the direct male line died out in 1960 the seventh Baron Erskine (Donald Cardross Flower Erskine, Erskine’s great-great-greatgrandson) became the sixteenth Earl of Buchan.

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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 Rogers
30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855

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Samuel Rogers

Samuel Rogers was born at Newington Green, then a village north of Islington, London. His father, Thomas Rogers, a banker, was the son of a Stourbridge glass manufacturer, who was also a merchant in Cheapside. Thomas married Mary, the only daughter of his father’s partner, Daniel Radford, becoming himself a partner shortly afterwards. On his mother’s side Samuel Rogers was connected with the well-known English Dissenters clergymen Philip Henry and his son Matthew, was brought up in Nonconformist circles, and became a long-standing member of the Unitarian congregation at Newington Green, then led by the remarkable Dr Richard Price. He was educated in Hackney and Stoke Newington.

Two nephews, orphaned young and for whom he assumed responsibility, were Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist and translator of the Bible, and his younger brother Daniel, the early geologist.

Samuel Rogers wished to enter the Presbyterian ministry, but his father persuaded him to join the banking business in Cornhill. In long holidays, necessitated by delicate health, Rogers became interested in English literature, particularly the work of Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray and Oliver Goldsmith. He learned Gray’s poems by heart, and his family wealth allowed him to leisure to try writing poetry himself. He began with contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and in 1786 he published a volume containing some imitations of Goldsmith and an “Ode to Superstition” in the style of Gray.

In 1788 his elder brother Thomas died, and Samuel’s business responsibilities were increased. In the next year he paid a visit to Scotland, where he met Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie, Hester Thrale and others. In 1791 he was in Paris, and enjoyed the Orleans Collection of art at the Palais Royal, many of the treasures of which were later to pass into his possession. With Gray as his model, Rogers took great pains in polishing his verses, and six years elapsed after the publication of his first volume before he printed his elaborate poem on The Pleasures of Memory (1792) – regarded by some as the last embodiment of the poetic diction of the 18th century. The theory of elevating and refining familiar themes by abstract treatment and lofty imagery is taken to extremes. In this art of “raising a subject”, as the 18th century phrase was, the Pleasures of Memory is much more perfect than Thomas Campbell’s Pleasures of Hope, published a few years later in imitation. Byron said of it, “There is not a vulgar line in the poem.”

In 1793 his father’s death gave Rogers the principal share in the banking house in Cornhill, and a considerable income. He left Newington Green and established himself in chambers in the Temple. Within his intimate circle at this time were his best friend, Richard Sharp (Conversation Sharp), and the artists John Flaxman, John Opie, Martin Shee and Henry Fuseli. He also made the acquaintance of Charles James Fox, with whom he visited the galleries in Paris in 1802, and whose friendship introduced him to Holland House. In 1803 he moved to 22 St James’s Place, where for fifty years he entertained all the celebrities of London. Flaxman and Charles Alfred Stothard had a share in the decoration of the house, which Rogers virtually rebuilt, and proceeded to fill with works of art. His collections at his death realised £50,000.

An invitation to one of Rogers’s breakfasts was a formal entry into literary society, and his dinners were even more select. His social success was due less to his literary position than to his powers as a conversationalist, his educated taste in all matters of art, and no doubt to his sarcastic and bitter wit, for which he excused himself by saying that he had such a small voice that no one listened if he said pleasant things. “He certainly had the kindest heart and unkindest tongue of any one I ever knew,” said Fanny Kemble. He helped the poet Robert Bloomfield, he reconciled Thomas Moore with Francis Jeffrey Jeffrey and with Byron, and he relieved Sheridan’s difficulties in the last days of his life. Moore, who refused help from all his friends, and would only owe debts to his publishers, found it possible to accept help from Rogers. He procured a pension for HF Cary, the translator of Dante, and obtained Wordsworth his sinecure as distributor of stamps.

