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Curious Characters: Marquess of Granby

Lieutenant-General John Manners, Marquess of Granby PC (2 January 1721 – 18 October 1770) was a British soldier and the eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland. As he did not outlive his father and inherit the dukedom, he was known by his father’s subsidiary title, Marquess of Granby. Granby served in the Seven Years’ War as overall commander of the British troops on the battlefield and was subsequently rewarded with the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. He was popular with his troops and many public houses are still named after him today.

Granby was one of the first who understood the importance of welfare and morale for the troops. The character of British soldiering improved, and properly led the army was unbeatable in war. Nearly all the portraits show him mounting a horse, or helping the wounded. On 7 June 1760 he wrote to Viscount Barrington, Secretary at War, receiving a reply ten days later making enquiries as to the Hospital Board accommodation for his wounded men.

Granby’s tactical skill commanding the allied cavalry required courage, control and communication, also bringing Horse artillery to bear. The victory at the Battle of Warburg in July 1760 of an army three times the size distinguished his generalship, and marked the man as a genuine British military hero. His opponent, the duc de Broglie, was so impressed that he commissioned a portrait of Granby by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

He is probably best known today for being popularly supposed to have more pubs named after him than any other person – due, it is said, to his practice of setting up old soldiers of his regiment as publicans when they were too old to serve any longer.

The Marquis of Granby, Waddingham

An incident between an aging Granby and Frances Hayman, the famous theatre set-designer and painter at Vauxhall Gardens, appeared in The Vauxhall Papers in 1841.

Sadly, after his military and political career ended, Granby suffered from financial problems. A close family friend wrote this after learning of his death:

“You are no stranger to the spirit of procrastination. The noblest mind that ever existed, the amiable man whom we lament was not free from it. This temper plunged him into difficulties, debts and distresses; and I have lived to see the first heir of a subject in the Kingdom have a miserable shifting life, attended by a levee of duns, and at last die broken-hearted.”

Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Rutland dukedom

Jacqueline Reiter: The Late Lord: The life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

An 18th century courtship:

The 2nd Earl of Chatham

and

Mary Elizabeth Townshend

Thank you for the opportunity to write for your blog, Susana. I’m not an author of historical romance (my latest book is straight-up non-fiction), but that doesn’t mean there’s no romance in what I write. Human nature hasn’t changed much in two hundred years. The late Georgian/Regency aristocracy undoubtedly had its fair share of rakes, adulterers and unfaithful lovers, but there were exceptions, and the subject of my biography was one of them.

One of the reasons I was attracted to write about John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham is that he was so refreshingly human. He was closely related to two prime ministers – his father was William Pitt the Elder, and his brother was William Pitt the Younger, both of whom were massive over-achievers, but John was the family black sheep. Everyone expected great things of him, but he never managed to match the greatness of his immediate relatives. On the contrary, he managed to become infamous after he commanded the British expedition to Walcheren in 1809. It was a huge disaster, partly because more than a quarter of the British army came down with malaria.

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John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, ca 1779. Detail from John Singleton Copley, ‘The Death of the Earl of Chatham’.

John was a complex character, a product of his parentage and of his times. One thing, however, made him very accessible to me: his love for his wife. John’s marriage lasted thirty-eight years and was childless, but he and his wife were unusually close for aristocrats of the times. They went through some very hard times, but what I want to talk about here is their courtship, which was wonderfully bashful and bumbling.

Mary Elizabeth Townshend, the object of John’s affections, was born in September 1762. She was the second daughter of Thomas Townshend, later Lord Sydney (after whom the city in Australia was named), who was an old friend and political acolyte of Pitt the Elder. Townshend’s estate was very close to Pitt the Elder’s, and the Pitt and Townshend children grew up close.

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Mary Elizabeth Townshend, Countess of Chatham, possibly by Edmund Miles

By the time John was twenty-two, his friendship with Mary had deepened. Between June 1778 and March 1779 he was away pursuing his military career in Gibraltar, but the British ambassador to Spain noticed the young man’s heart belonged to another. ‘I would not swear that he is not in possession of a most precious jewel,’ the ambassador told his brother, who later met John in England at Thomas Townshend’s house and worked out what was going on: ‘If he [John] has a mind to set that jewel which you suppose him possessed of very beautifully, he might consult Miss Mary Townshend.’

John and Mary had fallen in love, but Mary was only sixteen and John was in any case too bound up in his military career. He was sent off to the West Indies in early 1780 and was not able to guarantee his long-term presence in England until he transferred to a London-based regiment in 1782. At this point he began to press his suit more vigorously, and by June 1782 John’s brother William informed their mother of ‘a match of which the world here is certain, but of which [John] assures me he knows nothing, between himself and the beauty in Albemarle Street’ – Albemarle Street being Thomas Townshend’s London residence.

