Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Class, Palaces and Paintings... The Top 5 of March

Settle back with a cup of tea, wrap up warm and enjoy the most popular posts of March 2015!

A Gallery of Largillière
Experience the works of a remarkable French artist.

The Best of the Georgian Web
My most recent weekly digest caught the eye of readers... I am going to credit the mention of Mr Wickham!

A Gallery of Ozias Humphry
Delicate works from the man behind the Rice portrait.

The Middle Class in Regency England
Georgie Lee takes a trip into the Regency class structure.

The King’s Palaces
Laura Purcell is your guide to the palaces of George III!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Musical Monday: Ludwig van Beethoven

Last week, I marked the death of the iconic composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. Today he visits the salon yet again as I start the week with the 2012 Proms Beethoven cycle, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at the week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

Musical Monday: Johannes Matthias Sperger 
Some gentle sounds to ease you into the week...

Tracy Edingfield on Inspiration 
A divorce attorney who believes in happy endings? Read on...

The Necessity of Atheism 
What caused Shelley to be thrown out of Oxford?

"Pity, Pity - Too Late!"
The death of Beethoven.

A Gallery of Vien 
Some wonderful works from a French master.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Best of the Georgian Web

It's time to take a peek at the best of the Georgian web this week; settle back and have a browse!

Reflections on Jane Austen
My favourite Mr Wickham (aka Adrian Lukis) celebrates his birthday today; to mark the occasion, do enjoy this interview in which he shares his reflections on Pride and Prejudice.

A peek at the stars of James Gillray’s caricatures.

A wonderful, free and entirely legal resource!

A video of Mike Rendell's fantastic lecture.

A personal perspective on the new exhibition.

A Georgian tragedy...

News of a fantastic new discovery!

A chance to enjoy some fine Georgian dining in the heart of 21st century London. 

A glimpse behind the scenes  at Greenwich.

The tale of London’s first police force. 

What went on below stairs?

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Gallery of Vien

Joseph-Marie Vien (Montpellier, France, 18th June 1716 – Paris, France, 27th March 1809)

Joseph-Marie Vien was a painter of some renown. The last person to be named Peintre du Roi, whilst the Revolution may have ended this particular office, it did little to blemish Vien's record even though it did much to damage his finances! 

After training in Italy and winning a stable of illustrious patrons, Vien returned to France and acclaim, welcomed to the Bourbon court where he enjoyed enormous favour. Indeed, though the Revolution cut something of a dash through his achievements, the patronage of a certain gentleman named Napoleon saw him restored to prominence and, at his death, he was laid to rest in the Panthéon, his place in history assured.

Sultane Reine, 1748
Sultane Reine, 1748

L'Amour fuyant l'esclavage, 1789
L'Amour fuyant l'esclavage, 1789

The Oath of Catiline
The Oath of Catiline

Sweet Melancholy, 1756
Sweet Melancholy, 1756

Study of the Head of an Old Bearded Man
Study of the Head of an Old Bearded Man

La Sultan Noi, 1748
La Sultan Noir, 1748

Saint Louis, roi de France, remettant la regence a sa mere Blanche de Castille
Saint Louis, roi de France, remettant la regence a sa mere Blanche de Castille

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Pity, Pity - Too Late!": The Death of Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (Bonn, Electorate of Cologne, 17th December 1770 – Vienna, Austria, 26th March 1827)

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

On this day in 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven died. A musical legend, his name and compositions are feted throughout the world and used across a variety of media. Even if you don't think you know any of Beethoven's work, the chances are that you definitely do. By the time Beethoven died he had lived a life of great triumph and tragedy and even his death was not without some drama!

In the final years of his life, Beethoven’s health had been somewhat precarious and for the three months preceding his death, he had been overcome with vomiting and diarrhoea that caused him to take to his bed. Although he had experienced such episodes before, it soon became apparent to the composer’s friends that this time he would not recover. The efforts of doctors including Andreas Wawruch to relieve his suffering proved fruitless and those who cared for the composer were instructed to visit and pay their last respects, as time was growing short. Still lucid, though weak, the last words spoken by Beethoven were "pity, pity - too late!", when the ailing composer was told that a gift of wine he had been expecting had finally arrived.

Beethoven received the last rites on 24th March, just two days before he lost consciousness. Throughout his final days he was attended by his friend, the composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner, and he recorded his memories of those fateful hours, when a violent thunderstorm raged overhead. In the moments before his death, a thunderclap sounded directly over his Vienna home and Beethoven, for a moment, regained his senses.  He lifted his head and stretched out his arm for a second before the breath deserted him and, sinking back onto the bed, the great composer died.