Rogers was in effect a literary dictator in England. He made his reputation by The Pleasures of Memory when William Cowper’s fame was still in the making. He became the friend of Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Byron, and lived long enough to give an opinion as to the fitness of Alfred Tennyson for the post of Poet Laureate. Alexander Dyce, from the time of his first introduction to Rogers, was in the habit of writing down the anecdotes with which his conversation abounded. In 1856 he arranged and published selections as Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana. Rogers himself kept a notebook in which he entered impressions of the conversation of many of his distinguished friends—Fox, Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Richard Porson, John Horne Tooke, Talleyrand, Lord Erskine, Scott, Lord Grenville and the Duke of Wellington. They were published by his nephew William Sharpe in 1859 as Recollections by Samuel Rogers; Reminiscences and Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, Banker, poet, and Patron of the Arts, 1763–1855 (1903), by GH Powell, is an amalgamation of these two authorities. Rogers held various honorary positions: he was one of the trustees of the National Gallery; and he served on a commission to inquire into the management of the British Museum, and on another for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1796.

 

His literary production remained slow. An Epistle to a Friend (the above-mentioned Conversation Sharp), published in 1798, describes Rogers’s ideal of a happy life. This was followed by The Voyage of Columbus (1810), and by Jacqueline (1814), a narrative poem, written in the four-accent measure of the newer writers, and published in the same volume with Byron’s Lara. His reflective poem on Human Life (1819), on which he had been engaged for twelve years, is written in his earlier manner.

In 1814 Rogers made a tour on the Continent with his sister Sarah. He travelled through Switzerland to Italy, keeping a full diary of events and impressions, and had made his way to Naples when the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba obliged him to hurry home.

Seven years later he returned to Italy, paying a visit to Byron and Shelley at Pisa. Out of the earlier of these tours arose his last and longest work, Italy. The first part was published anonymously in 1822; the second, with his name attached, in 1828. It was at first a failure, but Rogers was determined to make it a success. He enlarged and revised the poem, and commissioned illustrations from J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Stothard and Samuel Prout. These were engraved on steel in the sumptuous edition of 1830. The book then proved a great success, and Rogers followed it up with an equally sumptuous edition of his Poems (1834). In 1850, on Wordsworth’s death, Rogers was asked to succeed him as poet laureate, but declined the honour on account of his age. For the last five years of his life he was confined to his chair in consequence of a fall in the street. He died in London, and is buried in the family tomb in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Hornsey High Street, Haringey.

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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.

John Wheble
2 February 1746 – 22 September 1820

Born in Gatcombe, Isle of Wight. He was twice married, leaving a widow. Wheble was apprenticed in 1756 to “the well known bookseller, and publisher”, John Wilkie, whom he eventually succeeded.

Wheble is most famous for his association with John Horne Tooke and John Wilkes, and the Society of the Bill of Rights, having printed pamphlets for them, and publishing articles in “The Middlesex Journal” in their defence.

Matters came to a head in 1771 when the Speaker of the House of Commons summoned Wheble to Parliament to explain why he had printed a full account of debates in the house – which was at that time against the law. A proclamation for him to appear in Parliament was also made in the name of King George, with a reward being offered of Fifty Pounds for his apprehension.

At this development Wilkes concocted a plan to have Wheble brought before him in his capacity as sitting Alderman / Magistrate by a mutual friend (Mr Twine Carpenter), so that the Charges made by Parliament against Wheble could be dismissed. In his letter to the Secretary of State, Lord Halifax, Wilkes wrote “That Wheble had been apprehended in violation of the rights of an Englishman, as well as of the chartered privileges of a Citizen of London”

For his services in these affairs Wheble was granted the sum of 100 Guineas by the Constitutional Society, and received the thanks of the Corporaton of London.

He was the projector of “The Midlesex Journal” and “The County Chronicle,” and with Mr Harris co-founded “The Sporting Magazine.” He was a close friend of John Nichols, and a friend and mentor to artists such as William Ward, John Constable, Joseph Turner and John Higton.

Wheble held a Commission in the Commissariat, was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, was for 16 years a Councillor for the Ward of Farringdon in the City of London, and a Freeman of London and a member of the Stationers’ Company.

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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.

