We first introduced you to Lord Alvanley in a previous post on this blog, but as his Lordship has recently been mentioned in Waterloo posts about Countess Brownlow and Katherine Arden, his sister, we thought it was time that we encountered him once again.
William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley (8 January 1789 – 16 November 1849) was the son of Richard Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley. He was an officer in the Coldstream Guards, attaining the rank of Captain in the service of the 50th Regiment of Foot. In 1835, Alvanley fought a duel with Morgan O’Connell. According to a near contemporary report “[Alvanley] went through the business with the most perfect sang froid, but on his way to the field he whimsically intimated a singular alarm. Having descended a hollow, ‘My Lord’, said he to his second, ‘you get me down well enough, but’, alluding to his full size, ‘should I fall, I do not know how the devil you will ever get me up again.'”
It was to Alvanley that Brummell turned whilst in exile in France for help and for many years Alvanley regularly sent the Beau financial support. However, because of his spending habits, his family estates had to be sold to pay debts. Underbank Hall in Stockport was sold by auction in 1823, most of the Bredbury estate was sold in lots in 1825, the Arden Hall mansion in 1833. He was forced to dispose of his half-pay on 10 June 1826. He later served in the Forest Troop, King’s Regiment of Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, as a cornet, but resigned on 17 January 1840. He did not marry and had no children. On his death, the title went to his only brother, the Hon. Colonel Richard Arden.
From The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope
“But a yet more celebrated leader of fashion mentioned by Mrs Stanhope as being present at the ball given by the Duchess of Bolton was Lord Alvanley. One of the accepted dandies in the same category as Lord Petersham, the Duke of Argyle, Lords Foley and Worcester, Beau Brummell and his great friend, Henry Pierrepont. Lord Alvanley had served with distinction in the army, and further enjoyed the reputation of being one of the wittiest men in Europe. Short and somewhat stout, with a small nose and florid cheeks usually adorned with a lavish sprinkling of snuff, like his rival Lord Petersham, he cultivated a lisp which accentuated the humour of his utterances. He also adopted much the same method of enhancing his value by indulging in certain peculiarities which, however inconvenient to his fellows, appear to have been accepted by them with surprising amiability. For instance, being fond of reading in bed, when he at length felt sleep overpowering him, he would extinguish his candle by the novel method of popping it alight under his bolster, or flinging it into the middle of the room and taking a shot at it with his pillow—but if the shot was unsuccessful, with a heavy sigh he left it to take its chance. So well known, indeed, was this little habit of Lord Alvanley, that hostesses who were anxious not to have their houses set on fire at midnight would depute a servant to watch in a neighbouring apartment till his lordship composed himself to sleep, a precaution which was invariably adopted by Mrs Stanhope when he paid his annual visit to Cannon Hall.
“However, despite such minor failings, Lord Alvanley enjoyed a popularity seldom surpassed. To his other recommendations was added that of being a celebrated gourmet, and the excellence was proverbial of the little dinners which he gave in his house in Park Street, St James’s, to which never more than eight friends were bidden, and at which there was an apricot tart on the sideboard all the year round. Moreover, although like Brummell and Sheridan, many a bon mot was fathered upon him to which he had never given utterance, yet his reputation as a wit was well deserved, and at a date when both the dandies and the fine ladies prided themselves upon their undisguised insolence, Lord Alvanley remained a shining example of good-nature, so that, save, perhaps, in one instance recorded in this book, his wit never offended.”
Many snuff-takers, following the example of Frederick the Great of Prussia, made it a hobby to collect snuff-boxes, Beau Brummell having had a very curious and extensive assortment. On one occasion, when dining at Portman Square, on the removal of the cloth, the snuff-boxes made their appearance, and Brummell’s was particularly admired. It was handed round for inspection, and a gentleman, finding it rather difficult to open, incautiously applied a dessert knife to the lid. Poor Brummell was on thorns. At last he could not contain himself any longer, and, addressing the host, said, with his characteristic quaintness — “Will you be good enough to tell your friend that my snuff-box is not an oyster?”
