Tag Archive | John Timbs

Romance of London: A London Recluse

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.

suttle-house-carlisle-cumbria

Suttle House, in Carlisle, Cumbria, belonged to a George Blamire and may have been the property George inherited from his mother Jane.

A London Recluse: Mr. George Blamire

Seclusion in a vast metropolis like London—that maelstrom of human affairs—is an anomalous state of existence, which is often set down by unthinking persons as madness; or at least, not sanity:

Thin partitions do their bounds divide.

Nevertheless, this phase of life has been enjoyed by persons of a reflective turn of mind, without being associated with selfishness, or caring nothing for the outside world, but loving,

through the loopholes of retreat

To peep at such a world: to see the stir

Of the great Babel, and not feel crowd.

In one of the fine houses of the Adelphi—No. 1, in Adam Street, the house in which lived Dr. Vicessimus Knox, the “British Essayist”—there died, in September 1863, a recluse of the better class, both as regards station and intellect, and whose sympathies were with the world, though he was, as it were, shut out from its stir. Such was Mr. George Blamire, son of Dr. Blamire, of Carlisle, a gentleman possessed of considerable property, and formerly a barrister. Mr. Blamire had, for nearly twenty years, lived in Adam Street, in almost total seclusion; no person, under any pretence whatever, being allowed to enter the three rooms in his occupation on the first floor. His meals were prepared by his housekeeper, and were left on a tray at the door of the ante-room and then taken in by the deceased; and although many times in a state of ill-health, he refused to have medical aid, but used to have sent in from a chemist’s a quantity of different medicines. All communications to him were received in the same way as his meals, and for more than twelve months he never left his house. He is stated to have been a person of considerable ability, and, although very eccentric in his habits, of perfectly sound mind, and capable of managing his property, which consisted among others of large estates in Cumberland and Cardiff. Death, in such seclusion, must have come with twofold awe. It appears that Mr. Blamire’s housekeeper went up, as usual, with his dinner, but received no reply at the door, and although she frequently called him, she did not again see him alive. In two days, becoming alarmed, she made a communication to the police, and the door was broken open. The floor of the ante-room was strewn with newspapers, writings, &c., chairs, table, and other articles of furniture. The left-hand room… presented even a more extraordinary appearance. At one end was a chimney-glass some twelve feet in height, covered with dust and cobwebs. The furniture, of very handsome description, was in an equally dusty state, while the dust lay on everything to nearly an inch in thickness. The floor was strewn with trunks, papers, and books of science and law of much value. There were also three large bags filled with new boots, several silver spoons lay upon the sideboards; and packages of candles, clothing, &c, were heaped up in the utmost of confusion. Near the doorway was a painting of the Crucifixion, about 12 ft. by 4 ft., said to be of great value. In the right-hand room, furniture, books, paintings, &c., were piled together in dirt and disorder. The deceased was found lying in decomposition, having no doubt been dead several days. He was dressed, but in a very dirty state, and by his side lay the remains of some food. There was neither bed nor bedding; the deceased is stated for twenty years to have slept in the same chair. In other parts of the room were scraps of bread, bottles of wine, and medicine. Upon a further search, 7l. 17s. in a bag, a gold and silver watch, twenty-six silver articles, and other valuables, were found; while upon the floor were scattered thirty keys. Dr. Alfred Harvey afterwards examined the body and made a post-mortem examination, from which it was shown that death had resulted from exhaustion, from low fever accelerated by neglect; the verdict returned by the coroner’s jury. The deceased was a bachelor, and had no near relatives; but he was said to have been very charitable and honourable.

jan_steen_dutch_-_the_satyr_and_the_peasant_family_-_google_art_project

Jan Steen: The Satyr and the Peasant Family, once in the possession of George Blamire, was believed to have been held by the Nazis in 1940 and now found at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Mr. Blamire’s estate was found to include a vault of very old wines, including some 1720 rum that was recorked in 1826 and was upwards of 144 years old when sold at Blamire’s death. The whole stock realized above 1,700l.

Longmont's Magazine, Vol. 16

Longman’s Magazine, Vol. 16

Susanna Blamire (1747–1794), an English poet, known as The Muse of Cumberland, was likely a relative. Her poems, collected in 1842, depicted Cumbrian life and manners.

220px-susanna_blamire_cambruzzi

 

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

 

Romance of London: Eccentricities of Lord Byron

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.