John Horne Tooke
25 June 1736 – 18 March 1812

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John Horne Tooke

Tooke was born in Newport Street, Long Acre, Westminster, the third son of John Horne, a poulterer in Newport Market. As a youth at Eton College, Tooke described his father to friends as a “turkey merchant”. Before Eton, he had been at school in Soho Square, in a Kentish village, and from 1744 to 1746 at Westminster School.

On 12 January 1754 he was admitted as sizar at St John’s College, Cambridge, and took his degree of B.A. in 1758, as last but one of the senior optimes, Richard Beadon, his lifelong friend, afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells, being a wrangler in the same year. Horne had been admitted on 9 November 1756, as student at the Inner Temple, becoming friends with John Dunning and Lloyd Kenyon. His father wished him to take orders in the Church of England, and he was ordained deacon on 23 September 1759 and priest on 23 November 1760.

For a few months he was usher (i.e., an assistant teacher) at a boarding school at Blackheath. On 26 September 1760 he became perpetual curate of New Brentford, the incumbency of which his father had purchased for him. Tooke retained this poor living until 1773. During part of this time (1763–1764) he traveled on a tour in France, acting as a “bear-leader” (i.e., a travelling tutor) to a wealthy man.

The excitement created by the actions of John Wilkes led Horne into politics, and in 1765 he brought out a scathing pamphlet on Bute and Mansfield, entitled “The Petition of an Englishman”.

In the autumn of 1765 he escorted another rich young man to Italy. In Paris he met Wilkes, and from Montpellier, in January 1766, addressed a letter to him which began the quarrel between them. In the summer of 1767 Horne returned, and in 1768 secured the return of Wilkes to parliament for Middlesex. With inexhaustible energy he promoted the legal proceedings over the riot in St George’s Fields, when a youth named Allen was killed, and exposed the irregularity in the judge’s order for the execution of two Spitalfields weavers. His dispute with George Onslow, MP for Surrey, who at first supported and then threw over Wilkes for place, culminated in a civil action, ultimately decided, after the reversal of a verdict which had been obtained through the charge of Lord Mansfield, in Horne’s favour, and in the loss by his opponent of his seat in parliament. An influential association, called “The Society for Supporting the Bill of Rights,” was founded, mainly through the exertions of Horne and Wilkes, with the support of John Wheble, in 1769, but the members were soon divided into two opposite camps, and in 1771 Horne and Wilkes, their respective leaders, broke out into open dispute.

On 1 July 1771 Horne obtained at Cambridge, though not without some opposition from members of both the political parties, his degree of M.A. Earlier in that year he claimed for the public the right of printing an account of parliamentary debates, and after a long struggle, the right was definitely established. In the same year (1771), Horne argued with Junius, and ended in disarming his masked antagonist.

Horne resigned his benefice in 1773 and began the study of the law and philology. An accident, however, occurred at this moment which largely affected his future. His friend William Tooke had purchased a considerable estate, including Purley Lodge, south of the town of Croydon in Surrey. The possession of this property brought about frequent disputes with an adjoining landowner, Thomas de Grey, and, after many actions in the courts, Thomas de Grey’s friends endeavoured to obtain, by a bill forced through the houses of parliament, the privileges which the law had not assigned to him (February 1774). Horne, thereupon, by a bold libel on the Speaker, drew public attention to the case, and though he himself was placed for a time in the custody of the serjeant-at-arms, the clauses which were injurious to the interest of Tooke were eliminated from the bill. Tooke declared his intention of making Horne the heir to his fortune, and during his lifetime he bestowed upon him large gifts of money.

No sooner had this matter been happily settled than Horne found himself involved in serious trouble. For his conduct in signing the advertisement soliciting subscriptions for the relief of the relatives of the Americans “murdered by the king’s troops at Lexington and Concord,” he was tried at the Guildhall on 4 July 1777, before Lord Mansfield, found guilty, and committed to the King’s Bench Prison in St George’s Fields, from which he only emerged after a year’s durance, and after a loss in fines and costs amounting to £1200.