Beau Brummell also prided himself on his graceful manner of opening the snuff-box with one hand only—the left. Judging from a satirical advertisement which appeared in the Spectator, it would seem that much attention was paid to this act, which afforded an opportunity of displaying the jewelled finger. So important was the act of opening a snuff box that classes were offered:
“The exercise of the snuffbox, according to the most fashionable airs and motions in opposition to the exercise of the fan, will be taught with the best plain or perfumed snuff, at Charles Lillie’s, perfumer, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, and attendance given for the benefit of the young merchants about the Exchange for two hours every day, at noon, except Saturdays, at a toy-shop, near Garraway’s Coffee House. There will be likewise taught the ceremony of the snuff-box, or rules for offering snuff to a stranger, a friend, or a mistress, according to the degrees of familiarity or distance, with an explanation of the careless, the scornful, the politic, and the surly pinch, and the gestures proper to each of them.”
Another great collector of snuff-boxes was Edward Wortley Montagu, the eccentric son of Lady Mary, who is said to have possessed more boxes than “would suffice a Chinese idol with a hundred noses,” a collection which perhaps was never equalled unless by that of George IV, who was not less extravagant and recherche in snuff and snuff-boxes than in other things.
Then there was Lord Petersham, who boasted a stock of snuffs worth three thousand pounds, while he had boxes adapted for all occasions— boxes for winter wear, boxes for summer use. Indeed, the story goes that he had a different box for every day in the year, and Captain Gronow saw him one day use a beautiful Sevres box, which on being admired, he said, “was a nice summer box, but would not do for winter wear.” He was a great connoisseur of snuffs, and “Lord Petersham’s Mixture” has long been proverbial as a popular snuff. He actually devoted one room of his mansion in Whitehall Gardens to properly storing his snuff. That room was a curiosity in its way, with its rows of well-made jars, and proper materials of all kinds for the due admixture, and management, of the snuffs they contained, under the able superintendence of a well-informed man, who was the guardian angel thereof. After the earl’s death the collection was sold, and prices that seem fabulous to the uninitiated were realized for the finer sorts.
Lord Stanhope used to calculate that a regular snuff-taker took one pinch every ten minutes, each pinch, and its accompanying ceremonies, occupying a minute and a half. One minute and a half out of every ten, it has been pointed out, if sixteen hours be allowed to the day, gives two hours and twenty-four minutes per day, or thirty-six and a half days in the year as the time wasted by a snuff-taker upon his nose.
On the other hand, Talleyrand defended snufftaking, not as a habit, but on principle. He maintained that all diplomatists ought to take snuff, as it afforded them an opportunity of delaying a reply which they might not have ready at hand. It further sanctioned, he said, the removal of one’s eyes from those of the interrogator, and occupied the hands, which otherwise might betray a nervous fidget calculated to expose, rather than conceal, his feelings.
Dryden was a snuff-taker, and was in the habit of frequenting Willis’ Coffee House, in Bow Street, Covent Garden, which consequently became one of the leading resorts of the wits of his time. Thus Ned Ward relates in his ” London Spy ” how “a parcel of raw, second-rate beaux and wits were conceited if they had but the honour to dip a finger into Mr. Dryden’s snuff-box.”
The eleventh Earl of Buchan—brother of Thomas Erskine, who by the force of his eloquence rose to be Lord Chancellor of England—was remarkable for his penuriousness, and eccentricity. In the year 1782 the Goldsmiths of Edinburgh presented him with a mounted snuff-box, made from the tree to which William Wallace had once been indebted for his safety. Ten years afterwards, however, Lord Buchan obtained permission from the Goldsmiths to give the snuff-box to Washington, at that time President of the United States. As a reason for so doing he maintained that Washington was the only man in the world to whom he thought the snuff-box justly due.
When a Mrs. Sterne was about to join her husband in Paris, in the year 1762, he wrote:— “You will find good tea upon the road from York to Dover. Only bring a little to carry you from Calais to Paris. Give the Custom-house Officer what I told you. At Calais give more, if you have much Scotch snuff; but, as tobacco is good here, you had best bring a Scotch mull, and make it yourself—that is, order your valet to manufacture it, ’twill keep him out of mischief;” and in another letter he adds, “You must be cautious about Scotch snuff; take half-a-pound in your pocket, and make Lyd do the same.”
