Tag Archive | Sir Thomas Lawrence

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part II

In our last installment, Susana and Lady traveled by carriage to the Royal Vauxhall Gardens, bespoke a supper-box, chatted with a waiter, and partook of shaved ham “so thin you could see through it,” as well as other delicacies.

Ladies Retiring Room at Vauxhall

Ladies Retiring Room at Vauxhall

After our meal, Lady P excused herself to visit the “ladies’ retiring room.” Curiosity induced me to follow her to a large tent in a secluded area, where a young woman dressed in servant garb brightened at our approach. When Lady P shook her head slightly, the woman shrugged and looked hopefully behind us for another potential “client.” Her ladyship whispered to me that such women were there to collect tips for assisting ladies who had come without maids to help with their private needs.

Peering into the darkly-lit interior, I saw a half-dozen women seated on what appeared to be wooden seats similar to those scene in outhouses when I was a child (or the latrines at Girl Scout camp). The better-dressed ladies had maids attending to them, but I didn’t get a good glimpse because Her ladyship squeezed my shoulder and I could see by her tight jaw and raised eyebrows that it was not the thing to be staring in such a place.

Not being especially inclined to use such things as outhouses and porta-potties except in case of emergency—and I decided I could wait until I got home—I abandoned the tent and strolled about a hundred yards away until I had left the unpleasant smells behind. From my position, I had a good view of the dancing in front of the Orchestra. It was so amazing to see the vibrant colors of the ladies’ gowns—as well as the gentlemen’s waistcoats—and I could not help but marvel at the sight of the diversity of the dancers. A soberly-dressed gentleman in charcoal gray who was partnered with a woman in serviceable blue circled among an older, elegantly-dressed couple and an energetic young couple dressed in servant garb, and they all seemed to be having a good time. Among the bystanders I could see a gentleman looking through his quizzing-glasses at me, and fearing that he might be thinking of asking me to dance—Lady P would kill me, and in any case, I have two left feet and have never waltzed in my life—I backed a little further back into the hedges, and nearly trampled a little girl.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there, sweetheart. Are you all right?”

Print; Mezzotint engraving. Childhood: Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper, later Countess of Shaftesbury (1810-1872) after Sir Thomas Lawrence.Half length portrait of a child, a string of pearls round her neck. Unframed.

Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper, later Countess of Shaftesbury (1810-1872) after Sir Thomas Lawrence.Half length portrait of a child, a string of pearls round her neck. Unframed.

The child—about six or seven I thought—blinked rapidly after she had moved a safe distance away. Wavy dark hair curled around her childish round face, tied at the top with a pink ribbon. Dressed in white, her gown trimmed with pink bows, she didn’t have the appearance of a child who would be abandoned on her own in a place like Vauxhall.

Her eyes widened at the sound of my voice, and before she answered, she gave me a long glance from head to toe. My hands started to sweat, knowing that my gown—beautiful though it was—would not stand up to close scrutiny, created as it was from an unauthentic pattern and materials made with 21st century technology.

“You speak strangely,” she said. “You’re not from Hertfordshire, are you?”

“Uh no, I’m from America.”

She nodded as though her suspicions were confirmed. “That’s a great distance from here.”

“It is,” I agreed. “I came to visit my friend Lady Pendleton.”

She smiled. “I like her. She invited me to come to tea with Emily and Theodosia.”

Emily and Theodosia are two of Lady P’s grandchildren. [They appear in A Home for Helena.]

“I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them as yet.”

She tilted her head. “They live in Kent. Sometimes they come to London to visit their grandmother. I visit mine as well, but she is quite ill at present.” She crossed her arms in front of her. “She is an important lady, you know.”

“She is?” I was quite eager to know the identity of this child, but I had a feeling I shouldn’t be encouraging her to talk to strange people. And I know Lady P would have a fit. I gave a quick glance behind me in case she was approaching, but the coast was clear.

“Yes. And my mother as well. She is one of the patronesses of Almack’s.” She inclined her head toward me. “Have you attended there?”

Almack's Assembly Rooms

Almack’s Assembly Rooms

I smothered a laugh. Me? At Almack’s. Not likely. But then… who could have imagined I’d ever be at the Vauxhall from two hundred years ago?