Beethoven's death mask by Josef Danhauser
Beethoven's death mask by Josef Danhauser
Beethoven had been so distressed by his own illness that he requested that an autopsy be performed and this procedure took place on 27th March. Under the direction of Doctor Johann Wagner, it was revealed that the composer’s liver had suffered severe damage and showed signs of advanced cirrhosis. High levels of metal and lead were found in his blood, presumably having been consumed whilst drinking contaminated alcohol and throughout his organs there were signs of advanced and serious illness. Whether the cirrhosis was a result of alcoholism or other illness has never been adequately proven and explanations including hepatitis and syphilis have been put forward over the years.

Beethoven was laid to rest in the Währing cemetery on 29th March amid scenes of intense public mourning; though the composer was dead, however, his music lived on and continues to sound to this very day.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Necessity of Atheism

I always like a little literary controversy to start the day and if it features one Percy Bysshe Shelley, then all the better! Shelley was not a man who shied away from causing shock and, as a nineteen year old student of University College, Oxford, he made something of publishing splash!

The Necessity of Atheism

On this day in 1811, Shelley was expelled from Oxford. One might be forgiven for thinking that the cause might be something typically undergraduate, such as a prank gone awry or a little light misconduct but in fact, it was something far more scholarly than that.

In 1811, C and W Phillips printed Shelley’s work, The Necessity of Atheism. This treatise on atheism put forth a simple enough argument and that is, that one cannot believe in God without first-hand experience of that God or the irrefutable first hand statements of others. He argued that one should not believe in God simply because one is told that a creator must exist to have facilitated creation. At the time of the work’s publication, this was a hugely shocking statement for anyone to put forward in print. The work was published anonymously but Shelley and his co-author, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, were soon identified as the authors.

When copies of The Necessity of Atheism found their ways to the university authorities, it was greeted with shock. Soon rumour spread that the authors were Hogg and Shelley and when both refused to deny authorship, the outcry was enormous. Both Shelley and Hogg were expelled from Oxford as the book gained in notoriety and popularity, eventually being reprinted two years after its original publication; it remains in print to this day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A Salon Guest: Tracy Edingfield on Inspiration

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Tracy Edingfield, author of His Sunshine Girl. As a divorce attorney, Tracy is uniquely placed to share her thoughts on happy ever after!


Thank you for inviting me to the salon to discuss the inspiration behind His Sunshine Girl!

The main reason I chose to write this particular story is that I am drawn to the Regency period. I like the rules of etiquette, the whole idea of “if you kiss her, you have to marry her” that means the stakes are that much higher. Reading about the dresses, the horses, the carriages, the tenants are thrilling for me, although I certainly am glad to live in modern times. 

As a divorce attorney, I think I’m also drawn to the beginning of the romance after having seen so many endings. I like the idea of ‘Happily Ever After’ in stories and in life. Happiness in marriage owes a great deal to chance, but it also takes a concentrated, joint effort. I know I failed to appreciate this when I fell in love and married. 

When I read a love story, I scour the pages for clues from the author regarding  the secrets of how this particular couple will stay married. I’m interested in how they communicate with one another and whether they sufficiently appreciate their partner’s unique qualities. If these components are met, then by the time I’ve finished the novel, I can believe that the characters’ love story is an enduring success and what’s not to like about that?

About the Author
Raised in Wichita, Kansas, Tracy graduated with honors from the University of Kansas and the School of Law from K.U. She practiced criminal defense, probate and family law and currently resides with her husband and two children in Valley Center, Kansas.

About the Book
His Sunshine Girl is the story of Anthony Courtenay, Lord Devon, returning to England after a five-year banishment. During the voyage home, he encounters Reverend Spencer, his delectable daughter, Chastity, and his shrewish niece, Mary Fellingham. Chastity is too innocent for a shipboard romance and too low-born for the earl to consider marrying, but neither of those facts deter Anthony from desiring her.

His Sunshine Girl, is available for $1.99 at www.smashwords.com or iTunes.com.

Written content of this post copyright © Tracy Edingfield, 2015.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Musical Monday: Johannes Matthias Sperger

Johannes Matthias Sperger (Feldsberg, Lower Austria, 23rd March 1750 – Schwerin, Germany, 13th May 1812)

Today is our semi-regular Monday appointment with a composer of the long eighteenth century and Johannes Matthias Sperger is a gentleman I have only encountered in the last six months.

