18th Century Song, guest post by erAto

It’s always lovely to welcome guests to All Things Georgian and today I’m welcoming back the author, erAto who writes historic 18th century fiction, who will share with us information about 18th century songs.

My Exenchester Series is a dark and lurid take on the Georgian Era. In a world inspired by Old Bailey transcripts and by unusual authors like Thomas de Quincey, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the Marquis de Sade, sex, crime and death are lurking everywhere.

 The series consists of two novels and a short story. Within their haunting plotlines there is also a connection to another topic of 18th century interest: popular music. Some might think that this is an odd combination — gritty gothic noir and Georgian era songs — but let us take a look at the music of the Exenchester series and see how this all aligns.

STEPS OF THE MALEFACTOR & DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN

Gothic horror meets splatterpunk in Steps of the Malefactor. Giving the backstory of Francis Exenchester via his relationship with footman William Roxby, these two young men find themselves caught up in a “knot” of sex offenders. During what is likely the story’s most brutal scene, one character, Blore, spontaneously bursts into song: Down Among the Dead Men.

Here’s a health to the King and a lasting peace

To faction an end, to wealth increase.

Come, let us drink it while we have breath,

For there’s no drinking after death.

And he that will this health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

Let charming beauty’s health go round,

With whom celestial joys are found.

And may confusion yet pursue,

That selfish woman-hating crew.

And he who’d woman’s health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

In smiling Bacchus’ joys I’ll roll,

Deny no pleasure to my soul.

Let Bacchus’ health round briskly move,

For Bacchus is a friend to Love;

And they that would this health deny,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let him lie!

May love and wine their rights maintain,

And their united pleasures reign.

While Bacchus’ treasure crowns the board,

We’ll sing the joy that both afford.

And they that won’t with us comply,

Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

Down, down, down, down;

Down among the dead men let them lie!

Charles Mackay, in his collection of English folk songs, notes that this song’s composition is attributed to a “Mr. Dyer” (posited by some to be John Dyer) and said to have been first performed at the theatre at Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields.

The first publication is said to be from 1728 in a book called The Dancing Master, though it also appears in a slightly different, crasser form, in Scottish author Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany around the same time.

A circa 1740 broadside has yet another variant, and even crasser than Ramsay’s. The nature of folk songs means the tunes and lyrics are a bit unstable, for there was a time when one couldn’t rely on a recording to play the song back identically ad infinitum.

These old folk tunes tended to be communicated orally; and the transmission relies on the memory of the performer and on said performer’s own artistic take on the song. So it was that popular songs lived and mutated as they were passed along.

Best known as a drinking song, ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ has an implication in its lyrics of a person who is “dead drunk” — and this sometimes guessed to be the meaning of the “dead men” in the song.

Nevertheless, the patriotic note to the lyrics does suggest real animosity may be intended towards those who won’t drink to the King and Queen. It actually has a feel of the 17th century “Rump Songs” about it, and if it was already being collected by Ramsay as a folk song in the 1720s, the John Dyer attribution seems unlikely (or at least, it was not by the famous John Dyer who was born in 1699).

The appearance of this song in Steps of the Malefactor was actually my own tribute to David Lynch and his disturbing use of popular songs in the movie Blue Velvet. Certain verses in particular seemed appropriate to the characters in the story, and to their evil intentions, particularly when removed from context.

MOLLY BRAZEN & YOUTH’S THE SEASON MADE FOR JOYS

In the mirthful drama Molly Brazen, Annabelle the sex worker is baffled by the behavior and appearance of her young client, who seems to not actually want to have any sex; and as she interrogates him to discover his reasons why, his answers just get weirder and weirder.

The story was written as a promo piece for The Virgin and the Bull, but hints at many events from the then-to-be-written Steps of the Malefactor.

Technically, Molly Brazen contains no songs. However, the title of the story is reference to a sex worker character from The Beggar’s Opera, as well as a play on the old word for a homosexual (strictly speaking, molly is the 18th century equivalent of sissy).