George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron

George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron

Eccentricities of Lord Byron

Mr. Rogers, in his Table Talk, writes:—”Neither [Thomas] Moore nor myself had ever seen Byron, when it was settled that he should dine at my house to meet Moore; nor was he known by sight to [Thomas] Campbell, who, happening to call upon me that morning, consented to join the party.  I thought it best that I alone should be in the drawing-room when Byron entered it; and Moore and Campbell accordingly withdrew. Soon after his arrival they returned, and I introduced them to him severally, naming then as Adam named the beasts. When we sat down to dinner, I asked Byron if he would take soup? ‘No; he never took soup.’—Would he take some fish? ‘No; he never took fish.’ Presently, I asked if he would eat some mutton? ‘No’ he never ate mutton.’—I then asked if he would take a glass of wine? ‘No; he never tasted wine.’—It was now necessary to inquire what he did eat and drink’ and the answer was,—’Nothing but hard biscuits and soda-water.’ Unfortunately, neither hard biscuits nor soda-water were at hand; and he dined upon potatoes bruised down on his plate and drenched with vinegar. My guests stayed till very late, discussing the merits of Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie. Some days after, meeting Hobhouse, I said to him, ‘How long will Lord Byron persevere in his present diet?’ He replied,—’Just as long as you continue to notice it.’ I did not then know what I now know to be a fact, that Byron, after leaving my house, had gone to a club in St. James’s Street and eaten a hearty meat supper… Byron had a prodigious facility of composition. He was fond of suppers, and used often to sup at my house and eat heartily (for he had then given up the hard biscuit and soda-water diet); after going home he would throw off sixty or eighty verses, which he would send to press next morning… In those days, at least, Byron had no readiness of reply in conversation. If you happened to let fall any observation which offended him, he would say nothing at the time, but the offence would lie rankling in his mind, and, perhaps, a fortnight after, he would suddenly come out with some very cutting remarks upon you, giving them as his deliberate opinions, the results of his experience of your character.”

Joanna Baillie, Scottish poet and dramatist

Joanna Baillie, Scottish poet and dramatist

 

Sir Walter Scott, Scottish historical novelist, poet, and playwright

Sir Walter Scott, Scottish historical novelist, poet, and playwright

 

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

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.

samuel_rogers_b1763npg

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.

fleshbrush

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

Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination

Why does anyone want to be a billionaire?

I’m not sure why the opening line of the passage below spoke to me. Perhaps because I am two days away from my annual migration south for the winter and I’m worried about leaving something essential that I will need. Not to mention the limits of the space in the car, which I also have to share with my parents’ stuff. But it has occurred to me periodically in my life that possessions are a burden, even though I cannot get myself to give enough of them away to relieve the burden.

In these moments, I find myself exceedingly grateful not to be a billionaire. Or in the case of the subject of today’s post—a millionaire. I can’t think of anyone who would want to kill me for my possessions, at least. It does happen, though, so perhaps Mr. Rothschild had good reason for his fears. In our time, I’m thinking of Bison Dele, former NBA player who was murdered for his money by his own brother. And the homeless Abraham Shakespeare who won the lottery, but ended up murdered by someone he trusted to help him manage his money. (Yes, I am addicted to the ID Discovery Channel.)

The Penalties of Avarice

Nathan Mayer Rothschild

Nathan Mayer Rothschild

Possession naturally brings apprehension as to the power of retaining it. There were periods in the career of Rothschild, the millionaire, when his gigantic capital seemed likely to be scattered to the four quarters of the globe. He had also other sources of apprehension. Threats of murder were not unfrequent. On one occasion he was waited on by a stranger, who informed him that a plot had been formed to take his life; that the loans which he had made Austria, and his connection with Governments adverse to the liberties of Europe, marked him for assassination; and that the mode by which he was to lose his life was arranged. But though Rothschild smiled outwardly at those and similar threats, they said who knew him best, that his mind was always troubled by these remembrances, and that they haunted him at moments when he would willingly have forgotten them. Occasionally his fears took a ludicrous form. Two tall moustachioed men were once shown into his counting-house. Mr. Rothschild bowed; the visitors bowed; and their hands wandered first in one pocket and then in another. To the anxious eye of the millionaire, they assumed the form of persons searching for deadly weapons. No time seemed allowed for thought; a ledger, without a moment’s warning, was hurled at the intruders; and in a paroxysm of fear he called for assistance to drive out two customers, who were only feeling in their pockets for letters of introduction. There is no doubt that he dreaded assassination greatly. “You must be a happy man, Mr. Rothschild,” said a gentleman who was sharing the hospitality of his splendid home, as he glanced at the superb apartments of the mansion. “Happy—I happy!” was the reply. “What! happy, when just as you are going to dine, you have a letter placed in your hand, saying, ‘If you do not send 500l I will blow your brains out?’ Happy—I happy!” And the fact that he frequently slept with loaded pistols by his side is an indirect evidence of a constant excitement on the subject.*

Gunnersbury House, near Acton (home of the Rothschild family)

Gunnersbury House, near Acton (home of the Rothschild family)

The late Nathan Meyer Rothschild was the most famous foreign exchange broker in London. “He never hesitated for a moment in fixing a rate, either as a drawer or purchaser of a foreign bill of exchange on any part of the world; and his memory was so retentive that, notwithstanding the multifarious transactions in which he was engaged on every foreign post-day on the Royal Exchange, he never took a note of them; but on his return to his office could dictate to his clerks the whole of the bargains he had made, with the various rates of exchange, and the names of the several parties with whom he had dealt, and the most perfect exactness.”