“No, I’m afraid not.”

She smiled. “You do not have a voucher? Perhaps I can prevail upon my mother to get you one. You are a proper lady, are you not?”

Now that was a loaded question. I was pretty sure Lady Pendleton would not describe me thus, and I certainly didn’t feel like a Regency lady.

“I am quite certain Lady Pendleton would not invite me to her home otherwise,” I prevaricated. “I am Susana Ellis. I’m a novelist.”

almacks-voucher-stg_misc_box7-trimmed-to-voucher“You are?” she breathed. “Like Mrs. Edgeworth and Mrs. Burney?”

“More like Miss Austen,” I said before I could stop myself. I knew that Jane Austen had published her novels anonymously at first and wasn’t sure when her identity was finally revealed.

She wrinkled her brow. “Miss Austen?”

Fortunately, I was saved from responding by the sudden appearance of my time-traveling Regency friend.

“Dear Susana, I see you have found a friend.” There was a hint of irritation in her voice. “Lady Emily, have you accompanied your parents here this evening? I wonder why you have been left alone without your maid.”

Lady Pendleton’s voice was firm but kind as she viewed the little girl. Lady Emily fidgeted under her gaze. “I came with Mama and Lord Palmerston. Alice was too ill. I’m just here waiting while they finish the dance.”

Her ladyship shook her head. “I shall give your mama a talking-to when next I see her. Leaving her child unaccompanied indeed!”

Lady Emily flushed. “No! Please don’t do that! I am meant to be sitting with the Howard party.” She bobbed us a curtsey and made her adieux. “I must return in all haste.” She fled just as the music stopped.

I turned toward Lady P. “Is that—?”

lady-emily-cowper-by-sir-2

Lady Emily Cowper (1787 – 1769) by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The daughter of the famous Whig hostess, Elizabeth Lamb, Lady Melbourne, Emily was likely the result of her mother’s affair with Lord Egremont. Emily had plenty of extramarital affairs of her own, including a long one with Lord Palmerston, whom she married after the death of her husband.

“Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper,” confirmed my mentor. “The daughter of Lady Emily Cowper and the granddaughter of the Melbournes.”

I let that knowledge sink in. Then I giggled. “She offered to help me get a voucher to Almack’s!”

Her ladyship lifted an eyebrow. “Indeed. And what did you say to her to elicit such an offer?”

“Nothing!” I insisted. “All I said was that I am an American visiting you, and she told me she knew your granddaughters and asked me if I’d been to Almack’s…”

Lady P snorted. “Because she knew you hadn’t, of course.”

That stung a little, but I knew she was right. I’m not a proper Regency lady and never will be. I was there to observe—and that in itself was a rare privilege.

Maria Theresa Bland, née Romanzini (1769-1838) was a popular singer at Drury Lane and other venues. Sister-in-law to the actress Mrs. Jordan, she had two sons who were also musical. Her mezzo-soprano voice was idea for the singing of English ballads.

Maria Theresa Bland, née Romanzini (1769-1838) was a popular singer at Drury Lane and other venues. Sister-in-law to the actress Mrs. Jordan, she had two sons who were also musical. Her mezzo-soprano voice was ideal for the singing of English ballads.

Our conversation was interrupted with cheers and applause as a rotund little lady in a blue gown with a laced-up bodice and an enormous cap topped with colorful flowers that accentuated the roundness of her face, stepped up on the stage in front of the musicians, giving a deep bow at her introduction by the organist, Mr. James Hook. She—her name was Mrs. Bland—proceeded to sing a charming little song called “Pray Excuse Me,” that had everyone smiling and cheering for more. Her exquisite voice and cheerful vivacity more than made up for the incongruity of her appearance. Following that, she sang “Jesse o’ the Dee” and several other other songs until it was announced that the musicians would take a short respite while Mr. Hook entertained the crowd with his lively organ-playing. In spite of that, I noticed the audience starting to thin out, many heading in the same direction.