In The Beggar’s Opera, there is only one song in which Molly Brazen would have participated: Youth’s the Season Made for Joys.

Youth’s the season made for joys,

Love is then our duty;

She alone who that employs,

Well deserves her beauty.

Let’s be gay,

While we may,

Beauty’s a flower despis’d in decay.

Let us drink and sport to-day,

Ours is not tomorrow.

Love with youth flies swift away,

Age is nought but sorrow.

Dance and sing,

Time’s on the wing,

Life never knows the return of spring.

As with all songs from The Beggar’s Opera, author John Gay wrote the lyrics himself, but set them to an existing melody. In this case the song used was merely called “cotillion” — perhaps just an instrumental dance piece for which he created words. In the surrounding dialogue it’s referred to as a “French tune.”

The setting for this performance in The Beggar’s Opera is in a whorehouse, as is too the entire story Molly Brazen. There is consequently a bit of irony in its verses on fleeting love and hurrying to “drink and sport” as, like waiters at a restaurant table, the whores surely want to move along to their next client. 

THE VIRGIN AND THE BULL & SWEET WILLIAM

Though a man of science, hero Charles Macgregor shows a great interest in poetry and literature, which proves to be what binds him to the gorgeous but troublesome Constance Fawkes. The tragic noir romance of The Virgin and the Bull opens with Macgregor’s suicide note, in which he quotes some lines from a song that is stuck in his head as he prepares himself for death.

Macgregor’s tune is a version of a song known variously as Sweet William, Sweet William’s Ghost, Lady Margaret, My Willie-O, Lament of the Border Widow, or simply nowadays as Child Ballad 77.

Francis James Child has seven versions of Sweet William in his original collection of popular ballads (of which it is the 77th entry). Some versions of this song are more or less cheerful in content, some have a more or less Scottish dialect to them, some are longer or shorter, some particular details get changed, but there is typically something consistent enough to make it a recognizable version of a single song. The Sweet William songs involve a woman (often called Margaret) receiving a visit from the ghost of her lover (usually called William or Willie) who has died while away from her. William’s promise to marry Margaret has gone unfulfilled, and he either wishes to fulfil the promise or be freed from it, so he may rest in peace.

Child’s oldest version of the ballad dates to 1740, via a later edition of Allan Ramsay’s Tea Table Miscellany.

However, in Child’s introduction he speculates it’s a variant of a song he can trace to 17th century in Scandinavian sources. The Virgin and the Bull’s Charles Macgregor uses a version similar to that found in Jamieson’s Popular Ballads of 1806 (though in which version the tragic hero is named “Clerk Saunders”).

When seven years were come and gane,

Lady Margaret she thought lang;

And she is up to the hichest tower,

By the lee licht o the moon.

She was lookin oer her castle high,

To see what she might fa,

And there she saw a grieved ghost,

Comin waukin oer the wa.

‘O are ye a man of mean,’ she says,

‘Seekin ony o my meat?

Or are you a rank robber,

Come in my bower to break?’

‘O I’m Clerk Saunders, your true-love,

Behold, Margaret, and see,

And mind, for a’ your meikle pride,

Sae will become of thee.’

‘Gin ye be Clerk Saunders, my true-love,

This meikle marvels me;

O wherein is your bonny arms,

That wont to embrace me?’

‘By worms they’re eaten, in mools they’re rotten,

Behold, Margaret, and see,

And mind, for a’ your mickle pride,

Sae will become o thee.’

‘O, bonny, bonny sang the bird,

Sat on the coil o hay;

But dowie, dowie was the maid

That followd the corpse o clay.

‘Is there ony room at your head, Saunders?

Is there ony room at your feet?

Is there ony room at your twa sides,

For a lady to lie and sleep?’

‘There is nae room at my head, Margaret,

As little at my feet;

There is nae room at my twa sides,

For a lady to lie and sleep.

‘But gae hame, gae hame now, May Margaret,

Gae hame and sew your seam;

For if ye were laid in your weel made bed,

Your days will nae be lang.’