But John was a typical boy, and it turned out he wasn’t quite ready to commit just yet. (He was enjoying bachelorhood far too much, going to see the horse racing in Newmarket, hunting with his great friend the 4th Duke of Rutland, and sitting up late at White’s and Brooks’s to gamble at cards.) Whenever anyone questioned him about his forthcoming marriage, he dismissed the rumours with dry sarcasm as ‘stock jobbing reports’.

By May 1783, however, John himself had begun to believe in his own love-story. On the first of the month he took his sister Harriot on a carriage ride to his country seat, Hayes Place. Harriot wrote to their mother that the family home was ‘just now in glory, and I think my brother enjoyed very much contemplating his pretty place and thinking of the pretty lady he means to give it.’

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Hayes Place, Kent

A few days later Harriot reported excitedly that John and Mary had been so publicly ‘amicable’ at a ball that she was ‘really disappointed when I found the matter was not settled there.’

It was at this point that John decided to show his colours as a man with all the gumption and emotional intelligence of a thirteen-year-old. Soldier he might be, but he simply couldn’t muster the courage to pop the question. He accepted an invitation from the Townshends to accompany the family on a weekend away, where, as Harriot pointed out meaningfully, he was purposefully provided with ‘opportunities’ to declare his feelings. Did he propose? Did he heck. He ‘had only very near[ly] done it once.’

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Lady Harriot Pitt, John’s sister, by an unknown artist

Perhaps it was a romcom situation, in which the critical moment was interrupted by a family member, or a sudden crisis, or an explosion, or something like that. (Most likely John just bottled out: ‘Mary?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘……… Could you please pass the salt?’)

Either way, a week after Harriot had been eagerly anticipating her brother’s proposal, nothing had happened and the bride-to-be was getting ‘not a little fidgetty’. Even John’s brother William, who famously had no time for romance, could see that it was ‘full time’ the courtship ‘should end. I rather home it will be happily completed very soon, though it has lasted so long already that it may still last longer than seems likely.’

But by the end of May John still hadn’t proposed. He was getting very frustrated with his family, who were very close to beating him over the head with the nearest convenient blunt instrument if he didn’t make up his mind. ‘My brother and I have been beating over the same ground again,’ Harriot grumbled. ‘… I think in this sort of way all sides may be likely to get frampy.’ No idea where frampy came from (it’s not an 18th century word I recognise), but its meaning was clear.

And yet another two weeks passed in this way before John finally screwed up the courage and proposed on 5 June. Despite Harriot’s fears that she would be too fed up to accept, Mary accepted on the spot.

The marriage licence was applied for, and on 5 July 1783 John, his bride and his future father-in-law put their pens to a ten-page vellum marriage settlement bestowing a dowry on Mary of £5000, partly out of family funds and partly out of West India stocks.

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John and Mary’s marriage settlement, Bromley Archives Marsham Townshend MSS 1080/3/1/1/26

The marriage itself took place in Mary’s father’s Albemarle Street house on 10 July 1783. Mary was given away by her father, whose permission had been required to secure the marriage licence, as she was still only twenty and therefore considered a legal minor. (The marriage licence described her as ‘an infant under the age of twenty-one years’, which made it sound a bit like John was a cradle-snatcher.)

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John and Mary’s crests, from a family pedigree (private collection)

‘The person that constitutes the happiness I so truly feel, is Miss Mary Townshend,’ John wrote delightedly to an old family friend shortly before the marriage. ‘… How much reason on every account I have to be so, I flatter myself all who know her will readily allow.’

Mary’s reaction is not recorded, but she must have been equally relieved.

Book Depository

References

Letters between Lord Grantham and Frederick Robinson, 1779, Bedfordshire Archves Wrest Park (Lucas) MSS L30/15/54/139 and L30/14/333/211.

Letters of Lady Harriot Pitt, John Rylands Library, University of Manchester GB 133 Eng MS 1272, ff. 32-45.

Bromley Archives, Marsham-Townshend MSS 1080/3/1/1/26.

Pitt Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Duke University, USA.

Earl Stanhope, Life of Pitt, 4 vols. (London, 1861).

About the Author

Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at www.thelatelord.com and you can follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/latelordchatham) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/latelordchatham). Her first book, The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.

Susana’s Adventures in England: Hanbury Hall

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Hanbury Hall and the Vernon Family

Originally built by the wealthy chancery lawyer Thomas Vernon, in the early 18th century, Hanbury Hall was the home of the Vernon family for nearly 250 years before it passed into the hands of the National Trust. Hanbury is the first of the National Trust’s properties in the West Midlands to have received a “green” make-over. Today, services such as electricity and water are brought in, but the goal is for the property to be as self-sufficient as possible, much as estates were meant to do in years past, producing meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables for their households.