*Characters of the Stock Exchange

 

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

Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper

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.

article

What is a Crossing Sweeper?

From Wikipedia:

Crossing sweepers were a common sight on the streets of large cities during much of the 19th century. The predominance of horse-drawn vehicles—and the general uncleanliness of urban streets—entailed certain difficulties in crossing intersections. For example, the long dresses of many elite women might easily be soiled by horse droppings (among other forms of refuse). Crossing sweepers, by sweeping the pavement ahead of a person crossing the street and creating a path that was referred to as a “broom walk,” thus offered a service, particularly to the more affluent.

A-crossing-sweeper-clearing-the-street-for-a-fashionably-dressed-woman

A Remarkable Tale

The Rev. Samuel Bache, Minister of the New Meeting House, Birmingham, received the following very remarkable story from a venerable friend, one of the principal members of his congregation, some five-and-twenty years hence.

child sweeper

The late Mr. Simcox, of Harbourne, near Birmingham, who was largely engaged in the nail trade, in one of his visits to London, on business, was suddenly overtaken by a heavy shower of rain, from which he sought shelter under an archway: the rain continued for a long time with unabated violence, and he was, consequently, obliged to remain his place of shelter. He was soon agreeably surprised by a footman approaching with an umbrella, with his master’s compliments, and that he had observed the gentleman standing so long under the archway, that he feared he might take cold, and therefore would be glad if he would come and take shelter in his house—an invitation which Mr. Simcox gladly accepted. He was ushered into a drawing-room, where the master of the house was sitting, and he received from him a friendly welcome.

crossing+sweepers

Scarcely, however, had Mr. Simcox set eyes on his host, than he was struck with a vague remembrance of having seen him before; but where, or under what circumstances, he was altogether unable to call to mind. “You seem, sir,” said he, “to look at me as though you had seen me before.” Mr. Simcox acknowledged that his host was right in his conjectures, but confessed his entire inability to recall the occasion. “You are right, sir,” said the old gentleman; “and if you will pledge your word as a man of honour to keep my secret, and not to disclosed to anyone what I am now going to tell you until you have seen the notice of my death in the London papers, I have no objection to remind you where and how you have known me.”

In St. James’s Park, near Spring Gardens, you may pass every day an old man, who sweeps a crossing there, and whose begging is attended by this strange peculiarity—that whatever be the amount of the alms bestowed on him, he will retain only a halfpenny, and scrupulously return to the donor all the rest. Such an unusual proceeding naturally excites the curiosity of those who hear of it; and anyone who has himself made the experiment, when he happens to be walking by with a friend, is almost sure to say to him, ‘Do you see that old fellow there? He is the strangest beggar you ever saw in your life. If you give him sixpence, he will be sure to give you fivepence-halfpenny back again.’ Of course, his friend makes the experiment, which turns out as predicted; and as crowds of people are constantly passing, there are numbers of persons every day who make the same trial; and thus the old man gets many a halfpenny from the curiosity of the passers by, in addition to what he obtains from their compassion.”

“I, sir,” continued the old gentleman, “am that beggar. Many years ago, I first hit upon the expedient for the relief of my then pressing necessities; for I was at that time utterly destitute; but finding the scheme answer beyond my expectations, I was induced to carry it on until I had at last, and with the aid of profitable investment, realized a handsome fortune, enabling me to live in the comfort in which you find me this day. And now, sir, such is the force of habit, that, thought I am no longer under any necessity for continuing this plan, I find myself quite unable to give it up; and, accordingly, every morning I leave home, apparently for business purposes, and go to a room, where I put on my old beggar’s clothes, and continue sweeping my crossing in the park till a certain hour in the afternoon, when I go back to my room, resume my usual dress, and return home in time for dinner, as you see me this day.”

Mr. Simcox, as a gentleman and a man of honour, scrupulously fulfilled his pledge; but having seen in the London papers the announcement of the beggar’s death, he then communicated this strange story. The name of this eccentric person is not known; but the incidents are recollected by more than one narrator.

The crossing-sweeper nuisance.

Crossing-sweeping as a Career Choice?

Apparently some sweepers, even without gimmicks, made a good living from it.