James Hook by Lemuel Francis Abbott

James Hook by Lemuel Francis Abbott

“Madame Saqui!” I breathed. Lady P nodded, and we set out to follow the crowd to the venue where the popular French tight-rope dancer would perform.

More next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

 

Lady P and Susana Visit Vauxhall Gardens, Part I

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part II

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part III

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part IV

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part V

Susana’s 2015 English Adventure: Week 2

Hatfield House

Hatfield House is a Jacobean manor built by Robert Cecil, the son of William Cecil, the most trusted advisor of Elizabeth I. Robert succeeded his father as Elizabeth’s advisor, eventually becoming an advisor of James I as well. Robert Cecil is the one who discovered the plot of Guy Fawkes and others to blow up the House of Lords. A later Cecil (James) was made Marquis of Salisbury, and the Salisburys still own and live at Hatfield House more than 500 years later.

Hatfield Palace, which stood nearby (of which only a banquet room remains) was where all of Henry VIII’s children (Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward) were raised. It was here where Elizabeth learned that she was queen after the death of her sister Mary.

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Elizabeth I

Photos of Hatfield House

Kenwood House

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, bought the house in 1754 and commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it, which he did from 1764-1779. The library is a masterpiece of Robert Adam genius, but the rest of the house is equally splendid. It is a pity that most of the original Adam-designed furniture was dispersed long ago, but a later owner, a Lord Iveagh, purchased the house in 1925 and displayed his fabulous collection of paintings there before leaving the house and its contents to the nation in 1927.

LIBRARY3

Lord Mansfield and his wife never had children of their own, but they did take in two young daughters of nephews: Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, who was a mixed-race daughter of an enslaved West Indian woman. Dido Belle was the subject of a recent film, Belle.

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Pictures of Kenwood House

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace needs no introduction from me. I scheduled my trip this year so that I could visit, since it’s only open to visitors when the Queen is on holiday in Scotland (August and September). No photographs allowed, so I pinned these from other people’s Pinterest boards.

Here’s Squidgeworth ready to enjoy a coffee and scone with me after the tour.

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Pictures of Buckingham Palace

Osterley Park

Built by Sir Thomas Gresham, financial advisor of Elizabeth I, Osterley Park was later purchased by Robert Child, a wealthy banker, who left it (and his entire fortune) to his granddaughter, Sarah Fane, who married George Villiers and became Lady Jersey (yes, Sally Jersey, one of the patronesses at Almack’s during the Regency period) a year later. But the house has been little used, as the Jerseys preferred spending their time at other properties. Here you will see not only the Robert Adam touches, but also nearly all of the original furniture, including the room where Adam worked and some of his drawings.

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Pictures of Osterley Park

Devizes & the Bear Hotel

BEARHOTEL

The Bear Inn was once owned by the father of a young Thomas Lawrence, who used to charm the clientele by reciting poetry and drawing likenesses. He was quite good, and was eventually knighted for his portrait painting. See my blog post here.

Pictures of Devizes

Bath

Squidgeworth and I had a very enjoyable two days in Bath, staying at the Brooks Guesthouse, where I stayed three years ago on my Rick Steves tour. Here I visited No. 1 Royal Crescent, the Jane Austen Centre, the Victoria Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum, the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum (second visit), and Sally Lunn’s.

Here’s Squidgeworth saying goodbye to Bath.

SquidgeBrooks

Pictures of Bath

The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

The following post is the fourth of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

dust jacket

The Bear Inn

bear inn old

The Bear Inn (or Hotel) in Devizes was a popular stopping-off point for travelers headed for Bath. According to Mr. Tristram, author of Coaching Days & Coaching Ways, the Bear Inn was known for its fine stables. After Bath became a popular retreat for the wealthy elite, the roads also became targets for highwaymen, and many travelers abandoned the normal routes to take the one through Devizes. At its peak, the Bear was taking in up to 30 coaches a day.

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Among its more prestigious guests were King George III and Queen Charlotte as well as the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. In 1817, Queen Charlotte wrote that she had had an “elegant repast” at the Bear and that the landlord had put at her disposal “10 pairs of horses as fine as any were put to harness.”

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Note: The Bear Hotel continues to be a hotel today. Rooms can be had for as little as 99 pounds. Click here for more information.