The Family

thomas-vernonThomas Vernon and his wife Mary inherited the property near Hanbury from a bachelor uncle, but it was Thomas who was responsible for acquiring the lion’s share of the 8,000 acres he left to his cousin’s son, Bowalter. Unfortunately, Bowater turned out to be a spendthrift who managed to go through much of the fortune acquired by his predecessor.

Bowater’s granddaughter Emma wed Henry Cecil, heir to the 9th Earl of Exeter, and they moved into Hanbury Hall. Unfortunately, Emma fell in love with the local church curate. When Emma confessed all to her husband, he persuaded her to break things off with the curate. But instead she ran off and escaped with her lover to Lisbon, where they were married following a scandalous divorce. Her second husband died soon, however, and Emma returned, later marrying a local lawyer.

Her humiliated first husband abandoned the place for Shropshire, posing as a gentleman farmer and marrying a farmer’s daughter. Follow his death, she and her third husband managed to regain possession, but by that time, the house had been abandoned and needed extensive repairs. Following Emma’s death in 1818, Phillips remarried and had two daughters at Hanbury Hall before moving out in 1829.

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Probably the happiest inhabitants of Hanbury Hall were the Victorian Vernons, Sir Harry and Lady Georgina. Having never expected to inherit such wealth, they lived simply and happily, committed to each other and the local community.

British School; Sir Harry Foley Vernon (1834-1920), 1st Bt, MP; National Trust, Hanbury Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-harry-foley-vernon-18341920-1st-bt-mp-130493

Sir Harry Foley Vernon (1834-1920), 1st Bt, MP; National Trust, Hanbury Hall

Lady Georgina Sophia Baillie-Hamilton, Lady Vernon (1839-1928)

Lady Georgina Sophia Baillie-Hamilton, Lady Vernon (1839-1928)

The last Vernon, their son, Sir George, made an unhappy marriage and ended by committing suicide in 1940, thus ending the baronetcy. Eventually, the property came into the hands of the National Trust, who manages it to this day.

The House

Built of red brick, Hanbury Hall was built in the Queen Anne style, or a “William and Mary house.” Emma’s husband Henry Cecil remodeled it, creating larger rooms and enlarging the northeast pavilion, as well as landscaping the park in the style of the times. Growing up at Burghley House, he would have contact with the famous Capability Brown.

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The Sitting Room was once “My Lady’s Parlour” with an attached withdrawing room. The parlour was strategically placed between the formal garden and the service quarters so that Mrs. Vernon could both entertain her guests and oversee her servants. The withdrawing room was a more private place where she could socialize with her more particular friends.

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Staircase paintings by Sir James Thornhill

Staircase paintings by Sir James Thornhill

With a strongly architectural appearance, the Main Hall has an air of masculine antiquity. The cantilevered staircase with its huge wall paintings by Sir James Thornhill, rises directly from one end of the hall. The aim of the wall paintings was to represent the staircase as an open-air gallery, the ceiling removed to admit the tumbling crowd of classical gods and goddesses.

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The Smoking Room, set at the back of the house, was a convenient location for conducting the business of overseeing the estate. Paintings of the estate and one of Bowater Vernon hunting there line the walls.

Dining Room

Dining Room

The ceiling of the Dining Room is decorated with classical paintings by Sir James Thornhill, while portraits of the Vernons line the walls.

Sir James Thornhill,self-portrait

Sir James Thornhill, self-portrait

Sir James Thornhill (1665/6-1734) was the only British large-scale painter of his time. His most famous work was the cupola at St. Paul’s Cathedral (1716), but in 1705, he was still taking smaller commissions such as this one.

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The Drawing Room takes its name from the 18th century habit of the ladies “withdrawing” from the dining room, leaving the men to discuss business and personal matters over port and tobacco.

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The “flying tester” bed in the Blue Bedroom is remarkably well-preserved. The worsted damask hangings date from the 1770s and have kept much of their original color since they have not been exposed to much ultraviolet light.

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The Gothick Corridors are named after the wallpaper. The Gothick style romanticized the history of Northern Europe and was inspired by wild nature, tending toward strong colors.

Cedar Bedroom (Lady Georgina’s)

The Cedar Bedroom was Lady Georgina’s bedroom. She was married to Sir Harry Vernon in 1861 (although the baronetcy came along later).

The governess's bedroom

The governess’s bedroom

The Nursery is displayed as the Victorian Vernon children would have known it. The Day Room was a room for the governess, away from the children.