Soon after his deliverance he applied to be called to the bar, but his application was rejected on the grounds that his orders in the Church were indelible. Horne thereupon tried his fortune, but without success, on farming some land in Huntingdonshire. Two tracts about this time exercised great influence in the country. One of them, Fads Addressed to Landholders, etc. (1780), written by Horne in conjunction with others, criticizing the measures of Lord North’s ministry, passed through numerous editions; the other, A Letter on Parliamentary Reform (1782), addressed by him to Dunning, set out a scheme of reform, which he afterwards withdrew in favour of that advocated by William Pitt the Younger.

On his return from Huntingdonshire he became once more a frequent guest at Tooke’s house at Purley, and in 1782 assumed the name of Horne Tooke. In 1786 Horne Tooke conferred perpetual fame upon his benefactor’s country house by adopting, as a second title of his elaborate philological treatise of “Epea Pteroenta” — the expression ἔπεα πτερόεντα, épea pteróenta (see “Winged words”), comes from Homer — the more popular though misleading title of The Diversions of Purley. The treatise at once attracted attention in England and the Continent. The first part was published in 1786, the second in 1805. The best edition is that which was published in 1829, under the editorship of Richard Taylor, with the additions written in the author’s interleaved copy.

Between 1782 and 1790 Tooke gave his support to Pitt, and in the election for Westminster, in 1784, threw all his energies into opposition to Fox. With Fox he was never on terms of friendship, and Samuel Rogers, in his Table Talk, asserts that their antipathy was so pronounced that at a dinner party given by a prominent Whig not the slightest notice was taken by Fox of the presence of Horne Tooke. It was after the election of Westminster in 1788 that Tooke depicted the rival statesmen (Lord Chatham and Lord Holland, William Pitt and Charles James Fox) in his celebrated pamphlet Two Pair of Portraits.

At the general election of 1790, Horne Tooke came forward as a candidate for that distinguished constituency, in opposition to Fox and Lord Hood, but was defeated; and, at a second attempt in 1796, he was again at the bottom of the poll. In the meantime, the excesses of the French republicans had provoked reaction in England, and the Tory ministry adopted a policy of repression. He was arrested early on the morning of 16 May 1794, and conveyed to the Tower of London. His trial for high treason lasted for six days (17 to 22 November) and ended in his acquittal, the jury taking only eight minutes to settle their verdict.

Horne Tooke’s public life after this event was only distinguished by one act of importance. Through the influence of the second Lord Camelford, the fighting peer, he was returned to parliament in 1801 for the pocket borough of Old Sarum. Lord Temple endeavoured to secure his exclusion on the ground that he had taken orders in the Church, and one of James Gillray’s caricatures delineates the two politicians, Temple and Camelford, playing at battledore and shuttlecock, with Horne Tooke as the shuttlecock. The ministry of Addington would not support this suggestion, but a bill was at once introduced by them and carried into law, which rendered all persons in holy orders ineligible to sit in the House of Commons, and Horne Tooke sat for only that parliament.

The last years of Tooke’s life were spent in retirement, in a house on the west side of Wimbledon Common. The traditions of Tooke’s Sunday parties lasted unimpaired up to this point, and the most pleasant pages penned by Tooke’s biographer describe the politicians and the men of letters who gathered around Tooke’s hospitable board. Tooke’s conversational powers rivalled those of Samuel Johnson; and, if more of Tooke’s sayings have not been chronicled for the benefit of posterity, the defect is due to the absence of a James Boswell. Through the liberality of Tooke’s friends, Tooke’s last days were freed from the pressure of poverty, and Tooke was enabled to place his illegitimate son in a position which soon brought him wealth, and to leave a competency to his two illegitimate daughters.

Illness seized Tooke early in 1810, and for the next two years his sufferings were acute. He died in his house at Wimbledon, London, and was buried with his mother at Ealing, the tomb which he had prepared in the garden attached to his house at Wimbledon was found unsuitable for the interment. An altar-tomb still stands to his memory in Ealing churchyard. A catalogue of his library was printed in 1813.

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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.

Sir Francis Burdett
January 25 1770 to January 23 1844

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Sir Francis, the 5th Baronet, was an English reformer. From 1820 till his death in 1844 he lived at 25 St. James’s Place. He inherited the title in 1797 from his grandfather. Educated at Westminster School and the University of Oxford. He was in Paris, during the early days of the revolution. He returned to England and married Sophia Coutts, the second daughter of Thomas Coutts, the banker. This brought a dowry of £25,000 to their marriage. Their youngest daughter would inherit the fortune and she became a well known philanthropist. In 1796 he became Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge, purchasing this from the Duke of Newcastle.