In his long career, Sperger proved himself to be a highly prolific composer who wrote concertos, choral pieces, symphonies and more. He enjoyed a highly successful career in Europe and it is my pleasure to share his work with you today.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at the week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

The Amazing Kembles

Salon guest, William Savage, looks at a theatrical dynasty!

Richard Bridgens, the Grand Tour, and Expanding Understanding
Caroline Warfield lifts the lid on the wonders of the grand tour!

A Musical Interlude: Francesco Gasparini
A chance to hear some fabulous Georgian music.

A Gallery of Largillière
In honour of a great artist.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Best of the Georgian Web

It's time to take a peek at the best of the Georgian web this week; settle back and have a browse!

The story of Louis Bazalgette, tailor to George, Prince of Bling.

What became of MacHeath's Jenny?

A cautionary tale...

Tales of the Bonaparte family.

Creating the ideal posture in 18th-century Britain.

The tale of Mary Ann Stanley and Edward Trant Bontein.

The historic dockyard at Chatham reveals all...

Friday, 20 March 2015

A Gallery of Largillière

Nicolas de Largillière (Paris, France, 10th October 1656 - Paris, France, 20th March 1746)

As regular visitors to the salon will know, I am very fond of art and spend many happy hours perusing canvases from the long 18th century. Once in a while I like to share a gallery of work with you and today, to mark the anniversary of the death of Nicolas de Largillière, it's my pleasure to share his work with you.

Largillière was born in France but, when he travelled to London, he became a great favourite of Charles II and, later, James II. Both were keen to keep the artist in England but he disliked the politics of the English court and instead divided his time between his homeland and London, with a strong bias towards France!

Largillière enjoyed enormous success in France, producing works for Louis XIV and his family and his popularity continued throughout his life, as he rose to the highest ranks of the illustrious French Academy.

Portrait of a Woman
Portrait of a Woman 
Louise-Madeleine Bertin, Countess of Montchal
Louise-Madeleine Bertin, Countess of Montchal
Elizabeth Throckmorton, 1729
Elizabeth Throckmorton, 1729

Study of Hands
Study of Hands
Portrait of a Gentleman
Portrait of a Gentleman

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Musical Interlude: Francesco Gasparini

Francesco Gasparini (Camaiore, Italy, 19th March 1661 – Rome, Italy, 22 March 1727)

Italian Baroque composer, Francesco Gasparini, was born on this day. An inspiration to Bach, Gasparini was famed in his native land and enjoyed huge success as both a composer and tutor too.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful example of his work; just right to start the steady road to the weekend!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Richard Bridgens, the Grand Tour, and Expanding Understanding

It is my pleasure to welcome Caroline Warfield, author of Dangerous Secrets, today with a tale of Richard Bridgens, the Grand Tour, and expanding understanding. It is illustrated throughout with images by Bridgens.


Romantic fiction occasionally alludes to “The Grand Tour,” and somehow manages to imply an image of young men drinking and partying their way across Europe.   The Tour was actually intended to complete a classical education. Having received a solid grounding in Latin, Greek, and classical literature, young men with sufficient money (and therefore leisure) set out with their tutors on a predefined itinerary to absorb the art, architecture, language, and culture of Europe.  Not only English gentlemen, but also German, Dutch and even American elites attempted the Tour.

The practice began as early as the sixteenth century and flowered in the Georgian era.  Novels set in the late Georgian/Regency era, however, do not often mention the Tour. That is because young men were absorbed in defeating Napoleon and the continent was mostly closed to casual travelers between 1803 and 1815.  After Waterloo, however, the Tour began again with a vengeance.  It had a relatively set itinerary. English travelers flooded into Paris, a mandatory stop.  The Tour often included the Netherlands and Germany and occasionally Spain and even Turkey.  It always culminated in Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome.

Where the travelers went, creativity flourished. They didn’t just view art; some created it.  What they couldn’t create, they bought. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Museum have had exhibitions of Tour art.  Tour art includes masterpieces from Canaletto to Corot and Turner. It also includes dozens of print makers and etchings. 

One work, in particular deserves attention, Bridgens' Sketches Illustrative of the Manners and Costumes of France, Switzerland, and Italy.  The work is a sort of travelogue of hand-colored etchings. It would have served as both a souvenir for those who had been there, and an informative work for those who couldn’t make the Tour itself. Published in London (Baldwin, Cradock and Joy; Hatchard and sons) in 1821, it included text by John Polidori who is usually listed as the author. Amazon recently listed a copy for $1600.00.