Miss Fanny Burney and Hester Thrale Make the Acquaintance of a Young Thomas Lawrence

Miss Fanny Burney

Miss Fanny Burney

In April of 1780, Miss Fanny Burney, who later became a famous novelist (Evelina was published anonymously in 1778), was traveling to Bath with her friend and patron, Hester Thrale. While waiting for supper, the pair sat down to cards, but were soon interrupted by the sound of a pianoforte. Following the music, they found the musician to be “a very handsome girl with fine dark hair upon a finely-formed forehead”. Another girl welcomed them and found them chairs, and it was then that the visitors discovered that the girls were the daughters of the hostess of the inn. “Oh, what a surprise!”

“But though these pretty girls struck us much,” she writes, “the wonder of the family was yet to be produced. This was their brother, a most lovely boy of ten years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of their family, but of the times, for his astonishing skill at drawing. They protest he has never had any instruction, yet showed us some of his productions, that were really beautiful.”

Apparently, the father of the future Sir Thomas Lawrence was making good use of his son’s talents. Tristram says that:

Instead of offering lame excuses when the roast had gone wrong, or saying that a bad bottle of claret was simply “sick from a journey,” this original in the way of a host, used to simply to introduce his son to the malcontents, and in a moment where there had been disgust there was wonder. At the simple talisman, “Gentlemen, here’s my son; will you have him recite from the poets or take your portraits?” the most confirmed bald-headed grumbler ceased his monotonous drone, and the storm in the coffee-room fell before the smile of the young genius.

The Rise To Fame Of Sir Thomas Lawrence

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

By the time the family moved to Bath soon after this encounter, young Thomas was supporting his family drawing portraits in pastel. Due to his talent, charm and good looks, Thomas became very popular about Bath society and was allowed to view private art collections. In 1787, at the age of not quite eighteen, he established a studio in London, settling his parents nearby. In 1788 he exhibited five portraits in pastel and one in oil. In 1789 he exhibited 13 portraits, mostly in oil, to critical acclaim. At age 20, he received his first royal commission, portraits of Queen Charlotte and Princess Amelia. After the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1792, George III appointed him “painter-in-ordinary-to-his-majesty.” In 1794, he became a full member of the Royal Academy. He went on to paint many portraits of the elite, as well as important figures in the war with Napoleon, and even the Pope. In 1815 he was knighted, and in 1820 he became President of the Royal Academy.

Sir Thomas and the Siddons Sisters

Sally Siddons

Sally Siddons

Maria Siddons

Maria Siddons

Thomas fell in love with Sally Siddons, one of the daughters of the famous actress, Sarah Siddons. But then he fell in love with her sister Maria. But then he decided to go back with Sally. (Imagine the turmoil in that household!) But neither of the girls was healthy. Before Maria died in 1798, she got her sister to promise not to marry him. Sally did not, refusing to see him for the five years before she herself passed away.

 

Lawrence never married. His companions in later life were Elizabeth Croft (half-sister of Sir Richard Croft, the accoucheur who apparently botched the delivery of Princess Charlotte’s son and who committed suicide soon after) and Isabella Wolff, separated from her husband and whose son Herman may have been Lawrence’s.

Plagued With Financial Problems

One might expect that, with all the commissions pouring in and his prolific work ethic, Lawrence should be a wealthy man. On the contrary, he was constantly in debt, to the point where he seemed to be always on the brink of bankruptcy and had to be rescued by his friends, dying insolvent. Nobody is quite sure why this was, except for an assumption that he was unable to keep good accounts, and perhaps he was too generous with family and friends. He himself wrote:

“I have never been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me.”

Legacy

The director of the National Portrait Gallery described Lawrence as “a huge figure. But a huge figure who we believe deserves a great deal more attention. He is one of the great painters of the last 250 years and one of the great stars of portraiture on a European stage.”

