The Boyle Family and their Court Guides – Guest post by R M Healey

It’s a pleasure to welcome guests back to All Things Georgian, and today we have another guest post from Mr R M Healey who is going to enlighten us about the Boyle Court Guides.

Since 1792, when it was established by Patrick Boyle, Boyle’s Court Guides, in the words of the 1819 edition, sought to contain ‘an alphabetical arrangement of the names and places in town and country, of all the Ladies and Gentlemen of Fashion’ in London. This was a significant innovation.

Since the mid eighteenth century the annual Royal Kalendar listed names and addresses of members of both Houses of Parliament, those holding office in the Royal Household as well as Officers of the State, Law, Revenue and other departments, senior officers in the Army and Navy, senior members of the clergy, and those running ‘Literary, Scientific and Charitable Institutions’   in England, Scotland , Ireland and the Colonies.

However, people falling outside these categories, who may have seen themselves as worthy of notice, were excluded. Boyle’s Guides represented a deliberate attempt to remedy this situation.

Thus, along with many of those who might also appear in the Royal Kalendar, Boyle welcomed entries from many who didn’t, including minor members of the aristocracy, both British and European, individuals with private means, scientists, inventors, artists, architects, writers and successful men of business. There was no charge for inclusion or even for alterations of address, which certainly must have encouraged people to come forward. What we don’t know, unfortunately, was whether the Boyles exercised some sort of screening process to ensure that certain undesirable people were excluded.

In the same edition we find, in the words of Eliza Boyle, who took over the Guides on the death of Patrick in 1808, ‘a separate register of all the fashionable streets’ for the use of  ‘Porters in the Hall, Servants, &c.‘  Thus ‘the Reader may see at one view, and become acquainted, in an Instant, with the Names of the various Persons of Fashion, according to the Numbers in each Street’. Such a register would have been useful for those who wished to know if someone of interest or ‘fashion’ lived close to them.

Naturally, of course, Boyle could only include those who came forward. Then, as now, there were those who wished to be ex-directory, possibly for security reasons. There was no attempt to supply an exhaustive list of residents in London. This came later with the Guides published by Pigot from the 1820s onwards, where in addition to a ‘court’ section, the names and addresses of those offering a commercial service became possible.

The Boyle Guides continued to be published up to 1924, along with the better known Kelly’s Directories, which suggests that there was still a need, even in the age of the telephone directory, for a specialist guide of this type.

By 1819 Eliza Boyle was editing the Guides from 15, Leicester Place, a short street off the better known Leicester Square, where her neighbours included two surgeons and a partnership of attorneys.

Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 16 February 1823

In 1823, the newspapers were reporting that Eliza was bankrupt, so it would appear that the following year she paired up with her son George and by 1829 the upwardly mobile couple had relocated to the more fashionable 284, Regent’s Street where along with solicitors they were surrounded by bankers, artists and several architects, including such eminent practitioners as J. P. Gandy Dering, Lewis Vulliamy and ( at number 14) John Nash himself, who  had been responsible for much of Regent Street.

The Quadrant, Regent Street

The new premises also offered ‘ Copper-plate engraving, printing and lithography ‘ as well as ‘embossing‘. Lithography had only been invented comparatively recently, which suggests that the Boyles were anxious to promote themselves as a truly ‘modern’ and up to date concern.

Patrick Boyle, as part of his business plan, had devised a card-delivery scheme for his clientele. This must have become rather popular, for by 1819 Eliza ran an advert in the Guide for that year:

The number of Subscribers to the plan of delivering Cards &c having been, during the last season, so very great has induced E.B. to alter and enlarge her method, whereby a speedy and correct delivery will be certain.

Eliza then presented her table of charges for the various services offered:

For a Lady or Gentleman , head of a Family, and all unmarried daughters, residing in One House, for delivering Visiting Cards, Cards of Invitation, Thanks &c. for One Season, from the date of the Receipt which will expire at August next-    £2  2

To Non-Subscribers, for once delivering Cards of Thanks, Visits, Routs, Masks, Balls, Concerts &c. under 300, the whole to be sent to the Office at once, directed and ready for delivery –  £1    1s

And if above 300         £1  11s  6

For arranging & writing a Visiting Book in Alphabetical order, not above 300 names.        £1    11s    6

Exceeding that number        £2   2s   0

As postage was expensive until a uniform rate of one penny was established by Rowland Hill in 1840, such a scheme must have been regarded as a great blessing, even to the well-heeled. But with all such money-making enterprises, fraud was a problem.

In April 1819 Eliza warned the Nobility and Gentry to be aware of ‘impostors’ who ‘under the pretence that they are employed by her demanded money for alterations or insertions.

On the contrary, Eliza explained:

The men employed by E.B. are forbidden, under pain of prosecution, to make any such demand.

Evidently, these fraudulent practices persisted, for in 1829 the warning was reissued. It would be interesting to study some cases involving demands for money, which seem to be similar in nature to the various email and phone scams that plague us today.

In May 1829, Eliza married again, and her husband, Peter Paul O’Callaghan joined Eliza and her son in the business.  Eliza died in 1836, and her will she was very specific about the publication continuing and being printed and published by her husband, after being edited by her son.

From the will of Eliza – Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1866



4 thoughts on “The Boyle Family and their Court Guides – Guest post by R M Healey


    I’m always delighted and surprised by the articles featured in your posts. So lovely to peep behind the curtain on the private lives. Thank you very very much. Marjan van Waardenberg New Zealand



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