Hercules Bedroom

Hercules Bedroom

The Hercules Bedroom and Dressing-Room still appear as they must have in the 18th century. The windows have a superb view of the gardens. The Hercules Dressing-Room has a corner chimneypiece topped with a figure of Hercules.

Long Gallery

Long Gallery

The Long Gallery is actually found in a separate building, probably because it was once attached to an earlier building on the site. In Thomas Vernon’s time, it was a gentleman’s study. By Bowater Vernon’s time, it had become a picture gallery.

The Formal Gardens include the Sunken Parterre, the Fruit Garden, the Wilderness, the Grove, the Orangery, and the Bowling Green.

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Parterre Garden

In order to sustain a house like Hanbury, there had to be large areas given over to the serious production of food. “Snobs” Tunnel” led from the Walled Garden to the house, preventing the gardeners from being seen by the family when delivering produce. Behind the “polite” garden building of the Orangery lies the Mushroom House. The Victorian slate beds are still used to produce mushrooms today, as well as forcing rhubarb. There is also a 1750s Ice House, filled by ice gathered from a shallow ‘freezing pool’ on winter nights. An orchard has been largely replanted with over 136 apple trees. Beehives and chickens have also been introduced in the Walled Garden and Orchard.

Within the Park there is a wealth of archaeology from the Iron Age onwards. Traces of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation still exist, and to the south lie the remains of the vanished medieval village of Moreweysend.

Hanbury Hall and Garden, the National Trust, ©2010

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With thanks to Heather King for being so kind as to drive Cora Lee and me to visit Hanbury Hall, along with Roxy the Quadralingual Dog!

More photos of Hanbury Hall on my Pinterest board.

Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

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Samuel Rogers

From Wikipedia:

Samuel Rogers (30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855) was an English poet, during his lifetime one of the most celebrated, although his fame has long since been eclipsed by his Romantic colleagues and friends Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron. His recollections of these and other friends such as Charles James Fox are key sources for information about London artistic and literary life, with which he was intimate, and which he used his wealth to support. He made his money as a banker and was also a discriminating art collector.

John Timbs’s Reflections

A few days after the death of Mr. Rogers, in 1855, there appeared the following interesting record of him from the practised pen of Mr. Robert Carruthers, who long enjoyed the friendship of the distinguished poet and patron of artists and men of letters.

It is not our intention to speak of the poetry of Mr. Rogers. In noticing it some time since we characterised it generally as presenting a classic and graceful beauty; with no slovenly or obscure lines; with fine cabinet pictures of soft and mellow lustre, and occasionally with trains of thought and association that awaken or recall tender and heroic feelings. No that personal interest in a living poet is withdrawn, and kindness and respect towards him are of no avail, it may be questioned whether Rogers’s poetry will maintain any prominent place in our literature. He will always be esteemed one of the purest disciples of the old classic school of Pope and Dryden—and to turn to him from the mystic ravings, tortures, and Red Indian chants of some modern poets, is like emerging from the wards of an hospital to fresh air and sunshine; but he wants vital interest, passion and strength, for universal popularity. He had not what Gray terms the “golden keys” that can unlock the gates of joy or horror, or open the “sacred source of sympathetic tears.”

Charles James Fox

Charles James Fox

It is a man of taste and letters, as a patron of artists and authors, and as the friend of almost every illustrious man that has graced our annals for the last half century and more, that Mr. Rogers has of late years challenged public attention. He was a link between the days of Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds, and the present time. He had rambled over St. Anne’s Hill with Fox and Grattan. Sheridan addressed to him the last letter he ever wrote, begging for pecuniary assistance, that the blanket on which he was dying might not be torn from his bed by bailiffs; and Rogers answered the call with a remittance of 100 l. No man had so many books dedicated to him. Byron inscribed to him his “Giaour,” in token of “admiration of his genius, respect for his character, and gratitude for his friendship.” Moore was no less laudatory, and Moore owed substantial favours to the old poet. By his mediation his quarrel with Byron was adjusted, and when Moore fell into difficulties, the liberal hand of Rogers was opened. His benefactions in this way were almost of daily occurrence. “There is a happy and enviable poet!” said Thomas Campbell one day on leaving Rogers’s house; “he has some four or five thousand pounds a year, and he gives away fifteen hundred in charity.” And next to relieving the distress of authors and others, it was the delight of Mr. Rogers to reconcile differences and bring together men who might otherwise never meet. At his celebrated breakfast-parties persons of almost all classes and pursuits were found. He made the morning meal famous as a literary rallying point; and during the London season there was scarcely a day in which from four to six persons were not assembled at the hospitable board in St. James’s Place. There discussion as to books or pictures, anecdotes of the great of old, some racy sayings of Sheridan, Erskine, or Horne Tooke, some apt quotation or fine passage read aloud, some incident of foreign travel recounted all flowed on without restraint, and charmed the hours till mid-day. Byron has described the scene of these meetings:—

