Regency Reflections: Ashton on 1812, Part II

John Ashton, in Social England Under the Regency, told of the convoluted eforts of the Prince Regent to reward his assistant, Colonel McMahon, and how various others in government circles tried to thwart the PR’s wishes. From Chapter 6, 1812:

But, be his (McMahon’s) origin whatever it might have been, he was a tool well fitted for the use of his august master, who, it must be owned, endeavoured to repay him; but, also, at the public expense. In 1811 General Fox died, and at his death, the office of Paymaster of the Widows’ Pensions became vacant. It was a perfect sinecure, the duties being done by others, and the salary attached to the office was over £2,000 per annum. The Commissioners of 1783, and of 1808, both reported and recommended the abolition of the Paymaster and Deputy-Paymaster of Widows’ Pensions, as being unnecessary, the one having very little to do, the other, nothing at all. The office of Paymaster had, in particular, been recommended to be done away with, on the demise of General Fox; but it was given to Colonel McMahon.
             On January 9, 1812, on a Motion for Supply, Mr. Creevey spoke decidedly against this appointment, and moved as an Amendment, ‘That the House would, to-morrow se’nnight resolve itself into a Committee of Supply, in order to give an opportunity, in the interim, for the consideration which he had suggested,’ namely, that they would take into their earliest consideration, the various offices of emolument recently granted by the Crown to several of their members. This amendment was lost.
Thomas Creevey (1768-1838), MP
 
            On the 22nd of February, the question of the Army Estimates being on, Mr. Bankes moved as an Amendment, ‘That the amount of the sum expected to be paid to the Paymaster of Widows’ Pensions, being 12d. in the pound on the said Pensions (£2,790 1s) be deducted from the said sum.’ This amendment was lost by a majority of sixteen.

            But on the next night, Mr. Bankes brought the matter up again, and moved the virtual abolition of the office by omitting the sum necessary to pay it–and this was carried by a majority of three.

            There was consternation among the Regent’s party at the temerity of the House in thus thwarting the Royal wishes, and, of course, the recalcitrated Commons must be taught a lesson, so McMahon was appointed Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Private Secretary to the Prince Regent; and in the caricature of ‘The Privy Purse and Political Beggars’ we find McMahon installed in his new position. Sheridan says, ‘Dear, good worthy Countryman, thou Pine Apple of Erin! consider I was burnt out,* not a penny in my purse, my credit very low–do–dear Mac, for the love of St. Patrick, give me a handful.’ Buckingham: ‘I have not above a Hundred Thousand a year, these hard times. Pray remember the Poor!’ Temple: ‘With my wife’s fortune and my own I have not above Forty Thousand a year. Pray remember the Poor! Grenville: ‘I have not above Fifty Thousand a year, a slender pittance. Pray remember the Poor!’ Mac Mahon replies: ‘Paws Off! no Blarney will do with me! I’m up to all your Gammon! and so is my dear Master. I’m cosy at last, in spite of all your speeches and paragraphs, and you may all go to the Devil, your Master!!!’

            And doubtless, he thought he was cosy, but the Commons would not stand the job, and on the 23rd of March, his appointment was brought before Parliament, and the Hon. J.W. Ward asked whether it was a fact, and, if so, what salary was he to have? Mr. Perceval, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, admitted the appointment, and pointed out that Colonel Taylor had occupied the same position towards the King for many years, and the same salary that was given to that gentleman had been continued to Colonel McMahon. Mr. Whitbread pointed out that Colonel Taylor’s appointment was owing to the infirmities of the King, and that previously there had been no such post.

McMahon, by Lawrence, Vancouver Art Gallery
            On the 14th of April, Mr. C.W. Wynn, in the House of Commons, moved for the Production of the Appointment of Colonel McMahon to the new Office of Private Secretary to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent. A very long discussion took place, and on a division, the motion was negatived by a majority of seventy-six. But the Ministry felt that the House was decidedly against them, and the appointment was not persisted in–McMahon afterwards became a pensioner on the Privy Purse.
Note from Victoria: Sir John McMahon (c.1754-1817), formerly a colonel in the foot guards, was a Privy Counselor from 1812 to his death in 1817. He was made a baronet by the Prince Regent.  Several of his bothers also occupied important government positions in England and Ireland.  In Georgette Heyer’s  1935 novel, Regency Buck, he is a minor character in Brighton and facilitates Judith’s first invitation to the Royal Pavilion.
I guess this is a sneaky way to insert one of my favorite authors, Georgette Heyer.   Regency Buck was the first of her many Regency-set novels; her research was brilliant and her accuracy meticulous, setting a high standard for the rest of us authors. 

Regency Reflections: Ashton on 1812, Part I

The following is an excerpt from John Ashton’s Social England Under the Regency, which can be found in digital formats at numerous sites.

Regency a la Mode, British Museum
from Chapter 6, 1812:
            Judging by the barometer of public opinion, the satirical prints, the topic of conversation in the commencement of this year, was the Prince Regent. Occupying the exalted position that he did, he naturally was the observed of all, and his foibles and peccadilloes were made the laughing stock or were censured of all. And the Caricaturists did not spare him. Take this illustration as a sample; it is called ‘1812, or Regency a la Mode,’ where we see our ‘fat friend,’ as Brummell called him, having his stays laced, and, during that operation, occupying himself by rouging his cheeks.
             He would allow very little of his doings to be known by the public, and the movements of Royalty, as we know it in the Court Circular, were recorded in the baldest manner possible, except on one occasion, when the Regent sprained his ancle, and there was a very long and elaborate report thereon.
Prince Regent, by Sir Thomas Lawrence
            Morning Chronicle, Saturday, November 16, 1811:–‘The Prince Regent.–His Royal Highness, we are concerned to state, was not well enough to come to town yesterday. At the Party given by the Duchess of York at Oatlands, on Wednesday evening, the Duchess made arrangements for a Ball. The Prince Regent agreed to lead off the dance with his daughter, the Princess Charlotte, for his partner. Whilst his Royal Highness was leading the Princess briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a chair or sofa, which gave his leg a twist, and sprained his ancle. His Royal Highness took but little notice of it that night, but in the morning he found it worse than he expected, etc., etc.

            Whatever was the matter with him, he did not leave Oatlands till the 9th of December, or nearly a month after the Ball. Nobody believed in the royal sprain, but the story that did gain credence, and was made the most of by the Caricaturist and Satirist, was that the Regent, at that Ball, grossly insulted Lady Yarmouth, for which he was most heartily, and soundly, thrashed by her husband, Lord Yarmouth, and hence the royal indisposition. Walcot, as ‘Peter Pindar, Esqre,’ wrote one of his most scathing odes, and that is saying something, entitled, ‘The R______l Sprain, or A Kick from Yar_____h to WA_______s, being particulars of an expedition to Oat______nds, and the Sprained Ancle.’
A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales
            There were several Caricatures, all with the same tendency. One was ‘A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales, December, 1811, which shows Lord Yarmouth holding the Regent by his coat collar and vigorously kicking him behind, the Regent yelling and trying to get away, Lady Yarmouth sitting on a sofa looking on. There is attached to this, a poetical effusion of fourteen verses, to be sung to the tune of ‘The Love-sick Frog.’ The first verse runs thus:
“A Prince he would a raking go.
Heigh ho! said Rowly.
Whether his people would have him or no;
With a rowly-powly, gammon and spinach,
Heigh Ho! said Anthony Rowly.”
            Then there was ‘The Royal Milling Match,” published December 1811, in which depicted Lord Yarmouth, who, by a paper sticking out of his coat po
cket, was ‘Late a pupil of the Champion of England,’ ‘fibbing merrily’ on the royal countenance; at the same time exclaiming, ‘There is plenty of fair game, but no poaching on my Mannor. My action is quick, and put in strait forward–so!’ The Regent calls out, ‘Help, help, I have made a false step, and sprained my Ancle.’ A servant coming in says to Lord Yarmouth ‘Lord, Sir, don’t be so harsh, you’ll sprain the gentleman’s ancle. By goles, this is what they call Milling indeed!’ Lady Yarmouth views the scene from behind a screen.
            The most amusing one I have seen, is given in the accompanying illustration (below), which is by Geo.Cruikshank, published January, 1812. It is called ‘Princely Agility: or the Sprained Ancle.’ The doctor at the foot of the bed (probably meant for Halford) is fomenting the foot, which seems its normal size, and says to the attendant, ‘Take the waistcoat away, or we shall make the town talk.’ The Princess Charlotte is examining the foot, and exclaims,’Bless me, how it swelled!’ Lady Jersey, who is administering to the invalid prince, is inattentive to her duties; whilse the Regent with ‘two lovely black eyes,’ is calling to Colonel McMahon, ‘Oh! my Ancle, Oh!–bring me my Wig–Oh! my Ancle! Take care of my Whiskers, Mac! Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, o-o-o-oh-o!’ Sir John Douglas is feeling his pulse saying, ‘Out a way, Mon, you are always exposing yourself.’ John Bull is coming in at the door, but is pushed back by Adams with ‘Indeed, Bull, ’tis only a sprained ancle.’ But John Bull says, ‘John Bull is not to be fobbed off so easily, Master Lawyer.’
           George Cruikshank was not very particular as to his likenesses, as we may see by his ideal Colonel McMahon, who was a servant worthy of his master, to whom he was most useful.
            Walcott ‘Pindarised’ him in an Ode, ‘Mac the First,’ in which he makes him say:
‘Once a boy, in ragged dress,
Who would little Mac caress?
When in the streets, starv’d and sad,
I was a common errand lad.’

More about the Prince Regent and Col. McMahon, soon at this site.

Excerpts from the Reminiscences of Captain Gronow

Rees Howell Gronow (1794 – 1865) is remembered  best for his Reminiscences, which he wrote down in his old age.  Some observers suspect his memories were not always accurate, but he presents a clear picture of the Regency era and subsequent events, particularly in regard to the characters he wrote about with frankness and humor.

He put out four volumes of his recollections from 1862-1866. His collected works appeared in 1888 and have been re-edited and re-published many times. In his youth, he was educated at Eton, where he was friendly with the poet Shelley. In 1812, Gronow was commissioned an Ensign in the Foot guards, eventually rising to be a Captain in the Welsh Grenadier Guards.  He served in the Peninsular War and in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo.

Romeo Coates

Always well dressed, Gronow moved in the highest circles of London society and wrote many accounts of the ladies and gentlemen whose exploits we still care about today.  One of these men was Romeo Coates, a true eccentric. Robert Coates (1772-1848), often known as Romeo, was born in the West Indies and came to England with a substantial fortune…but let Gronow tell his story:

This singular man, more than forty years ago, occupied a large portion of public attention; his eccentricities were the theme of general wonder, and great was the curiosity to catch a glance at as strange a being as any that ever appeared in English society.  This extraordinary individual was a native of one of the West India Islands, and was represented as a man of extraordinary wealth; to which, however, he had no claim.

 About the year 1808 there arrived at the York Hotel, at Bath, a person about the age of fifty, somewhat gentlemanlike, but so different from the usual men of the day that considerable attention was directed to him.  He was of a good figure; but his face was sallow, seamed with wrinkles, and more expressive of cunning than of any other quality. His dress was remarkable: in the day-time he was covered at all seasons with enormous quantities of fur; but the evening costume in which he went to the balls made a great impression, from its gaudy appearance; for his buttons as well as his knee-buckles were of diamonds. There was of course great curiosity to know who this stranger was; and this

curiosity was heightened by an announcement that he proposed to appear at the theatre in the character of Romeo.  There was something so unlike the impassioned lover in his appearance–so much that indicated a man with few intellectual gifts–that everybody was prepared for a failure. No one, however, anticipated the reality.

 On the night fixed for his appearance the house was crowded to suffocation. The playbills had given out that “an amateur of fashion” would for that night only perform in the character of Romeo; besides, it was generally whispered that the rehearsals gave indication of comedy rather than tragedy, and that his readings were of a perfectly novel character.

 The very first appearance of Romeo convulsed the house with laughter. Benvolio prepares the audience for the stealthy visit of the lover to the object of his admiration; and fully did the amateur give the expression to one sense of the words uttered, for he was indeed the true representative of a thief stealing onwards in the night, “with Tarquin’s ravishing strides,” and disguising his face as if he were thoroughly ashamed of it.  The darkness of the scene did not, however, show his real character so much as the masquerade, when he came forward with hideous grin, and made what he considered his bow,–which consisted in thrusting his head forward and bobbing it up and down several times, his body remaining perfectly upright and stiff, like a toy mandarin with moveable head.

His dress was outre in the extreme: whether Spanish, Italian, or English, no one could say; it was like nothing ever worn.  In a cloak of sky-blue silk, profusely spangled, red pantaloons, a vest of white muslin, surmounted by an enormously thick cravat, and a wig a la Charles the Second, capped by an opera hat, he presented one of the most grotesque spectacles ever witnessed upon the stage.  The whole of his garments were evidently too tight for him; and his movements appeared so incongruous, that every time he raised his arm, or moved a limb, it was impossible to refrain from laughter: but what chiefly convulsed the audience was the bursting of a seam in an inexpressible part of his dress, and the sudden extrusion through the red rent of a quantity of white linen sufficient to make a Bourbon flag, which was visible whenever he turned round.  This was at first supposed to be a wilful offence against common decency, and some disapprobation was evinced; but the utter unconsciousness of the odd creature was soon apparent, and then urestrained mirth reigned throughout the boxes, pit, and gallery.  The total want of flexibility of limb, the awkwardness of his gait, and the idiotic manner in which he stood still, all produced a most ludicrous effect; but when his guttural voice was heard, and his total misapprehension of every passage in the play, especially the vulgarity of his address to Juliet, were perceived, everyone was satisfied that Shakspeare’s Romeo was burlesqued on that occasion.

The balcony scene was interrupted by shrieks of laughter, for in the midst of one of Juliet’s impassioned exclamations, Romeo quietly took out his snuff-box and applied a pinch to his nose; on this a wag in the gallery bawled out, “I say, Romeo, give us a pinch,” when the impassioned lover, in the most affected manner, walked to the side boxes and offered the contents of his box first to the gentlemen, and then, with great gallantry, to the ladies.  This new interpretation of Shakspeare was hailed with loud bravos, which the actor acknowledged with his usual grin and nod.  Romeo then returned to the balcony, and was seen to extend his arms; but all passed in dumb show, so incessant were the shouts of laughter. All that went on upon the stage was for a time quite inaudible, but previous to the soliloquy “I do remember an apothecary,” there was for a moment a dead silence; for in rushed the hero with a precipitate step until he reached the stage lamps, when he commenced his speech in the lowest possible whisper, as if he had something to communicate to the pit that ought not to be generally known; and this tone was kept up throughout the whole of the soliloquy, so that not a sound could be heard.

 The amateur actor showed many indications of aberration of mind
, and
seemed rather the object of pity than of amusement; he, however, appeared delighted with himself, and also with his audience, for at the conclusion he walked first to the left of the stage and bobbed his head in his usual grotesque manner at the side boxes; then to the right, performing the same feat; after which, going to the centre of the stage with the usual bob, and placing his hand upon his left breast, he exclaimed, “Haven’t I done it well?”  To this inquiry the house, convulsed as it was with shouts of laughter, responded in such a way as delighted the heart of Kean on one great occasion, when he said, “The pit rose at me.” The whole audience started up as if with one accord, giving a yell of derision, whilst pocket-handkerchiefs waved from all parts of the theatre.

 The dying scene was irresistibly comic, and I question if Liston, Munden, or Joey Knight, was ever greeted with such merriment; for Romeo dragged the unfortunate Juliet from the tomb, much in the same manner as a washerwoman thrusts into her cart the bag of foul linen. But how shall I describe his death?  Out came a dirty silk handkerchief from his pocket, with which he carefully swept the ground; then his opera hat was carefully placed for a pillow, and down he laid himself.  After various tossings about he seemed reconciled to the position; but the house vociferously bawled out, “Die again, Romeo!”  and, obedient to the command, he rose up, and went through the ceremony again.  Scarcely had he lain quietly down, when the call was again heard, and the well-pleased amateur was evidently prepared to enact a third death; but Juliet now rose up from her tomb, and gracefully put an end to this ludicrous scene by advancing to the front of the stage and aptly applying a quotation from Shakspeare:

  “Dying is such sweet sorrow,
  That he will die again until to-morrow.”

Thus ended an extravaganza such as has seldom been witnessed; for although Coates repeated the play at the Haymarket, amidst shouts of laughter from the playgoers, there never was so ludicrous a performance as that which took place at Bath on the first night of his appearance. Eventually he was driven from the stage with much contumely, in consequence of its having been discovered that, under pretence of acting for a charitable purpose, he had obtained a sum of money for his performances. His love of notoriety led him to have a most singular shell-shaped carriage built, in which, drawn by two fine white horses, he was wont to parade in the park; the harness, and every available part of the vehicle (which was really handsome) were blazoned over with his heraldic device–a cock crowing, and his appearance was heralded by the gamins of London shrieking out “cock-a-doodle-doo.” Coates eventually quitted London and settled at Boulogne, where a fair lady was induced to become the partner of his existence, notwithstanding the ridicule of the whole world.
End of Gronow on Romeo Coates; More Gronow excerpts coming soon…

Regency Reflections: Pitshanger Manor and Dulwich Picture Gallery

Sir John Soane (1784-1837) was a distinguished architect in Georgian England whose works have received at great deal of attention from 20th and 21st century architects. His work was unique for his time and appealing to the contemporary sensibility, both then and now. For information on his London home and museum, see the blog post of 9/24/11. This post will discuss two more of his buildings, Pitshanger Manor and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Pitshanger Manor, Ealing, Greater London
Soane had a well established practice and had completed most work on his own London home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields by 1800. He wanted a villa west of the city where he, his wife and two sons could enjoy country life. He purchased 28 acres for £ 4,500 including an existing house and outbuildings, known as Pitshanger Manor.  Eventually, he demolished most of the existing structures, saving only a wing designed by his mentor, architect George Dance, in the 1770’s for previous owners. Over the next few years, Soane and his students worked on the house. Almost all of the drawings  and receipts for the construction, decoration and furnishing of the house have been preserved in Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Library, Pitshanger Manor
London has spread out quite a bit and Pitshanger Manor is now in a park in the suburb of Ealing, reachable by the Underground, amidst an affluent bedroom community. In the early 20th century, the building had become the local library, with an addition for additional space. Since the mid-80’s, it has been opened to the public and carefully restored to the look of Soane’s day, except for the addition which is used for small art exhibitions.



Breakfast Room., Pitshanger Manor

The interiors are clearly neo-classic, but have a distinctly contemporary feel. One can easily see why post-modernists are attracted to Soane’s work. The breakfast room has walls with marbled effects, a popular technique used by today’s designers.  

Dulwich Picture Gallery
In another section of suburban London, the Dulwich Picture Gallery attracts many visitors to its collection of Old Masters.  It is Britain’s first purpose-built public picture gallery, and Soane’s design set the standard for every art museum since.  The Picture Gallery is located on the campus of Dulwich College, established in the early 17th century in the village of Dulwich, where it today serves about 1600 boys, ages 7 to 18. 
The Picture Gallery came about as a result of several coincidences  A London art dealer Noel Desenfans (1745-1807)  was asked by the King of Poland to assemble paintings for a national collection in 1790. However, within a few years, Poland had been divided up among Austria, Prussia and Russia. Desenfans tried to sell the collection but met with no success. Therefore he decided, with the help of his friend, Francis
Bourgeois, to set up a public gallery. After his death, Bourgeois willed the collection to Dulwich College. His friend Sir John Soane designed the building, which also includes a mausoleum for Mr. and Mrs. Desenfans and Bourgeois.

Soane’s design was unique, using extensive skylights to bring in natural light. Building began on October 12, 1811.  Originally there were five galleries on either side of the mausoleum and flanked by almshouses, which were later converted to additional galleries. Further additions have been kept in sympathy with the original designs.

Girl Leaning on a Window-sill, Rembrandt
The collection contains many gems, some dating from the establishment of the original college, many from the Desenfans collection, others from more recent acquisitions.  The Gallery’s website is here.
The Madonna of the Rosary: Murillo
Thomas Linley (1732-95) and his son, also Thomas (1756-98) were famous composers and musical performers in Georgian England, along with Elizabeth and Mary, the elder Thomas’s daughters. They were good friends of the renowned  portraitist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) who painted all of them. Gainsborough’s portrait of the Linley Sisters, below, was part of a bequest of Linley family portraits to the

Gallery. Elizabeth Linley (in blue) was painted just before she eloped and eventually married Richard Brinsley Sheridan, playwright and politician.

  
The Linley Sisters by Gainsborough
Two hundred years after its establishment, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is thriving; it has won many awards for its extensive educational programs. It stands as a tribute to its founders and to the designer of its trail-blazing building, Sir John Soane.

Regency Reflections: Sir John Soane's Museum

Victoria here.  People often ask me what I recommend for their visits to London.  I always answer, if they are in search of the English Regency, Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It is free (contribution requested) and of a perfect size for a half-day visit. The museum website is here. The portrait above is Sir John is by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a brilliant architect and teacher. The museum is in his house and classrooms, so you will get a taste of a wealthy (but not aristocratic) residence plus all Sir John’s collections, used for the instruction of his architecture students.
The bust of Sir John Soane in the center of the picture above was sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841).  Watch for my upcoming blog post on Chantrey, soon. 

Above, many rooms of the museum are devoted to the material he collected for his students to study.  Sir John began his career working for architects George Dance and, later, Henry Holland.  He traveled to Italy to study and came back to London to begin his own practice, in which he prospered, often doing projects to expand, remodel and modernize the country houses of the wealthy. An example, below, is Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire, finished in 1812 and updated as a conference center in recent years. More information is here.

Sir John Soane’s Museum shows several rooms in which his family lived, and I have always found the Drawing Room amusing.  It’s very brilliant shade of yellow furnishings was a very popular color during the Regency, as evidenced in a number of country houses (such as Goodwood House).

Whether you visit on a sunny or a rainy, gray day, this room will be cheerfully bright. The dining room is an equally vivid crimson, also a popular color for walls in the Regency.

Sir John Soane’s Museum also has gallery space for small, very selective exhibitions related to Soane’s era and interests. I recommend browsing the shop on the website for museum publications. One of my favorites is The Soanes At Home: Domestic Life at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from 1997.  It’s full of pictures, copies of receipts and invoices and all sorts of fascinating information about life and household management in the early 19th century.

 Above, Soane’s drawing of the Bank of England as he rebuilt it in 1814;  since then, it has been remodeled and enlarged so that little of his work is evident today, except in portions of the interior.  The museum houses a collection of more than 30,000 architectural drawings by England’s finest architects, as well as Soane’s sketchbooks, business records and other valuable research and archival material.  
Above is a drawing by J. M. Gandy of Tivoli Corner, part of Soane’s Bank of England, now remodeled.

Above, a statue of Sir John Soane in the Bank of England, where he is honored even though they changed his designs beyond recognition. Soane left the buildings of his museum and his home to the nation as a resource for training future architects. It thrives today, based on contributions and resources from its special programs, events, and publications. They operate a creative and energetic&n
bsp;educational program too.  In an upcoming blog, we will visit Pitshanger Manor and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, two outstanding buildings designed by Soane and open to the public.