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His inheritance included the family seat of Foremarke Hall, the hamlets of Ingleby and Foremark. He quickly became an opponent of William Pitt the Younger. Francis became an advocate of popular rights. He denounced the war with France, the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the proposed expulsion of John Horne Tooke from Parliament. He became an idol of the people. He had met Horne Tooke in 1797 and became a pupil of his. In politics and philology.

Francis secured an inquiry to the Coldbath Fields Prison and conditions there and as a result the government forbade him to visit prisons for a time. In 1802 Burdett was returned for Middlesex but this was declared void and in 1804 the returning officer caused him to lose the election through fraudulent means. In 1805 this was amended back in his favor, the decision was quickly reversed. Burdett had spent a great sum and declared he would not run again.

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In 1806 Burdett was a supported of James Paull, for the City of Westminster but a misunderstanding led to a duel in which both parties were wounded. In 1807 Burdett, though reluctant was nominated for Westminster and amidst great enthusiasm was elected.

He again attacked abuses and in 1810 came into collision with the House of commons over it. The radical John Gale Homes had been committed to prison and Burdett took up his cause. His speech was published by William Cobbett in the Weekly Register.

The House voted this to be a breach of privilege and the Speaker issued a warrant for Burdett’s arrest. He holed up in his house for two days and the mob gathered in his defense. Thomas Cochrane offered assistance but Burdett knew this would lead to violence, he allowed himself to be arrested and taken to the Tower of London. Released when Parliament recessed, he tried to sue that he was arrested falsely but the went against him.

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Sophia, Lady Burdett

From 1800 on he worked on reform in Parliament, including denouncing corporal punishment in the army, attempts to check corruption, the reform of Parliament, the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities. He anticipated the Chartist movement and suggested as early as 1817 and 1818, universal male suffrage (DWW-Get the Vote Out!) Equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, annual parliaments.

In 1825, Parliament did take up the Roman Catholic issue. And then some of his reforms passed the Commons but were rejected by Lords. By 1829 though, some of his proposals were becoming laws. HIs disagreement with the government in 1820 over the Peterloo Massacre he was fined 1000 pounds and spent 3 months in prison. When the Reform Bill of 1832 passed, his ardour for reform was now somewhat abated.

By 1837 he was ready to resign his seat but he was re-elected again. But he decided to take the seat of North Wiltshire and side with the Conservatives. When Sophia died in January of 1844 he was inconsolable and stopped eating. He died ten days later.

Previous Notables (Click to see the Blog):

George III George IV Georgiana Cavendish
William IV Lady Hester Stanhope Lady Caroline Lamb
Princess Charlotte Queen Charlotte Charles James Fox
Queen Adelaide Dorothea Jordan Jane Austen
Maria Fitzherbert Lord Byron John Keats
Princess Caroline Percy Bysshe Shelley Cassandra Austen
Edmund Kean Thomas Clarkson Sir John Moore
John Burgoyne William Wilberforce Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Sarah Siddons Josiah Wedgwood Emma Hamilton
Hannah More John Phillip Kemble John Jervis, Earl St. Vincent
Ann Hatton Stephen Kemble Mary Robinson
Harriet Mellon Zachary Macaulay George Elphinstone
Thomas Babington George Romney Mary Moser
Ozias Humphry William Hayley Daniel Mendoza
Edward Pellew Angelica Kauffman Sir William Hamilton
David Garrick Pownoll Bastard Pellew Charles Arbuthnot
William Upcott William Huskisson Dominic Serres
Sir George Barlow Scrope Davies Charles Francis Greville
George Stubbs Fanny Kemble Thomas Warton
William Mason Thomas Troubridge Charles Stanhope
Robert Fulke Greville Gentleman John Jackson Ann Radcliffe
Edward ‘Golden Ball’ Hughes John Opie Adam Walker
John Ireland Henry Pierrepoint Robert Stephenson
Mary Shelley Sir Joshua Reynolds Francis Place
Richard Harding Evans Lord Thomas Foley