george_gordon_byron_6th_baron_byron_by_richard_westall_2“Rogers is silent, and it is said, severe. When he does talk, he talks well; and, on all subjects of taste, his delicacy of expression is pure as his poetry. If you enter his house, his drawing-room, his library, you of yourself say, this is not the dwelling of a common mind. There is not a gem, a coin, a book thrown aside on his chimney-piece, his sofa, his table, that does not bespeak an almost fastidious elegance in the possessor. But this very delicacy must be the misery of his existence. Oh, the jarrings his disposition must have encountered through life!”

Byron’s sensitiveness coloured all he saw with his own feeling. There was none of this misery resulting from Rogers’s taste. He enjoyed life—had money, fame, honour, love, and troops of friends. His recipe for long life was “temperance, the bath, flesh-brush, and don’t fret.” But his house was really a magazine of marvels—the saloon of the Muses!—and its opening view on the garden and lawn of the Green Park in itself a picture. Paintings by Titian, Guido, Rubens, Claude, Raphael, and English artists, covered the walls. Every school, Italian and Spanish, had the representative, and not the least prized were the native landscapes of Wilson and Gainsborough, and the “Strawberry Girl” and “Puck” of Sir Joshua Reynolds. In the hall were Greek sculptures, busts, and vases, with endless articles of virtu. The library had its rare and choice editions—a drawing by Raphael, an original bust of Pope by Roubiliac, antique gems and cameos, and many precious manuscripts. Two of these he lately presented to the British Museum—Milton’s agreement with his bookseller for the copyright of “Paradise Lost” (for which he gave a hundred guineas), and Dryden’s contract with his publisher, Jacob Tonson. The whole arrangement of these rooms bespoke consummate taste and carelessness of cost. The chimney-piece of the drawing-room was of Carrera marble, sculptured with bas-reliefs and miniature statues by Flaxman; and the panels of a small library displayed the “Seven Ages of Man,” painted by Stothard. To comprehend how so much was done by one less than a noble, we must recollect Rogers’s bank, his exquisite taste, and his long life. He had written Journals of Conversations with Fox, Erskine, Horne, Tooke, and the Duke of Wellington (some of which we have seen), and those can scarcely fail to be both interesting and valuable.

Puck by Joshua Reynolds

Puck, Joshua Reynolds

The Strawberry Girl, Joshua Reynolds

The Strawberry Girl, Joshua Reynolds

Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore

The severity of remark alluded to by Byron as characteristic of his friend, was displayed in a certain quaint shrewdness and sarcasm with which his conversation abounded, though rarely taking an offensive form. He could pay compliments as pointed as his sarcasm. Moore has recorded the pleasure he derived from one of Rogers’s remarks—”What a lucky fellow you are! Surely you must have been born with a rose on your lips and a nightingale singing on the top of your bed.” These and many other sayings, pleasant and severe, will now be remembered. But higher associations, even apart from his genius, will be associated with the name of Samuel Rogers. His generosity and taste—his readiness to oblige and serve, or to encourage and reward the humblest labourer in the literary vineyard—his devotion to all intellectual and liberal pursuits—the jealousy with which he guarded the dignity and rights of literature—the example of a straight path and spotless life extended to more than ninety-two years; these are honours and distinctions which will “gather round his tomb,” and outlast his monument.

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Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

Journal of a Georgian Gentleman

The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman:

The Life and Times of Richard Hall, 1729-1801

by Mike Rendell

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https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Georgian-Gentleman-Richard-1729-1801-ebook/dp/B00A3EY1TO

Treasures from the Past

Have you ever wished you could find a trunk somewhere that is full of diaries and papers and mementos from one of your ancestors? Remnants from the past that give you a glimpse of the person, and not just the name and dates generally found in family Bibles or ancestry.com?

Sadly, most of my ancestors weren’t the sort to write things down, so when they disappeared from the earth, most of their life experiences disappeared with them. One exception was my great-grandfather, Jess Sherry. An educator who valued words, he left a legacy of writings that are in many ways as apropos today as they were a hundred years ago.

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A silhouette of Richard Hall, made by his daughter Martha.