In my book, Macgregor, of course, is feeling many of the song’s visions of graves and rotting corpses as he quotes from it; and surely, he’s also experiencing his own shock and betrayal at a broken promise of marriage, leading to this chilling tune churning amongst his final thoughts.

In Steps of the Malefactor, the character of Garcifer also makes a verbal reference to this song, addressing William Roxby as “Sweet William” while threatening to torture him (implying that he’s already marked for death).

These are all popular tunes of the 18th century (as opposed to art songs, such as the operatic tunes of Handel, Arne and others that are intended for a trained voice and large orchestra) and would have probably been known and heard comparably to modern multi-decade standards like Tubthumping, Holiday and Major Tom. It is nevertheless interesting to note the preoccupation with death and mortality in these songs, even in the cheerful one. In a sense, these songs reflect the darkness that existed within the Enlightenment, which was also rather the goal of the Exenchester series.

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737

The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

During research into Allan Ramsay, we have noticed that the information given online concerning his children is incorrect and – in some cases – missing altogether. So, today’s post is something of a genealogical exercise to fully document Ramsay’s twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, which, we hope, will prove informative for anyone else interested in Ramsay’s family. Plus, it is also just a fantastic opportunity to showcase some wonderful portraits and sketches.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self-portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Born in Edinburgh and baptised on 6th October 1713 (according to the Gregorian calendar; 11 days need to be added to correspond to the Julian calendar), Ramsay was the eldest son of the poet and bookseller, Allan Ramsay (who was a wigmaker at the time of Allan’s birth) and his wife Christian neé Ross. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, Janet, Catherine and Anne.

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay's two sisters, Janet or Catherine.
Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay’s two sisters, Janet or Catherine. The Tate

Allan Ramsay junior’s talent was evident from an early age; his father described him as painting ‘like a Raphael’ and raised money to send Allan to Italy in order that he might study there.

By 1738, Ramsay was back in England, and he took rooms in the piazza in Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737
Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737; Tate

A year later, on 29 April 1739, Ramsay married Anne Bayne, a fellow Scot and the daughter of Alexander Bayne of Rires. Around the time of their wedding (which took place at St Benet, Paul Wharf), Ramsay painted Anne’s portrait.

Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739.
Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739. National Galleries of Scotland

Three children were born to the couple, two sons Allan and Bayne, who both died young before Anne herself died in childbirth early in 1743 giving birth to a daughter who was named Anne, for her mother. She survived, at least for a few years. On 11 January 1747 another Anne Ramsay was buried in the churchyard at Covent Garden, this one a spinster. It seems probable that this was Ramsay’s sister, Anne.

Allan Ramsay's infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741.
Allan Ramsay’s infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741. National Galleries of Scotland

Ramsay spent much of the following years in Scotland, where his fame grew, if not his wealth. He was supporting not only his young daughter but his two spinster sisters too, Catherine and Janet. Certainly Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick didn’t consider Ramsay a suitable husband for his 26-year-old daughter, Margaret, whom Ramsay was teaching to draw. Denied her father’s approval, Margaret eloped with Ramsay and they married on 1 March 1752 at the Canongate in Edinburgh.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

Later that year, just a day shy of 33 weeks after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to twins. In an attempt to placate her father, who still disapproved of her husband, the babes were named Alexander and Amelia after Margaret’s parents; they were baptized on 17 October 1752 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and sadly buried there the very next day. By the end of 1753, the Ramsays were back in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and there, in February 1754, another son was born, again named Alexander. This infant was left behind in Scotland when his parents travelled to Italy the following year. Margaret was soon pregnant once again.

A daughter, Amelia was born in March 1755 at Rome but sadly, back in Edinburgh, little Alexander had died; he was buried on 23 June 1755.

By the end of 1758, Ramsay had brought his family back to London and taken lodgings on the western side of Soho Square (then called King’s Square, the name given because of the statue of Charles II which stood there).