The produce of a street crossing in London is sometimes considerable. At an inquest held on the body of a crossing sweeper, who had died suddenly, Mr. Wakley, the coroner, said that the sweeper of a crossing sold his interest in it for 40l. A juror observed that crosswings were freehold, by which many proprietors amassed, in former days, sums of 500l, 1,000l, 4,000l. Another juror alluded to the sweeper of the crossing at Bridge Street, Blackfriars, who bequeathed a large sum to Miss Waithman (daughter of the alderman) in gratitude for her benevolence in giving him his dinner every Sunday; and another gentleman said that the sweeper of a crossing near Hyde Park bequeathed 1,000l to a gentleman who was in the habit of giving him 6d whenever he passed his crossing.

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

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

Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities

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.

From Wikipedia:

512px-1stDukeOfNewcastleOld

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne and 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne KG PC (21 July 1693 – 17 November 1768) was a British Whig statesman, whose official life extended throughout the Whig supremacy of the 18th century. He is commonly known as the Duke of Newcastle.

A protégé of Sir Robert Walpole, he served under him for more than twenty years, until 1742. He held power with his brother, Henry Pelham (the Prime Minister of Great Britain), until 1754. He had at this point served as a Secretary of State continuously for thirty years—dominating British foreign policy.

Walpole gladly welcomed the young Newcastle into his coterie, firstly because he believed he could easily control him, and secondly because it would strengthen his hand against the rival Whig factions. Newcastle joined with Walpole because he, correctly, believed that he was going to dominate British politics for a generation.

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford

After Henry’s death the Duke held his late brother’s position for six years, in two separate periods. While his first premiership was not particularly notable, Newcastle precipitated the Seven Years’ War, which would cause his resignation from his high position. After his second term as Prime Minister, he served for a short while in Lord Rockingham’s ministry, before retiring from government. Few politicians in British history matched his skills and industry in using patronage to maintain power over long stretches of time. He was most effective, however, as a deputy to a leader of greater ability, such as Walpole, his brother, or Pitt.

Historian Harry Dickinson says that he became:

notorious for his fussiness and fretfulness, his petty jealousies, his reluctance to accept responsibility for his actions, and his inability to pursue any political objective to his own satisfaction or to the nations profit…. Many modern historians have depicted him as the epitome of unredeemed mediocrity and as a veritable buffoon in office.

The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole

There is scarcely any public man in our history of whose manners and conversation so many particulars have been preserved, as of the Duke of Newcastle, the well-known leader in the Pelham Administration under George II. Single stories may be unfounded or exaggerated. But all the stories about him, whether told by people who were perpetually seeing him in Parliament, and attending his levées in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, or by Grub Street writers who had never more than a glimpse of his star through the windows of his gilded coach, are of the same character. Horace Walpole and Smollett differed in their tastes and opinions as much as two human beings could differ. They quite different society. Walpole played at cards with countesses, and corresponded with ambassadors. Smollett passed his life surrounded by printers’ devils and famished scribblers. Yet, Walpole’s Duke and Smollett’s Duke are as like as if they were both from one hand. Smollett’s Newcastle runs out of his dressing-room, with his face covered with soap-suds, to embrace the Moorish envoy. Walpole’s Newcastle pushes his way into the Duke of Grafton’s sick-room to kiss the old nobleman’s plasters. No man was so unmercifully satirised. But in truth he was himself a satire ready made. All that the art of the satirist does for other men, nature had done for him. Whatever was absurd about him, stood out with grotesque prominence from the rest of the character. He was a living, moving, talkng caricature. His gait was a shuffling trot; his utterance a rapid stutter; he was always in a hurry; he was never in time; he abounded in fulsome caresses and hysterical tears. His oratory resembled that of Justice Shallow. It was nonsense effervescent with animal spirits and impertinence. Of his ignorance many anecdotes remain, some well authenticated, some probably invented at coffee-houses, but all exquisitely characteristic:—”Oh—yes—yes—to be sure—Annapolis must be defended—troops must be sent to Annapolis—Pray where is Annapolis?”—”Cape Breton an island! wonderful!—show it me in the map. So it is, sure enough. My dear sir, you always bring us good news. I must go and tell the King that Great Britain is an island.”

And this man was, during near thirty years, Secretary of State, and during near ten years, First Lord of the Treasury! His large fortune, his strong hereditary connections, his great parliamentary interest, will not alone explain this extraordinary fact. His success is a signal instance of what may be effected by a man who devotes his whole heart and soul, without reserve, to one object. He was eaten up by ambition. He was greedy after power with a greediness all his own. He was jealous of all his colleagues, and even of his own brother. Under the disguise of levity he was false eyond all example of political falsehood. All the able of men of his time ridiculed him as a dunce, a driveller, a child who never knew his own mind for an hour together; and he overreached them all round.—Lord Macaulay, on Walpole’s Letters.

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