Preface

In his lifetime Richard kept copious notebooks, diaries and journals as well as everyday ephemera of the time—newspaper cuttings, admission tickets, catalogues and so on. Apart from a dozen contemporaneously written diaries which are still extant, Richard completed numerous retrospective accounts of events which had influenced his life. These were often interspersed with details about the weather, the price of bread, recipes for making wine, inventories of his assets, and so forth. Separately he also maintained little notebooks on favoured topics—‘Observables’ (referring to what he had seen and noted, e.g. eclipses, earthquakes, violent storms and other natural phenomena), ‘Fossils’ (which he took to mean anything dug out of the ground) and ‘Receipts’ (i.e., recipes, which included medicines rather than just meals). He left behind his collection of coins, shells and fossils. He was also, from the 1750’s onwards, an avid collector of books, many of them bought from local booksellers.

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Richard often wrote his thoughts and ideas—as well as copied out sermons—in manuscript books, which were then bound up. Many remain. A fastidious record-keeper, at the end of each year he would set out a list of the books which he had read—and most of these lists survive, too. Together these collections give a fascinating insight into the man and his times. Many of the items were stored in Richard’s horse-hair trunk. One of the restrospective journals is entitled ‘Family and Personal Recollections’. It begins:

I have frequently thought of writing a little history of my life interspersed with as much information as I could collect from letters and memorandum in my possession, of my family connexions. No very striking incidents, I am fully aware will be presented. Still I trust it may be attended with benefit in awakening feelings of deep humility and a lively gratitude in my own mind whilst it will afford an outline of a family history to my children they could not otherwise obtain.

What follows is a story of the life of Richard Hall—my great-great-great-great grandfather. It is based on what Richard himself wrote and collected—with some additional material from his son, who maintained the family tradition of retrospective musing and diary-keeping, and from his brother-in-law William, whose three surviving diaries give a fascinating counterpart to what was happening in the Hall family in the middle part of the eighteenth century. To this family source material has been added background information—to give a fuller picture of Richard’s life and times.

Richard’s Story

Richard’s grandfather Thomas, a gentleman farmer, managed to survive “the end of the English Civil War—the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, the Restoration of Charles II, the upheavals of the reign of James II, the accession of William of Orange and the start of the Hanoverian dynasty.” But also, he was financially ruined by the notorious South Sea Bubble (see blog post here). The end result was that Thomas’s son Francis had to go to London to find work, as many did in that situation. Francis got an apprenticeship with a hosier, which, as the author puts it, was “quite a step down for a young man brought up as the son of a ‘gentleman farmer’.

An only child, Richard was brought up on Red Lion Street in Southwark. What was it like for him growing up in that rather unsavory neighborhood? Rendell sets that scene for us, using historical data that is pure gold for a historical author who might be seeking a background for a character who was in trade during that period.

How were babies treated? Words pronounced? What would Richard have learned in school? What did they eat? How did they cook? What was the postal system like? The roads? Was it necessary to have a passport to travel abroad? How much did Richard weigh? How much did things cost? Where did he go for entertainment and what curiosities garnered his interest? What did men and women wear?

In 1766, Richard, aiming for a more fashionable clientele, signed a contract to build a shop on London Bridge (“the corner London Thames Street, London Bridge). With this move, now he was able to offer fabrics as well as silk stockings. He took out fire insurance. Eventually, he took on his own son as apprentice. And his life continued, well-documented—through 1801. Even better, his descendants had the good sense not to destroy the remnants that he left.

school expenses

Do you have an ancestor who left journals or writings behind to document his/her life? What sort of plans do you have to document your own life for your descendants?

About the Author

Mike RendellBorn in Bristol, England, Mike Rendell read Law at Southampton University. After graduation he joined a Bristol law firm where he was to launch the UK s first 24/7 residential property transfer service. He contributed regular articles on property matters to legal journals and wrote a weekly legal advice column in the local press. He retired in 2003 and now lives with his wife Philippa, sometimes on the edge of Dartmoor in the South West of England, and sometimes in Spain, where he tends his garden of olives, pomegranates and citrus fruits. He has two children from a former marriage. He is currently working on a novel set in Georgian England as well as on a book to be published by Pen & Sword entitled “Sex, Scandal and Satire – in bed with the Georgians” – due out 2015/6.

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Susanna Craig: To Kiss a Thief (Giveaway)

A Place in Time

When you turn the last page and close the book, what sticks with you? An intriguing character? A shocking plot twist?

What about the setting?

I’m a firm believer that historical romance should capture a place in time, or else it’s not really historical romance. Whether it’s Victorian London or Tang Dynasty China, a story’s setting, when done well, shapes everything the characters—and readers—experience.

For my Runaway Desires series, I chose the late Georgian period, specifically the 1790s, because I knew that tumultuous decade would offer plenty of built-in tension and conflict, including political and economic uncertainties, war, and the fight to end slavery. It’s a slightly edgier cousin of the much-beloved Regency period. It’s also when Jane Austen’s first three novels were written (and arguably set).