King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

On 9 November 1758, another daughter was born to Allan and Margaret Ramsay; she was baptized with the name Elisabeth eight days later at St. Anne’s, Soho. Two more daughters were to swiftly follow, Frances born 16 February 1760 and Grizelda on 19 July 1761. Sadly, none were destined to live long: Grizelda lived for less than six weeks and was buried (as Grizell Ramsay) at Chiswick on 29 August and Elisabeth died almost a year later at three years of age. She was laid to rest in the Soho churchyard on 22 August 1762 where her sister Frances joined her on 4 July 1765.

A ray of light amongst the darkness was the birth of Charlotte in 1765, the youngest daughter of the family. Charlotte was strong and healthy and would survive.

Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776.
Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776. National Galleries of Scotland.

The final child born to Ramsay was a son, named John, who was baptized at St Marylebone on 14 June 1768. Probably he was named after his uncle, Margaret’s brother Sir John Lindsay who is perhaps better remembered as the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle (of whom we have written previously).

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Allan Ramsay suffered ill health during his later years and died at Dover on his return to London from Florence on 10 August 1784 and was buried at St Marylebone church on 18th August 1784 where Margaret had been buried two years earlier. But, what of their three surviving children, Amelia, Charlotte and John?

All three Ramsay siblings appear to have shared a love of adventure, for they travelled the globe. Amelia married an army officer, Archibald Campbell (later General Sir Archibald Campbell) at St Marylebone on 8 July 1779. Campbell was posted abroad (he was governor of Jamaica between 1781 and 1784) and Amelia and her sister, Charlotte sailed to be with him in 1780. They were aboard the storeship, British Queen, captain Hodge, in a convoy of 63 ships bound for the West Indies.

Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790.
Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790. National Army Museum

The ships were East and West Indiamen, storeships, victuallers and transports (with the 90th Regiment of Foot on board), and while it might have been felt that there was safety in numbers, it was a perilous time. Spain had sided with the US in the American Revolutionary War and declared war on Britain. At Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, on 9 August 1780, the convoy of British ships met a combined Spanish and French fleet and it was disastrous. All but eight of the British vessels were captured.

The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish.
The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish. Image via Wikimedia

The new Mrs Amelia Campbell and her sister, Charlotte Ramsay were incredibly lucky; their ship, the British Queen, was one of the eight which evaded capture and they managed to make it unscathed to Jamaica and Campbell’s protection.

Seven years later, on 1 February 1787 and possibly in India, Charlotte married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Malcolm, Adjutant-General to the East-India Company’s troops on the coast of Coromandel, South East India.

John Ramsay joined the army and he too made his way to India. In 1789 a ship returning to England from Madras via St Helena numbered among the passengers:

Sir Archibald Campbell, K.B, family and suite; Mrs Malcolm… Capt. John Ramsay…

Amelia and Sir Archibald Campbell had no children, but she did bring up two children as her own, a boy who shared her husband’s name, Archibald Campbell and a girl born c.1784, Mary Macleod, who Amelia thought of as her adopted daughter.

Amelia Campbell née Ramsay died in 1813 and was buried (on 15 July 1813) in Westminster Abbey alongside her husband, Sir Archibald who had died 23 years earlier. (Their grave is in the south transept of the abbey, next to that of George Frederic Handel.) After Amelia’s death, Mary Macleod went to live with Charlotte who became as close to the girl as her sister had been; both Amelia and Charlotte left the bulk of their wealth to Mary. Indeed, Charlotte, in her will, declared that she viewed Mary as a daughter.

On 6 January 1837, Charlotte Malcolm née Ramsay was buried at St Marylebone. John Ramsay, who was promoted to the rank of general, lived until 1845; he died in Geneva.

John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794.
John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794. National Galleries of Scotland

The family home in Edinburgh

Allan Ramsay's House. National Galleries Scotland
Allan Ramsay’s House. National Galleries Scotland

To recap, the children of Allan Ramsay are as follows:

By Anne Bayne:

Allan – 1740-1741

Bayne – 1741-? (died young)

Anne – 1743-? (died young after 1752)

By Margaret Lindsay:

Alexander and Amelia (twins) – 1752-1752

Alexander – 1754-1755

Amelia – 1755-1813

Elisabeth – 1758-1762

Frances – 1760-1765

Grizelda – 1761-1761

Charlotte – 1765-1837

John – 1768-1845

Notes:

For ease, we have used new style rather than old style dates, except where noted.