There will be many other notables coming, a full and changing list can be found here on the blog as I keep adding to it. The list so far is:

John Horne Tooke

William Godwin

James Mill

Robert Owen

Jeremy Bentham

Joseph Hume

John Stuart Mill

Thomas Cochrane

James Paull

John Gale Jones

Claire Clairmont

William Lovett

Fanny Imlay

William Godwin

Mary Wollstonecraft

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot

Harriet Fane Arbuthnot

Joseph Antonio Emidy
James Edwards (Bookseller)
William Gifford
John Wolcot (Peter Pindar)
Amelia Opie
Sir Joseph Banks
Richard Porson
Eva Marie Veigel
Edward Gibbon
James Smithson
William Cowper
Richard Cumberland
Richard Cosway
Jacob Phillipp Hackert
Maria Foote
Sir George Warren
John Thomas Serres
Wellington (the Military man)
Horatio Nelson
William Vincent
Cuthbert Collingwood
Admiral Sir Graham Moore
Admiral Sir William Sydney Smith
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
Howe
Viscount Hood
Thomas Hope
Colin Mccaulay
Baroness de Calabrella
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Napoleon Bonaparte
Packenham
Admiral Israel Pellew
General Banastre Tarleton
Henry Paget
Francis Leggatt Chantrey
Stapleton Cotton
Sir Charles Grey
Thomas Picton
Constable
Thomas Lawrence
James Northcote
Cruikshank
Thomas Gainsborough
James Gillray
George Stubbs
Joseph Priestley
William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk 9th Duke of St. Albans
Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland
Horace Walpole
John Thomas ‘Antiquity’ Smith
Thomas Coutts
Angela Burdett-Coutts
Rowlandson
William Blake
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Sir Marc Brunel
Marquis of Stafford George Leveson-Gower
George Stephenson
Nicholas Wood
George Parker Bidder
Edward Pease
Thomas Telford
Joseph Locke
Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy
Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton
Henry Herbert Southey
John Nash
Matthew Gregory Lewis
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thomas Hope
William Beechey
Henry Holland
Sir Walter Scott
Lord Elgin
Henry Moyes
Jeffery Wyatville
Hester Thrale
William Windham
Madame de Stael
James Boswell
Edward Eliot
George Combe
William Harrison Ainsworth
Sir Harry Smith
Thomas Cochrane
Warren Hastings
Edmund Burke
Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond
Juana Maria de Los Dolores de Leon (Lady Smith)
Duke of Argyll, George William Campbell (1766-1839)
Lord Barrymore, Richard Barry (1769-1794)
Lord Bedford, Francis Russell (1765-1802)
Mr. G. Dawson Damer (1788-1856)
Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish (1748-1811)
Colonel George Hanger (c.1751-1824)
Lord Hertford, Francis Seymour-Ingram (1743-1822)
Lord Yarmouth, Francis Charles Seymour-Ingram (1777-1842)
Earl of Jersey, George Bussey Villiers (1735-1805)
Sir John , John Lade (1759-1838)
Duke of Norfolk, Charles Howard (1746-1815)
Duke of York , Frederick Augustus Hanover (1763-1827)
Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1785 as Duc d’ Orleans (1747-1793)
Louis Philippe, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1793 as Duc d’ Orleans (1773-1850)
Captain John (Jack) Willett Payne (1752-1803)
Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas (1724-1810)
Duke of Rutland, John Henry Manners(1778-1857)
Lord Sefton, William Philip Molyneux (1772-1838)
Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (1759-1801)
Sir Lumley St. George Skeffington Baronet (1771 – 1850)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1766-1835)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1792-1853)
Hon. Frederick Gerald aka “Poodle” Byng

The Dandy Club
        Beau Brummell
        William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley
        Henry Mildmay

Patronesses of Almacks
        Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper
        Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh
        Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey
        Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton
        Mrs. Drummond Burrell
        Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador
        Countess Esterhazy, wife of the Austrian Ambassador

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