Polidori is a notorious figure of the period, associate of Byron and Shelley, author of The Vampyre, the first of that genre. He killed himself in 1821, just before or after the production of the Sketches.  

If the text belonged to Polidori, the etchings belong to Richard Bridgens. They focus more on ordinary people than on great monuments.  They document clothing and manners of folk going about their business.  A few are more startling.  The Funeral Procession in Rome is probably the most famous of them.  The clothing, however, has proven to be of most interest to modern researchers. Individual pages from the book come up for sale frequently.

Richard Bridgens origins proved difficult to research. One reviewer noted, “. . . he lacked any talent for self promotion.”  Perhaps his work is his best biography.  He began his work in Liverpool and the Site “Mapping Birmingham” lists him as an architect and designer.  Early in his career he published Furniture with Candelabra and Interior Decoration, at treasure trove of Georgian interior furnishings. How he progressed from that, to Sketches, to his final work in Trinidad is unclear.

In so far as Bridgens is famous at all, it is his final work that shines. He is sometimes known as the Artist of Slavery. The same meticulous care he took with his interiors and later with the clothing and manners of Europe, he applied to the lives of slaves in Trinidad. He was a man of his time and his beliefs about abolition are unclear. In the end, however, he documented the lives of people and the cruelty of their lives, leaving us a stark record. At the time he published West India Scenery in 1836, the movement to outlaw slavery was in full flower in Europe. Some of his images must have helped the cause. The World Antislavery Convention took place in London in 1840 and the practice wasn’t outlawed in every part of the empire until 1843.

Richard Bridgens career taken as a whole is a treasure to those of us who seek to understand the vast complexity of the Georgian era.

For more information see

About the Author

Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, a network services manager, a conference speaker, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She is ever a traveler, adventurer, and writer of historical romance, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens (but not the act of gardening). She is married to a prince among men.

About the Book

When a little brown wren of an Englishwoman bursts into Jamie Heyworth’s private hell and asks for help he mistakes her for the black crow of death.  Why not? He fled to Rome and sits in despair with nothing left to sell and no reason to get up in the morning. Behind him lie disgrace, shame, and secrets he is desperate to keep.
Nora Haley comes to Rome at the bidding of her dying brother who has an unexpected legacy. Never in her sunniest dreams did Nora expect Robert to leave her a treasure, a tiny blue-eyed niece with curly hair and warm hugs. Nora will do anything to keep her, even hire a shabby, drunken major as an interpreter. 

Jamie can’t let Nora know the secrets he has hidden from everyone, even his closest friends. Nora can’t trust any man who drinks. She had enough of that in her marriage. Either one, however, will dare anything for the little imp that keeps them together, even enter a sham marriage to protect her. Will love—and the truth—bind them both together?
Buy the book here!

Written content of this post copyright © Caroline Warfield, 2015.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A Salon Guest: The Amazing Kembles

It's my pleasure to welcome William Savage to the salon, with a tale of the Kembles, particular favourites of mine!


The Amazing Kembles
The Leading Theatrical Dynasty of the Eighteenth Century

Nowadays, we are well used to family dynasties of actors and screen stars, whether in Hollywood or on the British stage. Yet few today could match the amazing Kemble dynasty, which dominated the theatrical world between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.

Sarah Siddons and John Phillip Kemble in Macbeth, 1786
Sarah Siddons and John Phillip Kemble in Macbeth, 1786
I cannot recall a time when I was not familiar the name of the Kemble family. This is not because I was precociously interested in the theatre. I knew of them in the same way that everyone who was born and brought up where I was knew of them, for my home town is Hereford, on the borders of Wales, and that is where the Kembles originated.

As an aside, Hereford also claims to be the birthplace of Nell Gwynn. There was definitely a family of that name in Hereford at the right time and a plaque may be found on a wall near the cathedral marking the place where the supposed house of her birth once stood. Whether you accept that ‘pretty, witty Nell’ was also a local girl depends, I suspect, on whether or not you were born in Hereford.