In To Kiss a Thief, the first book in the series, the heroine, Sarah, is suspected of infidelity and involvement in the disappearance of a priceless sapphire necklace. Rather than face the scandal, she runs away. Three years later, her husband finds her on the northern coast of Devonshire and wonders why on earth Sarah had chosen such a place to hide away… She would almost certainly have been better able to disappear in London, where one could very nearly get away with anything under cover of anonymity. But in a fishing village of a few hundred souls, her arrival would have been remarked by all.

And it has. From the baker to the apothecary’s wife, everyone in Haverhythe has an opinion about Sarah. At heart, To Kiss a Thief is a small-town romance, and as my hero and heroine reconnect with one another, they are confronted and comforted by the members of this close-knit community.

Because I wanted the place and its people to leap off the page, I was determined to ground my fictional village in reality. I chose the general location of Britain’s West Country for its proximity to Bristol, where Sarah’s parents live. I wanted the temptation to go home to be always on her horizon—literally. Then, one evening, as I idly scanned that coastal region via Google Earth looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon Clovelly.

320px-Clovelly_-_Harbour02

Clovelly harbor

From its appearance in the Domesday Book to the present day, Clovelly has enjoyed a long and interesting history. The picturesque village of fewer than 500 people has been a popular tourist destination since the Victorian period, thanks in part to one of its most famous residents, novelist Charles Kingsley. It is privately owned, and has belonged to just three different families since the thirteenth century.

I made use of several of Clovelly’s distinctive elements in constructing the fictional Haverhythe. One is its unique geography. Built into a cliff overlooking the Bristol Channel, the village consists primarily of a single, cottage-lined street that descends some 400 feet to the water. In the harbor lies another striking feature: a massive stone quay, built in in the fourteenth century. Once the ships’ cargo has been offloaded, it is transported overland via sledges drawn by donkeys.

Clovelly main street

Clovelly, main street

In To Kiss a Thief, characters travel the steep main street of Haverhythe under the watchful eye of all the village. Gossip travels “up-along” and “down-along” more quickly than the donkeys. And several memorable moments for my hero and heroine take place on the quay that curls into the harbor.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Clovelly in person. But I’ve never visited the late eighteenth century, either. Like most writers of historical fiction, I find extensive research essential to crafting the best stories I can. I read about Clovelly’s history and geography, pored over the treasure trove of pictures online, and combined that information with my own experience of another coastal town, Tenby (Wales), to create my heroine’s perfectly imperfect hiding spot.

Travel, even in the pages of a book, makes us richer. Wherever your next reading adventure takes you, I hope you enjoy your visit!

What’s the most memorable setting of a book you’ve read? Or what’s your favorite real-life travel destination? One person will be chosen at random from the comments on this post to receive an e-book of To Kiss a Thief. The giveaway ends at midnight on August 21st.

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About To Kiss a Thief

TO KISS A THIEF low res copyIn the first book of a captivating new series set in Georgian England, a disgraced woman hides from her marriage—for better or worse…

Sarah Pevensey had hoped her arranged marriage to St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax, could become something more. But almost before it began, it ended in a scandal that shocked London society. Accused of being a jewel thief, Sarah fled to a small fishing village to rebuild her life.

The last time St. John saw his new wife, she was nestled in the lap of a soldier, disheveled, and no longer in possession of his family’s heirloom sapphire necklace. Now, three years later, he has located Sarah and is determined she pay for her crimes. But the woman he finds is far from what he expected. Humble and hardworking, Sarah has nothing to hide from her husband—or so it appears. Yet as he attempts to woo her to uncover her secrets, St. John soon realizes that if he’s not careful, she’ll steal his heart…

Excerpt

About the Author

IMG_8280_2 copyA love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat.

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Romance of London: Voltaire in London

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

Voltaire in London

François-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, 1724-5

François-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, 1724-5

Voltaire lodged at the sign of the White Peruke, a fashionable French perruquier’s, in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. In Swift’s Works (vol. xx of the duodecimo edition, p. 294), there is a letter to him, in English, by Voltaire, and dated from this house. The English seems a little too perfect. There is another following it which looks more authentic. But there is no doubt that Voltaire, while in England, made himself such a master of the language, as to be able to write in it with singular correctness for a foreigner. He was then young. He had been imprisoned in the Bastile for a libel; came over here, on his release; procured many subscriptions for the “Henriade;” published in English “An Essay on Epic Poetry,” and remained some years, during which he became acquainted with the principal men of letters—Pope, Congreve, and Young. He is said to have talked so indecently at Pope’s table (probably no more than was thought decent by the belles in France), that the good old lady, the poet’s mother was obliged to retire. Objecting, at Lord Chesterfield’s table, to the allegories of Milton, Young is said to have accosted him in the well-known couplet:—

Thou art so witty, profligate, and thin,

Thou seem’st a Milton, with his Death and Sin.