Ramsay’s daughter Anne, from his first marriage, was alive when he remarried in 1752 as she was mentioned in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law, but she did not survive into adulthood.

Elisabeth, born 9 November 1758, seems to have been confused in most, if not all sources for Charlotte born 1765. In fact, the short-lived Elisabeth, Frances and Grizelda appear to have been totally overlooked and Charlotte, known as one of only two Ramsay’s daughters by Margaret Lindsay to have survived to adulthood, ascribed to the 1758 birth on the basis of a letter written by Ramsay to Sir Alexander Dick congratulating Sir Alexander on the birth of a daughter and remarking that he had recently been similarly blessed.

In the 1851 census, Mary Macleod said she had been born at sea but was a British subject.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Dido Elizabeth Belle, her portrait

For those of us who watched BBC’s Fake or Fortune which took a look at the stunning painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth, we were delighted that the team were finally been able to put a name to the artist which has been unknown for so long, and confirmed – as we suggested – that it was not painted by Zoffany.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

In our previous blog about the painting we did speculate that it may have been by David Martin but also offered ours and Etienne Daly (an expert in all things Dido)’s opinion that it was more likely to have been by Allan Ramsay given his familial connections. Well, we now have an answer – or do we?

As we’ve been asked whether our opinion has changed after viewing the programme, we decided to look at the evidence provided. This is quite a long post, so bear with us.

Our answer to the posed question is, in short, not totally, although we’re not and never have professed to be art experts. For us, there are still some questions which have remained unanswered.

If we’re trying to give Dido back her rightful place in society we need to start at the beginning of the programme and correct the first statement made about Dido.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was NOT born into slavery.  Whilst her mother had been a slave who was brought to England by Sir John Lindsay, Dido was born in England and not as a slave, but the natural daughter of an aristocrat. We know this from the snippet of information written by Thomas Hutchinson in his diary. Why would he fabricate this fact? He had nothing to gain and was merely repeating what he been told on previous occasions by Lord Mansfield.

I knew her history before, but my Lord mentioned it again. Sir John Lindsay having taken her mother prisoner in a Spanish vessel, brought her to England, where she was delivered of this girl.

Next, Dido’s freedom was technically given by Lord Mansfield on 17th April 1782 when he wrote his will and not upon his death in 1793; she would have been just coming up to her 21st birthday, so perfect timing.

Along with confirming her freedom, Lord Mansfield gave her £100 per year, after the death of his wife, which took place in April 1784, to which he subsequently added a further payment of £200 ‘to set out with‘, plus £300 in a later codicil, making an overall total of some £900. That seems a strange comment for him to have made, but, it could be argued that if he thought he was to die shortly, that Dido would need to be self-sufficient as she may no longer have been able to live at Kenwood after his death.

Although Dido had never been a slave, this document was important as it would legally have affirmed her social status so that there could be no possible misunderstanding after his death, whenever that should come, and to ensure that there was no possibility of her ever being regarded as a slave. After Lord Mansfield’s death, she became a free woman with status, an heiress in her own right, which showed a good deal of foresight on Lord Mansfield’s part and ensured that she was financially secure.

Portrait of Lady Marjory - screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune
Portrait of Lady Marjory – screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune

Now, moving on to the portrait itself, based upon the scientific findings of Philip Mould and his team it would certainly appear likely that the portrait above, in the family’s private collection, was painted by the same person who painted the portrait of Lady Marjory. However, the programme left us to accept that (a) it was a painting of Lady Marjory and (b) that it was painted by David Martin and (c) some ten years previously, without explaining how they knew these facts. From our perspective and for clarity, it might have been helpful if those explanations of the provenance were offered.