Queen_Charlotte_by_Sir_Thomas_Lawrence_1789

Queen Charlotte

George IV at his Coronation

George IV at his Coronation

Pinkie

Pinkie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Index to all the posts in this series

1: The Bath Road: The (True) Legend of the Berkshire Lady

2: The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

3: The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

4: The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

5: The Exeter Road: Flying Machines, Muddy Roads and Well-Mannered Highwaymen

6: The Exeter Road: A Foolish Coachman, a Dreadful Snowstorm and a Romance

7: The Exeter Road in 1823: A Myriad of Changes in Fifty Years

8: The Exeter Road: Basingstoke, Andover and Salisbury and the Events They Witnessed

9: The Exeter Road: The Weyhill Fair, Amesbury Abbey and the Extraordinary Duchess of Queensberry

10: The Exeter Road: Stonehenge, Dorchester and the Sad Story of the Monmouth Uprising

11: The Portsmouth Road: Royal Road or Road of Assassination?

12: The Brighton Road: “The Most Nearly Perfect, and Certainly the Most Fashionable of All”

13: The Dover Road: “Rich crowds of historical figures”

14: The Dover Road: Blackheath and Dartford

15: The Dover Road: Rochester and Charles Dickens

16: The Dover Road: William Clements, Gentleman Coachman

17: The York Road: Hadley Green, Barnet

18: The York Road: Enfield Chase and the Gunpowder Treason Plot

19: The York Road: The Stamford Regent Faces the Peril of a Flood

20: The York Road: The Inns at Stilton

21: The Holyhead Road: The Gunpowder Treason Plot

22: The Holyhead Road: Three Notable Coaching Accidents

23: The Holyhead Road: Old Lal the Legless Man and His Extraordinary Flying Machine

24: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part I)

25: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part II)

26: Flying Machines and Waggons and What It Was Like To Travel in Them

27: “A few words on Coaching Inns” and Conclusion

Hertford House and the Wallace Collection

One of my favorite activities is to visit beautiful, historic houses with lovely art and furnishings—even better if they are Georgian. In addition to the lovely rooms, there are so many captivating stories to remind me of the bygone era and the colorful personalities who used to live and/or socialize within them.

WallaceHouse

Hertford House is located on Manchester Square only blocks from the flat I’ve leased near Baker Street and quite close to the fabulous shops on Oxford Street as well. Because it’s small compared to other museums in London, it’s much less crowded and suitable for a leisurely visit. It is more of an art gallery than an example of a Georgian home, however, but if you enjoy both, you’re in luck!

Lady Hertford, 1800

Lady Hertford, 1800

The historical gossip that I wanted to know immediately if this home had anything to do with the Marchioness of Hertford who was a longtime mistress of the Prince Regent. Yes, indeed, Lady Hertford was the wife of the 2nd Marquess, but it was the 4th Marquess who left the house and the collection to his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, whose widow left it to the nation.

Seymour-Conway was the family name of the Hertfords (think Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife), and they were close connections to the Duke of Somerset.

Marguerite, Countess of Blessington

Marguerite, Countess of Blessington

The house is filled with beautiful rooms and art treasures, as well as an armory. In the very first salon is a lovely painting of the Countess of Blessington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (as beautiful as she appears, it is said that she was even more ravishing in person). The countess’s beauty literally took her from rags to riches, as she rose from a sea captain’s mistress to an earl’s wife, and eventually into a ménage à trois with a young Comte d’Orsay. Besides her beauty, she was quite intelligent and held glittering salons for the crème de la crème of European society, including Lord Byron, of whom she wrote in Conversations with Lord Byron.

George, Prince of Wales (later George IV)

George, Prince of Wales (later George IV)

The painting of the Prince of Wales as he was in 1792) was presented to the 3rd Marquess in 1810 while his mother was the Prince’s mistress. And there’s a lovely Lawrence portrait of Emma Hamilton as well.

Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

In another room is a portrait by Gainsborough of Mary Robinson, the Prince Regent’s first mistress, as Perdita in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.

Mary Robinson, as Perdita

Mary Robinson, as Perdita

Franz Halz’s The Laughing Cavalier is here, and much, much more. Admission is free, and being so close, I can see myself returning for at least one more visit.

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Franz Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier

Be sure to put it on your list for your next trip to London!

For more photos of paintings and furnishings, check out my Pinterest board!