When manager of Drury Lane Theatre, Garrick brought into fashion a particular snuff mixture. It appears that a man named Hardham had been his numberer—to count the audience in the theatre—and on inventing his
“mixture,” Garrick rendered him the following service. Whilst enacting the character of a man of fashion on the stage, Garrick offered a pinch of his snuff to a fellow comedian, observing that it was the most fashionable mixture of the day, and to be had only at Hardham’s, 37, Fleet Street. As may be imagined, the puff answered beyond Garrick’s expectation, and for many years afterwards Hardham’s was the favourite mixture, when snuff-taking was the rage and fashion of the time. It may be added that Hardham, having made a large fortune by his snuff trade in Fleet Street, retired to Chichester, where he died in the year 1772, bequeathing a portion of his well-earned wealth to charitable institutions of that city, which, by-the-bye, was his native place.
Sir Joshua Reynolds took snuff so freely when he was painting that it occasionally inconvenienced his sitters. The story goes that when he was painting the large picture at Blenheim of the Marlborough family, the Duchess one day ordered the servant to bring a broom and sweep up Sir Joshua’s snuff from the carpet; but Reynolds, who would not permit any interruption while engaged in his studio, ordered him to let the snuff remain until the completion of his picture, observing that the dust, raised by the broom, would do more injury to his picture than the snuff could possibly do to the carpet.
According to another story, a gentleman told Wilkie he’d sat to Sir Joshua, “who dabbled in a quantity of snuff, laid the picture on its back, shook it about till it settled like a batter-pudding, and then painted away.”
” A person, my dear, will probably come and speak to us; and if he enters into conversation, be careful to give him a favourable impression of you, for,” and she sunk her voice to a whisper, ‘he is the celebrated Mr. Brummell.”
Life of Beau Brummell by Captain Jesse
Born on 7 June, 1778, Beau Brummell endures as a style icon, a matchless wit and an enigma. Was Brummell a caring friend, as experienced by Frederica, Duchess of York, or a sarcastic louse, as portrayed in the following passage from The Cornhill Magazine –
“Brummell’s rise to social autocracy is the more astounding that he had no sort of family to boast of, and that in his day the fashionable drawingrooms and clubs were jealously closed to upstarts and parvenus. Making every allowance for matchless assurance and extraordinary opportunities turned to excellent account, there must have been much in a man who not only became the ami intime of the Prince of Wales, but secured the attachment of a host of friends who stood by him staunchly when in extremity of adversity. Thackeray knew the world well, and he was right when he said that the world is really very good-natured. For whatever the qualities of Brummell, he had no heart to recommend him; he had nothing of that genuine touch of nature which wins affection irresistibly, and makes all mankind akin. He was frivolous, selfindulgent, and ostentatiously selfish. He could attach himself to the dogs who were helplessly dependent; he could pet a mouse and make friends with a cockatoo; but he was cursed with the superficial wit which loved to wound, and he seldom missed an opportunity of saying some bitter thing. If the smart rankled, so much the better. He swaggered cruelly on the strength of his social ascendency, though, to do him simple justice, he spared the strong as little as the weak. Perhaps there never was a less lovable character than that of the dandy who luxuriated for years on disinterested charity and never altogether exhausted it, although he offered his benefactors the most irritating provocation.”
Perhaps in the end Brummell was just like the rest of us – a complex person who could be, and was, many things to many people. Certainly, the Duchess of York and her brother-in-law, the Prince of Wales, had different views on him. However, one view that seems to be universal is that Brummell was the quintessential dandy – or was he? William Pitt Lennox declared that it was a libel to call Brummell a “Dandy,” since he differed entirely from all that species. “Of all my acquaintances, he was the quietest, plainest, and most unpretending dresser,” Pitt wrote. “Those who remember him in his palmy days will bear testimony to the truth of this assertion; it was the total absence of all peculiarity, and a rigid adherence to the strictest rules of propriety in costume, which gained for him the homage due to his undisputed taste. He eschewed colours, trinkets, and gew-gaws; his clothes were exquisitely made, and, above all, adapted to his person; he put them on well too, but for all this there was no striving for effect—there was an unusual absence of study in his appearance.”
