On 16-18 May 1816 Beau Brummell fled to France to escape debtor’s prison. Brummell was born on George Bryan Brummell (7 June 1778 to March 1840 aged 61)) at 10 Downing Street on 7th June 1778, the youngest son of William Brummell, an enterprising man who had risen to the position of Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. From such auspicious beginnings, Brummell utlimately fled London, and his position as the Leader of Fashion, in order to escape his debts.
When Brummell left London, he was living at No. 13 Chapel Street, Park Lane, to which house he had removed from Chesterfield Street some time before; it belonged to Mr. Hart, the Duke of Gloucester’s steward. Leaving behind most of his belongings, they were auctioned off in order to satisfy his creditors.
The notice for the Brummell auction which ran in the newspaper can be found in The Life of George Brummell, Esq., by William Jesse:
By order of the Sheriff of Middlesex! Will be Sold by Auction By Mr. Christie, On the Premises, No. 13 Chapel Street, Park Lane, On Wednesday, May 22nd, and following Day.
As Jesse further tells us: Amongst the articles of Brummell’s furniture up for sale were a mahogany-framed sliding cheval dressing glass on castors, with two brass arms for one light each, a medicine chest, and colour box. The drawing-room had a chimney glass, in a carved ebony frame, chintz furniture and Brussels carpet; the back drawingroom had also a chimney glass, book-shelves, and library bookcase. The dinner service consisted of twelve oval dishes, twenty soup-plates, seventy-eight meat ditto, nine wine-coolers, a breakfast service for eight persons, three claret jugs, twelve hock glasses, forty wine ditto, decanters, &c There were sixteen pairs of sheets, forty huckaback towels, napkins, &c. Amongst the Sevres china was a pair of oval vases, which sold for nineteen guineas; they were green, with flowers and fruit, and mouldings of burnished gold. A small cup and cover of the same, eighteen pounds. An ewer and basin, mazarine blue and gold ground, richly ornamented with birds and exotics finely painted in compartments, with the name of each specimen upon them; the handle of this ewer was silver gilt, and the lot fetched twenty-six pounds. There were also a variety of chocolate cups and other articles, a clock of Vulliamy’s, a letter scale—(no doubt, all his letters were franked)—the design a figure of Cupid, weighing a heart with a brace of doves; this was in ormolu on a black marble plinth. A silver tea-kettle embossed and chased, brought forty-seven pounds. There were only six spoons and four forks—how did they happen to be left behind ?
Amongst the books were some good historical works, the Standard Poets, two editions of Shakespeare, his friend Ellis’s Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances, bound in curiously raised calf; the Quarterly and Edinburgh, the Memoirs of de Grammont, Chesterfield’s Letters, Berrington’s Abelard and Eloisa, and a large collection of novels now forgotten. A family party at dinner, by Holmes, fetched eighty-five guineas. There were also editions of Flaxman’s designs for the Iliad, Eschylus, and Burger’s Leonora; a copy of the Musee Francais, portraits for the Memoirs of de Grammont, prints by Cipriani and Bartolozzi, a portrait in oils of his father’s benefactor, Lord North, and portraits of Nelson, Pitt, the Duke of Rutland, and George the Third. The Beauvais Claret sold for five pounds eight shillings ; the Champagne, three pounds five shillings; and the Port, four pounds per dozen.
The sale was attended by many members of the fashionable world, every one being apparently anxious to purchase something; the Duke of York was not there, but he gave orders for some Sevres china to be bought for him. Purchases were made in this manner by many of his friends. Amongst the company present were Lords Bessborough and Yarmouth, Lady Warburton, Sir Henry Smyth, Sir H. Peyton, Sir W. Burgoyne, Sir T. Stepney, Colonels Sheddon and Cotton, General Phipps, Mr. Massy Dawson, Acland, of the Albany, Mr. Mills, of Park Street, Mr. Tower, and the Rev. — Belli.
The competition for the knick-knacks and articles of virtu was very great; amongst them was a very handsome snuff-box, which, on being opened by the auctioneer before it was put up, was found to contain a piece of paper with the following sentence, in Brummell’s handwriting, upon it:— “This snuff-box was intended for the Prince Regent, if he had conducted himself with more propriety towards me.” The proceeds of the sale amounted to about eleven hundred pounds, and the sum was paid to the Sheriff of Middlesex.
Originally published in 2010.