The Theatrical Kembles

Sarah Kemble, later Siddons, was born in Brecon, across the Welsh border, but that was mere chance, in the same way that David Garrick (who will figure a good deal in this story) was born in Hereford as well: at The Angel public house in the same street as my own place of birth, less than a hundred yards from the house where I lived until the age of 10. In both cases, their theatrical families were on tour and they were born where their mothers happened to be staying when labour began. Garrick always claimed Litchfield as his home, since that was where he grew up. Sarah Kemble, as she was then, was a true Hereford girl, regardless of her birthplace.


Sarah Siddons’ great-great-uncle, Fr. John Kemble, was a Catholic priest, executed in 1679 in Hereford, aged 80, at the time of the Popish Plot, then canonised in 1970. His mummified hand is still displayed in the main Catholic Church in Hereford and is claimed to have performed a miracle as recently as 1995. The family remained Catholic, though not aggressively so. When Roger Kemble married a Protestant member of the Church of England, they reached an odd but amicable agreement. All the sons were raised as Catholics, while the daughters were brought up as Anglicans.

Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward

It was Roger Kemble who began the family’s links to the theatre. His father was a fairly prosperous barber and wig-maker in Hereford and Roger began adult life as his apprentice. Then he became stage-struck and started acting at the age of 30, first joining a group of travelling players then forming and managing one.

Roger Kemble became one of the most famous theatre managers of his day. His wife, Sarah Ward, was an actress and the daughter of the manager of the Warwickshire acting troop Roger joined.

Mrs. Sarah Siddons

Sarah was the eldest of the children of Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward. Almost all their siblings made their living from the theatre to varying degrees, but she was without doubt the greatest and best of them as an actress. I wrote an extensive post recently about Mrs. Siddons, so this section will be more of a summary of key aspects of her life and career. Please refer to the other post for more detail.

Sarah Siddons had started her career in the provinces, specifically in the theatres of various small cities and towns along the Welsh border. From this, along with the rest of her family, she had progressed to more fashionable venues like Cheltenham Spa. Then, David Garrick ‘discovered’ her in 1775 and brought her to London’s Drury Lane Theatre of which he was the manager. It was a disastrous debut. She arrived mid-season, aged just 21, and delayed by being heavily pregnant with her second child. She had no experience of such demanding and sophisticated audiences, and she was put forward in parts that did not suit her acting style. Indeed, she began to suspect that the main reason for Garrick’s flattering attentions and ostentatious support was to upset his other three leading ladies, who were causing him a good deal of grief at the time. This may well have been true enough, since Garrick wrote thus to the critic and dramatist Henry Bate at the time:

‘If any lady begins to play at tricks, I will immediately play off my masked battery of Siddons against her.

Sarah made a terrible début as Portia. One critic wrote:

‘On before us tottered, rather than walked, a very pretty, delicate, fragile-looking young creature, dressed in a most unbecoming manner, in a faded salmon-coloured sack and coat and uncertain whereabout to fix either her eyes or her feet. She spoke in a broken tremulous tone; and at the close of a sentence her words generally lapsed into a horrid whisper, that was absolutely inaudible.’

In another production, the three slighted prima donnas upstaged her en masse, so that Garrick himself had to come on stage and lead her to the front of the stage. At the end of that season, Garrick retired from the stage, as he seems to have intended all along, and left her high and dry. She returned to the provinces and that seemed to be that.

It was another 6 years before she returned to Drury Lane, now under the management of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Good reports of her performances had been coming in to London for some time and he seems to have hoped that bringing her back might revive the flagging state of his business.

The theatre was packed for her first night. Reports of her talents had preceded her from Bath, where she had been receiving great acclaim, and Sheridan had been doing a great deal of his own ‘puffing’ of her ability as well. Despite horrendous stage-fright, this time she was a triumph. She was instantly idolised. The cream of London society flocked to see her. The rush to get seats for her performances began at breakfast and late-comers joined in fist-fights trying to get in. She was that cliché of clichés, an overnight sensation.

Thus it continued for the rest of her time on the stage. Lord Byron believed she outshone not only all other women but also men in the theater. He saw Siddons at the end of her career and described her performance as:

‘The “beau ideal of acting”: [N]othing ever was, or can be, like her.’

When she retired from the stage in her late 50s, William Hazlitt wrote:

‘Who shall give us Mrs. Siddons again? Or who shall sit majestic in the throne of Tragedy – a Goddess, a prophetess and a Muse? Who shall stalk over the stage of horrors, its presiding genius, or play the hostess at the banqueting scene of murder? … Who shall make tragedy once more stand with its feet upon the earth, and with its head raised above the skies weeping tears and blood? That loss is not to be repaired. While the stage lasts, there will never be another Mrs. Siddons!’

John Philip Kemble

John Philip Kemble, eldest son of the Kemble family, first trained as a priest at Douai, then quickly left the church for acting and became the leading male actor of his day. He was famous as actor and manager and many times shared the stage with his sister, Sarah Siddons. However, even he admitted she left him in the shade. Nonetheless, she helped him a great deal, as she did all her siblings. So much so that, by 1783, no less than five members of the Kemble family were playing on the London stage, prompting one newspaper to publish this piece of doggerel:

‘With Kembles on Kembles they’ve choked Drury Lane
The family rubbish have seized public bounty
And Kings, Queens and Heroes pour forth from each county.
The barns are unpeopled – their half-famished sons
Waste the regions of taste like th’irruption of Huns.’

Aside from the obvious, this verse contains a typically London-oriented jibe at the ‘rustic’ origins of the family. Barns were where poor companies of strolling players usually set up in villages and country towns. The writer is implying that’s where the Kembles belong: out in the sticks with the peasants!

Between 1788 and 1800, Kemble was manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, as well as acting. However, he and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the proprietor of the theatre, did not form a harmonious team. In late 1801, there was a major falling-out between the two of them, leading to Kemble’s complete withdrawal.

Maybe Kemble should have stuck to acting, because his next foray into management also ended badly. In 1803, he took a one-sixth share in ownership of the Covent Garden Theatre and became its manager. When the theatre burned down in 1808, he lost a good deal of his money. He re-opened in a rebuilt theatre in 1809, but ran at once into a major row with the public when he tried to raise ticket prices, presumably to offset his losses. Following noisy demonstrations and riots, he was forced to back down. However, the theatre had been closed for more than three months by the rioting and Kemble was virtually ruined. He was only saved from bankruptcy by selling his excellent library and obtaining a large loan – later made a gift – from the Duke of Northumberland.

Kemble’s career on the stage was cut short in 1817 in part by illness (he suffered from severe gout) and in part by the arrival of Edmund Kean. As Kean’s star rose, Kemble’s waned. His style of acting – precise, studied and grandiose – was eclipsed by Kean’s tempestuous energy, which was far better suited to the growing Romanticism of the age. Nonetheless, Kemble had been a decided star in his time, an idol like his sister. If her posthumous fame has far eclipsed his, it is in part a genuine reflection of their respective talents. Byron, for one, thought Mrs. Siddons worth more than Kemble and Kean put together.

The Other Sons

Stephen George Kemble, also became an actor and theatre manager. Yet another, Charles Kemble, was an actor, theatre manager and playwright. He married the actress Maria Theresa De Camp and the eldest of their two daughters was the actress and author Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble.

None of these ‘lesser’ Kembles achieved anything like the prominence of the two eldest siblings. Indeed, I suspect they would be even less remembered were it not for their association with them. Both turned fairly quickly to management, but neither were especially successful in that field either. Charles was the better actor, with a more gentle and romantic style than his elder brother. However, he lost a great deal of money as manager of The Covent Garden Theatre and was rescued largely by the success of his daughter, Fanny Kemble, in the USA.

Ann Julia Kemble

The youngest Kemble sister, Ann, is worth a post in her own right. It is impossible to do justice to her tempestuous life in the space available here. For the moment, I will summarise by saying she was a poet, author and (not very good) actress. Meeting with poverty as the result of a bigamous marriage, she advertised for donations and tried to kill herself in Westminster Abbey as a means of drumming up support. When this failed, she turned to more traditional sources of money for hard-up young women and became a ‘model’ in a London bagnio or brothel. During her time there, she was was accidentally shot in the eye, but happily survived. Her next scheme was to give lectures for a quack sex doctor who sold nights in an “electrical bed” to promote sexual pleasure and fertility.

In 1792, she married again, went to America, then Canada, then back to Britain, finally settling in Swansea, where she ran a dancing school and wrote reams of verse and no less than 14 gothic romance novels under the pseudonym ‘Ann of Swansea’. Her last book was published in 1831 and she died in 1838. She was in many ways typical of the Kembles: larger than life.


About the Author

William Savage lives near the beautiful North Norfolk coast in Eastern England and writes historical mystery novels, set in Norfolk between 1760 and 1800. His first in the series, “An Unlamented Death”, appeared in January 2015. A second book is now in its final stages and will be published in Spring 2015.

Will is also a local historian. In that guise, he researches topics relevant to the general period of his historical writing, publishing them via his blog “Pen and Pension”. He is also on Twitter as @penandpension.

Written content of this post copyright © William Savage, 2015.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at the week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

A Gallery of Ozias Humphry

In honour of a remarkable artist!

Accomplishments, Not Expertise!
Jane Ashford considers the regency lady...

A Gallery of Benjamin West
Another wonderful painter graces the salon. 

The English Country House
Heather King takes us on a tour...

The Illness of George III
Laura Purcell considers the health of a king.

Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland
A remarkable political life from Jacqui Reiter.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland

It is a delight to welcome Jacqui Reiter back to the salon today with her take on the life of the 4th Duke of Rutland.


Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, 15 March 1754 – 24 October 1787

The 4th Duke of Rutland is not as well-known as he should be. He was a prominent politician of his time who held several high offices during his short life, including the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. He was notable not just because he was one of the highest-ranking noblemen in the country, but also because he allied himself closely to one of the most important late 18th century political dynasties: the Pitts.

Charles Manners was the second son of John Manners, Marquis of Granby, himself a major political and military figure of his time. Charles's elder brother John died aged nine in 1760, so that when his father died in 1770 Charles became first in line to inherit the Dukedom of Rutland from his grandfather. He took his father's courtesy title of Lord Granby, by which he was known till he succeeded to the Dukedom.

He received a typical aristocratic education, passing through Eton to the University of Cambridge, where he took his MA by privilege as a nobleman in 1774. Given his father's political reputation it was, perhaps, inevitable that he would end up in politics, particularly as his family owned considerable electoral interests across the Midlands. He was elected unopposed for one of the University of Cambridge's two seats in 1774, and immediately attached himself to the opposition party under the Marquis of Rockingham.

With the outbreak of war with America in 1775, however, he shifted his position. His maiden speech on 5 April 1775 championed the American rebels:

"I have a very clear, a very adequate idea of rebellion, at least according to my own principles; and those are the principles on which the [Glorious] Revolution was founded. It is not against whom a war is directed, but it is the justice of that war that does, or does not, constitute rebellion. ... From the fullest conviction of my soul, I disclaim every idea both of policy and right internally to tax America. I disavow the whole system. It is commenced in iniquity; it is pursued with resentment; and it can terminate in nothing but blood."[1]

He associated himself expressly with William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, rather than Rockingham, stating that although he was "not even personally acquainted with the noble lord", he was "not in the least ashamed to avow my attachment" to him. This might have seemed a natural connection to those who remembered Granby's father had served in Lord Chatham's ministry, but Granby's forthright declaration of allegiance shocked many. Chatham was careful to express his gratitude: "His Lordship's declaration, so favourable to a former minister, and in support of a rejected plan for preventing a civil war in America, are circumstances too affecting for an old man to be silent, and not to trouble his Lordship with the most respectful and warm acknowledgments for so great an honour."[2]

Granby's connection with Chatham proved fruitful, and not simply from a political point of view. He continued to move in tandem with Chatham in political affairs, parting ways definitively with Rockingham. Meanwhile, Granby became acquainted with Chatham's two elder sons, John and William. What might have begun as a political alliance developed into deep and sincere friendship.

In May 1779 Granby's grandfather died, and he became the 4th Duke of Rutland. His first political act as Duke was to try and get his friend William Pitt elected for the University of Cambridge, but failing that he used his political influence to get the young man elected for the pocket borough of Appleby-in-Westmoreland. This was not the first or the last time Rutland helped advance Pitt family ambitions. He also provided his friend John, now 2nd Earl of Chatham, with a commission in his own 86th (Rutland) Regiment, and assisted both brothers financially on more than one occasion.

The association paid off. In 1782 Lord Shelburne, a former protege of Lord Chatham's, became First Lord of the Treasury, but Rutland did not reach Cabinet rank until February 1783, when he was made Lord Steward of the Household. He was not long able to enjoy his new position, for Shelburne resigned within weeks, but when Pitt became Prime Minister in December 1783 Rutland accepted the cabinet post of Lord Privy Seal under his friend.

In February 1784 Pitt elevated Rutland to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. Rutland was uncertain about accepting a position he knew to be arduous. Ireland had recently been placated with a degree of political independence in 1782, but was still full of unrest, strongly divided between Catholics and Protestants and brimming with desire for parliamentary reform. Still, Rutland accepted, knowing Pitt wanted a man he could trust in such an important post.

Rutland went out in February 1784, leaving his wife Mary (whom he had married in 1775) in England to campaign for Pitt during the general election. He immediately faced public unrest in Dublin, and spent the next few years trying to balance the various political interests in Ireland. Rutland was never entirely happy in his position: he felt his task of keeping everyone happy to be an impossible one, and told Pitt without hesitation "that without an union Ireland will not be connected with Great Britain in twenty years longer ... Ireland is not a land of tranquillity, nor can Government be maintained respectable, unless it be prepared for all contingencies".[3]

The great crisis of his lieutenancy came in 1785, when Pitt decided to address the Irish issue. His solution was for a partial union on a commercial basis: to barter Irish freedom of trade for a larger financial contribution to British defence. The issue caused a storm on both sides of the water: in Britain, the manufacturers, led by the potter Josiah Wedgwood, formed a political bloc to oppose the proposals, while the Irish objected to the size of their defence contribution. Pitt's attempt to compromise pleased nobody and the Irish Commercial Propositions were withdrawn from the Irish Parliament in August 1785.

Rutland had worked closely with Pitt on the Commercial Propositions but was reluctant to try anything so controversial again. The remainder of Rutland's time as Lord Lieutenant was taken up with the business of government, dispensing patronage to keep the local nobility under control. Rutland did not much enjoy his task, as he complained to Lord Chatham:

"I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bishopricks Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is. But yet the Little Ambition I have in my Composition & the great attachment which I bear to yourself & your family bind me to my present Situation as long as I can render Service to our Country & Strengthen your Brother's able and Honourable Government I shall never desert you, & by the Strict Union which Subsists between us we shall ever Mutually assist each other".[4]

There was, however, no doubt that he was very good at the diplomatic side of his job. In the words of Jonah Barrington, the 19th century historian of Ireland:

"The vice-regal establishment was much more brilliant and hospitable than that of the monarch: the utmost magnificence signalized the entertainments of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and their luxury gave a powerful impulse to industry ... The Duke was singularly popular ... His Grace and the Duchess were reckoned the handsomest couple in Ireland."[5]

"His courage, the affability of his manners, the hospitalities of his table, and the generosity of his disposition, justly acquired him universal popularity," Sir Nathaniel Wraxall remembered. "... Never was viceroy more formed to conciliate affection throughout that convivial kingdom."[6]

Unfortunately it all proved too much. In October 1787, after a lengthy progress round the north of the country, Rutland collapsed with a serious fever. He died after only a few days, aged only thirty-three. His contemporaries had no doubt that his lifestyle had cut his life short: "The Duke of Rutland's incessant conviviality deprived ... the British Peerage of an honourable, generous, and high-minded nobleman".[7]

His connection with the Pitts continued long after his death. His friendship with William Pitt, who signed himself off to Rutland "with the truest friendship and affection", had been close and sincere.[8] Rutland showed his trust in Pitt by making him one of the co-executors of his will and a guardian of his children, as well as leaving him a legacy of £3000.[9] Lord Chatham received £500, although it was he, of the two Pitt brothers, with whom Rutland was arguably closest. "God Bless you my dear Friend & love you as much as I do. I am ever unalterably yours," Rutland once wrote.[10] The words were a testimony to the kind of man Rutland must have been: good-natured, generous, and loyal to his friends.


[1] Parliamentary History XVIII, 602-3
[2] Chatham Correspondence IV, 405, 7 April 1775
[3]  ed. Lord Stanhope, Correspondence between the Right Hon. William Pitt and Charles, Duke of Rutland, 1781-7 (London, 1890), pp 18-19
[4] Rutland to Chatham, 14 February 1785, National Archives PRO 30/70/3 f 145
[5]  Jonah Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland ... II (Colburn, 1835), 216, 224-5
[6] Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs of his Own Time (London, 1836), II, 365-7
[7] Barrington, 224-5
[8] Correspondence between Pitt and Rutland, p 9
[9] Rutland's will, National Archives PROB 11/1162
[10] Rutland to Chatham,  14 February 1785, National Archives PRO 30/70/3 f 145

About the Author  
Jacqui Reiter has a Phd in 18th century political history. She is currently working on the first ever biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, due to be released by Pen & Sword Books in September 2016. When she finds time she blogs about her historical discoveries at http://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/, and can be found on Twitter as https://twitter.com/latelordchatham.

Written content of this post copyright © Jacqui Reiter, 2015.