A favorite parlor game played by myself, Victoria Hinshaw and Jo Manning is not Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or even the Oijua Board. No, our favorite game, especially when we are with new people whose opinions we haven’t heard before, always begins with the same question, “Beau Brummell: Straight, gay, bisexual or A-sexual?” I promise you, coupled with a few glasses of port, a cozy chair and the right people, this question can keep you entertained for hours. Granted, you have to have a group of people with the same mind set, people who have actually heard of Beau Brummell and who know the facts surrounding him, but this is not as difficult as it might seem. Two centuries after his death Brummell is still being written about, as both fact and fiction, not to mention the many films which have portrayed his fascinating, fashionable and foible filled life.
Whether portrayed by John Barrymore, Stewart Granger or
James Purefoy, the Brummell flair always manages to come through.
In fact, the Brummell flair is still so powerful, his name still so instantly associated with all things exquisite and fashionable that Brummell, who would be 232 years old today, continues to have his name bandied about in order to sell all manner of goods, including after shave, ties, shirts, suits, watches, razors, early 20th century hand soap dispensers and a Cincinnati office building.
Not to mention a show poodle, which, when you think of it, is infinitely more fitting than a soap dispenser. By the way, there have also been many horses named Beau Brummell – one of them has a race video on YouTube.
No . . . I’m not kidding.
I must say I’ve never heard of Brummell’s having been musicially inclined, though I could be wrong.
And how about . . . . . . .
I’m telling you, I couldn’t make this stuff up . . . . . .
Brummell would be gratified to learn that he can still draw a crowd, as evidenced by this photo of his statue in Jermyn Street.
Brummell was one of the most talked about men of his day and I like to think that, wherever he is now, it amuses him to no end that his name still holds some cachet. And I think it makes him guffaw outright to know that while everyone still recognizes his name – nay uses his name in order to sell all manner of goods – the number of George IV branded items is rather limited. The Duke of York even has more pubs named after him than Prinny does. It’s a shame really – My Fat Friend’s Place would have made a much better name for a restaurant, what?
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.
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this series, Frederica, Duchess of York and Beau Brummell enjoyed a singular friendship for more than fifteen years. Prior to his banishment from Court, Brummell was a constant visitor to the Duke and Duchess of York’s residence in Surrey, Oatlands. After his fall and his move to France, the Duchess remained a steadfast friend, becoming almost his sole source of income for many years. Generous and faithful, the Duchess regularly sent money to Brummell, often enclosing the sums with little gifts of her own making, embroideries, drawings, or some token trifle that served to mitigate the charity connected with these gestures.
Before the Duchess’s death in 1820, Brummell had been at work upon a folding screen meant as a gift to her, in part to repay her kindness and, one thinks, in part meant as a genuine mark of his affection for her. Upon learning of Frederica’s death, Brummell put the screen aside and never completed it.
For more information about this mysterious screen, we turn to Captain William Jesse’s excellent book, The Life of George Brummell, Esq., Commonly Called Beau Brummell for his account:
“When Brummell found that his Royal Highness had really closed the doors of Carlton House against him, he cultivated with greater assiduity the friendship that had always existed between himself and the Duke of York, who was never known, in good or ill report, to desert a friend; and his conduct, and that of the Duchess, to the Beau in his exile, were striking instances of the steadiness and sincerity of their friendship. “The Duchess,”says Mr. Raikes, “was a person of excellent taste, and a very nice discriminator of good breeding and manners, and the regard which that Princess entertained for Brummell was highly creditable to him. It may, indeed, be said in favour of the manners of that day, that her Royal Highness often remarked how superior they were to the tone of those that existed at the period of her marriage, when the Duke was surrounded by a set of roue’s who seemed to glory in their excesses, and showed a great want of refinement and courtesy in women’s society. At the time Brummell visited at Oatlands, England had been for many years without a Court, and the limited circle that surrounded the Duke and Duchess of York, though differing scarcely from that of a private family, rendered it the only Royal residence that was the scene of constant hospitality; and it might have been appropriately termed a little Court, in which the affability on the one side, and the affectionate deference on the other, were equally remarkable. Here used to assemble, at the end of the week, Brummell, and all the most agreeable men of the day, intimately acquainted with each other, and sincerely attached to their Royal host and hostess.
“I am ignorant of the precise dates at which the two following notes from the Duchess to Brummell were written; but they were copied by myself from her autograph, and are inserted as a proof that he must have stood high in her esteem, and that she corresponded with, and received him, on the most intimate footing. The first was written to acknowledge the receipt of a note announcing the loss of a lottery-ticket, which they had purchased together: the paragraph alluding to the chances of his future life is happily expressed, and the sincerity of the concluding sentence was fully proved in after-years, by her generous conduct towards him when she had the pain of seeing that her good wishes turned out unavailing.
Oatlands, ce 20 Septembre.
Vous avez une manière si aimable d’annoncer les plus mauvaises nouvelles, qu’elles perdent par là de leur désagrémens; je ne puis cependant que m’affliger avec vous de la perte de tous nos beaux projets de fête, qui s’évanouissent avec la perte de notre billet de loterie, dont je vous acquitte la dette ci-joint, et y joignent les vœux les plus sincères que ceci puisse être le dernier mauvais tour que la Fortune puisse vous jouer, et que dans toutes les autres circonstances de votre vie, elle puisse toujours vous être favorable. Ce sera me rendre justice que de vous persuader que personne ne peut s’intéresser plus sincèrement à votre bonheur et à tout ce qui vous concerne.
Je n’ai rien à vous dire de ma solitude qui puisse exciter votre curiosité, n’y ayant vu personne de ceux qui vous intéressent depuis votre départ. J’espère que vous reviendrez bientôt dans ces contrées, et qu’il me sera permis de vous réitérer moi-même ici les assurances de l’amitié sincère et de la considération parfaite avec laquelle je suis
Votre toute affectionnée amie et servante,
The next note from her Royal Highness was to thank him for remembering her fete-day, and sending her a beautiful little dog, which Brummell, with his usual good taste, had selected for his present in preference to anything else, knowing the passion his royal friend had for that animal. Her Royal Highness is said to have had at one time upwards of one hundred dogs at Oatlands, and she sometimes erected monuments over her especial favourites: they are grouped round a fountain in the grounds in front of a grotto, to which, during the summer months, she frequently retired with her work or a book. It is, I believe, near this spot that the inhabitants of the parish in which Oatlands is situated erected a monument to the memory of this amiable woman, to which the humblest amongst the parishioners spontaneously requested permission to contribute their mite.
Windsor, ce neuf de Mui.
On ne saurait etre plus sensible que je le suis au souvenir obligeant que vous avez bien voulu me donner au jour de ma fete, et au charmant cadeau que le Due m’a remis de votre part. Recevez mes remercimens les plus sinceres pour ce joli petit chien, e’est l’emblfime de la Fide’; j’aime a me flatter qu’elle sera celui de la continuation de notre amitié, à laquelle je vous assure que j’attache le plus grand prix.
J’ai une toux de cimetière qui menace ruine; si elle ne m’a pas mis sous terre avant le commencement du mois prochain, je compte me rendre à Londres, dans ce temps-là, et un des motifs qui me fait envisager avec le plus de plaisir ce séjour est qu’il me procurera l’avantage de vous y rencontrer et de pouvoir vous réitérer moi-même combien je suis
Votre toute affectionée amie et servante,
“Though the parties at Oatlands were generally, as I have before remarked, of a very unostentatious character, the Duchess’s birth-day was sometimes celebrated with great splendour, particularly the one of 1811, of which I have heard Brummell speak. The King and Princesses were present, and, after they left, the park-gates were thrown open to the public, consisting principally of the tenants and labourers in the neighbourhood, who assembled in the lower part of the house. Here tables were laid out with refreshments, which were soon cleared; and the punch, six quarts of which were placed upon each, having freely circulated, at nine dancing commenced, the Duchess leading off the first dance, called the Labyrinth, with Colonel, now General, Upton.
“Though Brummell read a great deal, his favourite matinal avocation was working at a large screen, which, when finished, he had destined for the Duchess of York; but the pleasure of recording, by this present, his sense of her great kindness, was denied him, for her Royal Highness died before it was completed; he then laid it aside, and never resumed his labours.
“This work of taste and patience is a masterpiece in its way; and had it ever reached Oatlands, many a fair dame and antiquated spinster would have envied its royal owner. The screen measures five feet and a half in height, and, when opened, is rather more than twelve in length; it is divided into six leaves, and the ground is of green paper. The idea of a general design, with which it was evident Brummell had commenced, seems to have been soon laid aside. The most prominent features of it are the quadrupeds, which form the centre of the upper part of each leaf; these prints are on a scale much larger than the generality of the other drawings. In the first compartment is an elephant, the second bears a hyena, the third a tiger, the fourth a camel, and the fifth a bear. The sixth has no animal upon it. Many of the drawings which cover the remaining surface of the screen are coloured: the engravings are in line, mezzotint, or lithograph, with sketches in chalk, pastile, or pencil; in fact, a specimen of every possible variety of the limner’s or engraver’s art, if oils be excepted, is to be found upon it. It “will therefore be easily imagined, that the general effect produced by such a multitude of objects, of every colour and form, is on the first coup d’vil very confused: but, on a closer inspection, the attention that has been devoted to arrangement of almost every part, becomes easily discernible; each little pictorial episode, and there are hundreds, is encircled by wreaths and garlands of flowers of every description; the rose predominating, much to the credit of the paster’s taste; fruit, and emblems in character with the subject to be illustrated, are also mingled with the flowers; to give an exact description of this glorious piece of fiddle faddle, the trifling industry of a thoroughly idle man, would be both useless and tedious. I shall therefore merely attempt a slight sketch, in the order in which I examined it, commencing with the first compartment.
“On this leaf, as I have before remarked, there is an elephant, under the neck of which is a full-faced portrait of Napoleon, who, in this case, is the subject to be illustrated. By introducing this animal the Beau intended to express the Emperor’s power; but on the throat of the modern king-maker is a butterfly, intended to represent another of his attributes, and to neutralize his greatness. The portrait i
s encircled by the neck, shoulder, and trunk of this Chouni; and the edges of the two drawings, which would otherwise have been discoverable, are concealed by other attributes, as well as by fruit and flowers, cut out and arranged with infinite pains. This plan of concealing the edges was pursued throughout with as much nicety as a sempstress would bestow on the hem of a chemise d’/iomme. Amongst these emblems, and immediately above the Emperor’s head, is a mortar elevated for firing; from the mouth of it proceeds a sword, round which a serpent has entwined itself: a scythe and a flag, with the Russian eagle on it, are crossed above the sword, and the trophy is completed by laurel branches over the emblem of Time. The trumpet of Fame, and a port-fire nearly burnt out, are above the Muscovite colours. The reader can scarcely fail to see the application of these illustrations to Napoleon’s history.
“Below the elephant, and in the centre of the same leaf, are grouped four coloured portraits ; the one on the left hand looking outwards is General U (?), next to him are the late Marquis of Hertford and Lord Sefton, apparently in conversation; and the fourth (to me an inconnu) is on their right, and looking towards them. The general, who has a neckcloth large enough for three, and a rounded shirt collar on the same scale, is smelling a sprig of jessamine; a Cupid lolls on his shoulder, as much at ease as the reading Magdalen at Dresden, and is killing, not the general, but Time, with a book, probably Ovid’s Art of Love. On the body of the gallant officer, who is thus indulging poor Cupid with a ride a pig-a-back, is pasted an unnatural and classical looking landscape, representing a forest in the distance, with a rocky foreground; but the principal subject is a young lady, who having thrown aside her harp, is caressing the antlers of a wounded stag. Back to back with the general is the late Lord Sefton, the defect in whose figure Brummell concealed with a flower, probably with the intention of showing that he considered his physical infirmities were entirely overbalanced by his amiable disposition. This he might well do, for he was one of his greatest benefactors. Between his lordship and the marquis is the head of a very lovely woman, ornamented, without the slightest necessity, by a plume of ostrich feathers. The two peers are so placed that it is difficult to say out of whose pocket the divinity is emerging; most likely that of the latter. Lord Sefton is in Hessians, and wears a very peculiar hat. My Lord of Hertford, whose whiskers look as if they were made of leopard’s skin, is dressed in a great-coat, and carries a large cane between a pair of yellow tan gloves, his left hand being inserted, like Lord Sefton’s right, in his pocket behind. His emblems are also highly appropriate and numerous. First, and in the front, are two Cupids in an azure cloud, one bearing the hymeneal torch, and the other a dove, which is looking him amorously in the face. Cupids, in every variety of position that the coryphee of the grand opera could devise, float around his lordship. They may be literally said to swarm; and judging by their looks, each of them seems to be laden with the sweets of a different hive, more luscious than those of Narbonne or Hymettus. One, much larger and more saucy-looking than the rest, is standing on his lordship’s shoulder, and rests, with folded arms, and the domesticated air of a favourite spaniel, upon his hat. To the right is a charming print, by Bartolozzi or Cipriani, of a young girl attended by the everlasting Cupids; above her is a little archer shooting at doves in a palm-tree, and around are Satyrs carrying Bacchantes and Shepherdesses in their arms. Farther on is a gentleman who sports a pair of yellow knee-breeches, and is presenting a nest of doves to a lady in a scarletbodied dress. All these subjects appear to have been applique with great judgment in honour of the most noble the Marquis of Hertford. The inconnu, the last of the quartett, is the counterpart of a piping bullfinch, and by the emblems that surround him may perhaps have been a celebrated “fanatico per la musica.” These portraits are from Dighton’s caricatures.
“The Hyena in the second compartment is represented as being tamed by the Arts, Sciences, and Religion, symbols of which, mingled with the Muses and the Graces, are seen on every side. In the centre of this leaf is a coloured print, taken from a scene in the ” Fille mal gardée.” There are also various drawings representing historical, mythological, and rural subjects. Amongst the most striking are Telemachus relating his adventures to Calypso, Phaeton driving his car, Time his chariot; a French dragoon at bivouac preparing a fowl for the campkettle; a religieuse at her devotions; a minuet at a French fair; a gentleman and a shepherdess, whose dog has seized the skirt of her dress, and with an anxious look is endeavouring to detach her from her admirer.
“The tiger on the third leaf is surrounded by Cupids, cows, goats, &c, all, with the exception of the first, harmless and peaceful animals. On each side of the royal brute is a coloured print, representing the juvenile amusements of the Dauphin and the Duchesse d’Angoulfime. In the one to the right they are playing at soldiers: she is marching in front of her brother and beating a drum, thus indicating the resolute spirit which she afterwards showed: her dog is scampering before her; and her companion, who is dressed in the national colours, is carrying a flag, on which are inscribed the words Union, Force. She has evidently tempted him away from his ninepins to follow her, and these toys are seen behind him scattered on the ground. In the other print they are playing at battledore and shuttlecock, looking very happy and very merry. The ferocious tiger was well chosen to illustrate the period and the subject to which this part of the screen is devoted; for in this beast of prey are plainly personified the cruelties of the Revolution, and, in the domestic animals, the helplessness of those who suffered by its horrible excesses. The children’s ignorance of the nature of the proceedings of which their flag and their tricoloured sashes were the emblems, and their utter unconsciousness of the anxiety and danger which at that very time surrounded them and all belonging to them, as expressed by their game of battledore and shuttlecock, is truly characteristic of their years. Such happily is generally the case with children. In the midst of the dreadful hurricane in which the crew of the Bridge water so nearly perished, and when not. a ray of hope existed for the safety of a soul on board, where were the little children of one of the passengers, and what were they doing? Were they frightened at the unusual trembling of the ship, as she staggered under the concussions of each succeeding wave, or sobbing in their mother’s arms? No; at that awful moment they were floating their little paper boats in the water that half filled the cabins. Below these prints are many other Cupids also, but by no means so comfortable as the one on Lord Hertford’s shoulder. One poor boy is standing, in a cold wretched night, at the door of a house; his torch is thrown down in the snow, and his dripping pinions are scarcely covered by a scanty red mantle. He seems to be a good illustration of the old song, “In the dead of the night,” and is apparently singing the insinuating line, ‘I’ve lost my way, ma’am ; do pray let me in.’
“Near this mischief-maker is another smoking a pipe. Below the camel, in the fourth compartment, is a man in Cossack trousers: a monkey is sitting on his back, gently exciting his own epidermis: a pensive Cupid is clinging to the coat of the incognito. Near him is a gentleman with a lady in his arms; a Cupid is looking up at them, and pointing to a volume of sermons which he holds in his hand: a butterfly has alighted on the cavalier’s coat, and not far off” is a group of Cupids and satyrs rushing in among bathing nymphs. There is also a female barber.
“The bear in the fifth compartment is stimulating his appetite with a young crocodile: around him are children at play, shepherds, the Graces, Venus, and numerous insects and shells. Lower down are portraits, of Charles Fox, Necker, Sheridan, the Regent Philip of Orleans, and John Kemble. Fox has a butterfly near him; Nelson, Greenwich Hospital; Sheridan, a Cupid carousing on some straw; and Kemble, a ladybird on his waistcoat. Round the arm of a man in Hessians is a green monkey holding a mask, and another monkey is between his legs. There are also likenesses of Lucien Buonaparte, the Princess Charlotte, and the Duke of Cambridge when a young man; and a little piece representing an old cure de village trying, but in vain, to thread the needle of one of his pretty parishioners.
“Byron and Napoleon, placed opposite to each other, occupy the upper centre of the last and sixth leaf: the former is surrounded with flowers, but has a wasp on his throat. This to his friend was base ingratitude on the part of Brummell, for the noble lord spoke of, and would have pasted him, with more charitable feeling. Kean, as Richard, is the last print I shall notice. He is below the Emperor, and his neck is ornamented with two hymeneal torches laid together crosswise by a true-lover’sknot.
“It will be seen by this imperfect description that to understand fully the wit shown in the arrangement of all the groups, it is necessary that the observer should be familiar with the gossip of the day; and there is little doubt that any of Brummell’s contemporaries would, with the greatest ease, recognize all.”
It all sounds dizzy making, do admit, yet who amongst us would not dearly love to see this screen, created by the hands and the cheeky mind of the world’s greatest dandy? Where is it? Can it still exist? Captain Jesse saw it with his own eyes in France, thus his minute description of it, but it’s face is unknown. These are the Captain’s last words on the subject:
“When Brummell left Calais, the screen, according to his valet’s version of the affair, was placed in his hands as part payment of a debt. Subsequently, when Selegue’s affairs became deranged, he was obliged to put it in pawn at an upholsterer’s at Boulogne; and it was at this person’s house that I saw it during my short stay in that town. A nobleman, one of Brummell’s former friends, in passing through, was once anxious to buy it, but the gentleman’s gentleman valued his master’s exertions too highly, and foolishly asked seven thousand francs for it, a bargain which his customer very naturally refused. Since that period, another Englishman offered two thousand; this, however, was declined; and when I saw it, the cabinet-maker was fitting it up very handsomely with a mahogany frame, and intended sending it to London, where he hoped to realise a large sum by the sale of it. This screen must have been a fertile subject of conversation for Brummell’s privileged visitors, and to them only was it ever exhibited. To have heard him while employed in cutting out, cutting up, and pasting his dearest friends, and expatiating upon the group that was under his hands at the time, must have been a treat indeed.”
In Part 5, the final in this Series, we learn about the death of the Duchess of York and about her connections to Seven Dials, London.