But this story has been doubted. Voltaire left England with such a mass of subscriptions for his Henriade as laid the foundation of his fortunes, and with great admiration of English talent and genius, particularly that of Newton and Locke, which, with all his insinuations against our poetry, he took warm pains to extend, and never gave up. He was fond to the last of showing he had not forgotten his English. Somebody telling him that Johnson had spoken well of his talents, he said, in English, “He is a clever fellow;” but the gentleman observing that the doctor did not think well of his religion, he added, “a superstitious dog.”

During his residence in Maiden Lane, there is a story of Voltaire’s having been beset, in one of his walks, by the people, who ridiculed him as a Frenchman. He got upon the steps of a door-way and harangued them in their own language in praise of English liberty and the nation; upon which, the story adds, they hailed him as a fine fellow, and carried him to his lodgings on their shoulders.—Leigh Hunt’s Town.

La Henriade

From Wikipedia:

323px-HenriadeVoltaire

La Henriade is an epic poem of 1723 written by the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire. According to Voltaire himself, the poem concerns and was written in honour of the life of Henry IV of France, and is a celebration of his life. The ostensible subject is the siege of Paris in 1589 by Henry III in consort with Henry of Navarre, soon to be Henry IV, but its themes are the twin evils of religious fanaticism and civil discord. It also concerns the political state of France. Voltaire aimed to be the French Virgil, outdoing the master by preserving Aristotelian unity of place—a property of classical tragedy rather than epic—”by keeping the human action confined between Paris and Ivry. It was first printed (under the title La Ligue) in 1723, and reprinted dozens of times within Voltaire’s lifetime.

Voltaire in Great Britain

From Wikipedia:

The Bastille, 1715

The Bastille, 1715

In early 1726, a young French nobleman, the chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, taunted Voltaire about his change of name, and Voltaire retorted that his name would be honoured while de Rohan would dishonour his. Infuriated, de Rohan arranged for Voltaire to be beaten up by thugs a few days later. Seeking compensation, redress, or revenge, Voltaire challenged de Rohan to a duel, but the aristocratic de Rohan family arranged for Voltaire to be arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille on 17 April 1726 without a trial or an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted. On 2 May, he was escorted from the Bastille to Calais, where he was to embark for Britain.

maiden-lane 061-plakette-5In England, Voltaire lived largely in Wandsworth with acquaintances including Everard Fawkener. From December 1727 to June 1728 he lodged at Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, now commemorated by a plaque, to be nearer to his British publisher. Voltaire circulated throughout English high society, meeting Alexander Pope, John Gay, Jonathan Swift, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and many other members of the nobility and royalty. Voltaire’s exile in Great Britain greatly influenced his thinking. He was intrigued by Britain’s constitutional monarchy in contrast to French absolutism, and by the country’s greater support of the freedoms of speech and religion. He was influenced by the writers of the age, and developed an interest in earlier English literature, especially the works of Shakespeare, still relatively unknown in continental Europe. Despite pointing out his deviations from neoclassical standards, Voltaire saw Shakespeare as an example that French writers might emulate, since French drama, despite being more polished, lacked on-stage action. Later, however, as Shakespeare’s influence began growing in France, Voltaire tried to set a contrary example with his own plays, decrying what he considered Shakespeare’s barbarities. Voltaire may have been present at the funeral of Isaac Newton and met Newton’s niece, Catherine Conduitt. In 1727 he published two essays in English, Upon the Civil Wars of France, Extracted from Curious Manuscripts, and Upon Epic Poetry of the European Nations, from Homer Down to Milton.

After two and a half years in exile, Voltaire returned to France, and after a few months living in Dieppe, the authorities permitted him to return to Paris. At a dinner, French mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine proposed buying up the lottery that was organized by the French government to pay off its debts, and Voltaire joined the consortium, earning perhaps a million livres. He invested the money cleverly and on this basis managed to convince the Court of Finances that he was of good conduct and so was able to take control of a capital inheritance from his father that had hitherto been tied up in trust. He was now indisputably rich.

Further success followed, in 1732, with his play Zaïre, which when published in 1733 carried a dedication to Fawkener that praised English liberty and commerce. At this time he published his views on British attitudes toward government, literature, religion and science in a collection of essays in letter form entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation (London, 1733). In 1734, they were published in French as Lettres philosophiques in Rouen. Because the publisher released the book without the approval of the royal censor and Voltaire regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, the French publication of Letters caused a huge scandal; the book was publicly burnt and banned, and Voltaire was forced again to flee Paris.

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse