Cleveley the elder, John; The 'St Albans' Floated out at Deptford, 1747; National Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-st-albans-floated-out-at-deptford-1747-173286

The sad tale of the miser Mary Luhorne

Sailmaker, Isaac; Two Views of an East Indiaman of the Time of William III; National Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/two-views-of-an-east-indiaman-of-the-time-of-william-iii-175440
Isaac Sailmaker; Two Views of an East Indiaman of the Time of William III; National Maritime Museum

Mary Manlove married Nicholas Luhorne, some seven years her senior, in 1715 at St Andrews Holborn. There’s nothing especially noteworthy about either of them on the face of it until after the death of Nicholas, a captain in the navy, when the story of Mary’s life after the loss of her husband became particularly tragic as we discovered in a book, titled Lives and anecdotes of misers. What became of Mary…?

In the month of August of the year 1766 there died at Deptford a wretched old woman, in her ninety-sixth year; she was the widow of Captain Luhorne, of the East India service. She survived her husband forty years, and during the whole of that period she lived a most miserly and penurious manner. She not only denied herself the comforts, but even the most common necessaries and decencies of life.

Her clothes were so tattered that she was almost in a state of nudity, and the rags which she hung upon her shoulders were so filthy, and so animated with vermin, that passengers took the precaution to keep at a distance from her in the streets.

marriage-1715

She was never known to have lit a fire in her room, and never indulged in the luxury of a candle; she wore no under garments, and had no sheet to cover her at night; she eschewed all the rules of cleanliness, and appeared never so happy as when surrounded with filth and loathsomeness. She would frequently wander along the roads to beg of passers by, and always professed the utmost poverty.

The demon of avarice was so strong within this covetous soul, that she was more than once detected pilfering some trifling articles from her neighbours. One Tuesday the old woman was missed; she had not been observed to leave her room, and she had not been seen in her accustomed walks: Wednesday past, and the neighbours began to suspect that the old miser must be ill; they knocked at her door, but no voice replied; they waited for the morrow; and when the day had far advanced, and she did not appear, they got in at the window. They found her in bed alive, but speechless: with the attention she revived a little, but on Saturday the old woman died.

Her relatives were sent for, who on opening her drawers and chests found securities and gold to the amount of forty thousand pounds, besides clothes of the most sumptuous make and texture, plate, china, jewels and linen. For years she had been surrounded with this wealth and possessed these luxuries, which if rightly used would have served to comfort her old age, and have been the means of relieving the miseries and wants of others; the remembrance would in return have proved great solace to the bed of sickness and death.

st-pauls-deptford-burial-6th-aug
Although not very clear, we finally found her burial – 6th August 1766, St Nicholas, Deptford, Kent

Yet although her drawers were thus crammed with costly apparel, which was slowly moldering  and rotting before the effects of time; that wretched object of penury chose rather to wear rags so filthy that it became the imperative duty of her relatives to burn them immediately after her death.

In a life so wretched, so devoid of purpose, so laborious, so self-denying and so debased, we have a striking ample of the littleness of human wishes, and the ignobility of the human mind, when unguided by reason, and when swayed by the despotism of the passions. Her life is indeed, a problem the philosopher will find some difficulty to solve. With forty thousand pounds, no fraction of which she would venture to enjoy – with none for whom affection would prompt her to save – here was a wretched being whose lust for gold and whose propensity to hoard was so overwhelming, that she would beg of strangers in the streets whatever she could lay her hands upon; and although surrounded with an abundance, deprive herself of every enjoyment – of every hope and consolation, that she might gratify this most senseless propensity of her life, of her avarice, as manifested in all its strength at the age of ninety five, and of her lonely and comfortless death bed, we are prompted to exclaims, with the psalmist:

Vanitas Vanitatum omnia vanitas!

(vanity, vanity, all is vanity)