Assuming it was Lady Marjory (- 19th April 1799), niece to Lord Mansfield, the similarities in style between the paintings was clear to see – the face shape, the lips, the fingers on the cheek. We know that Lady Marjory and Dido were close as Dido was a beneficiary in Lady Marjory’s will, so perhaps the pose was Dido’s attempt to emulate Lady Marjory’s portrait, although Lady Marjory’s attitude looks pensive, whereas Dido’s is slightly mischievous.

Portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido and Lady Elizabeth together - screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune
Portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido and Lady Elizabeth together – screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune

Whilst the technology has confirmed that the portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido were painted using the same paint, for us, it doesn’t confirm that they were by the same artist. Surely it’s feasible that two artists could have used the same paint – after all Martin was Ramsay’s protégé, so perhaps both used the same supplier? Theoretical, of course.

The expert, at the end of the programme, was also able to confirm, based on the evidence, that it was by Martin, but equally, he acknowledged that Martin had been Ramsay’s protégé. So, again, although Martin was a respected artist by that time in his own right, couldn’t either he, Ramsay or both have worked on the painting of Dido as a favour to the family, especially as Allan Ramsay was her uncle? We still hold the opinion that, given the playful nature of the portrait, it was definitely painted by someone with whom the girls felt relaxed and comfortable with. Arguably, either artist would fit the bill.

It was very interesting to note that the portrait was unframed, according to the 1796 inventory. Had it been a commission you would have expected it to be presented in a frame or framed by the family shortly after and given her status within the family it seems desperately sad that so soon after her marriage it had been stored away along with broken furniture etc. We also wondered why it hadn’t been retained by Dido as a keepsake if the family no longer had it on display.

Payment made to David Martin in 1776 from Lord Mansfield's accounts. Screenshot from Fake or Fortune
Payment made to David Martin in 1776 from Lord Mansfield’s accounts. Screenshot from Fake or Fortune

As suggested by that record in the accounts book, if the payment to David Martin was for the portrait of Dido,  then at best, Dido would have only been 15 years old; she does not look like a girl of 15, she looks to be late teens in our humble opinion.

The date of the painting has long been regarded as 1779 when it was attributed to Zoffany. We don’t think it is likely to have been painted much before that given that Dido was born in 1761; if dated to 1779 she would be about 18 at the time of it originally being painted. We do know that in 1779 her father, Sir John Lindsay was in England, so maybe he was aware of the painting and rather than being a commissioned piece is struck us that it was more likely to have been a keepsake or memento which, it could be argued would explain why there was no obvious payment for it.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Also, it was on the 19th October 1776 that Lord Mansfield was raised from Baron to Earl, following which several copies of an earlier portrait by David Martin were produced, showing his elevated status.

Martin, David; William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice; National Galleries of Scotland

The original portrait at Kenwood is of Lord Mansfield prior to becoming an earl and dated 1775 (on Art UK) – note the difference between that and the one held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, dated 1777 (below) and painted after his elevation.

Was the 1776 payment for completion of the earlier portrait, or for the copies made subsequently rather than for the portrait featuring Dido?

William Murray (1705-1793), Baron Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice by David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood (hint: look closely at his ermine)

Following the programme, Philip Mould has now added some exciting news which didn’t make it into the programme; the portrait we see today is not the original, as such, but rather it was added to at a later date by a different artist. The change to the portrait really does make a huge difference to the perception of Dido and her position within the painting and society in general.

And finally, Etienne Daly has visited Kenwood House frequently and has been trying to work out whereabouts the painting was done within the ground.

Could this be the very spot where the portrait was painted (the bare patch in the foreground)?

© Sylvia & Etienne Daly
© Sylvia & Etienne Daly

We are still trying to piece together the life of David Martin, but this is proving tricky. If we’re able together to do so, we will write another post in due course.

To find out more about what became about Dido Belle follow the links below.

Dido Elizabeth Belle and John Davinière, what became of them?

Dido Elizabeth Belle – we reveal NEW information about her siblings

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

The Eighteenth Century Fashion for Turbans

An Eighteenth Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

 

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information.

We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now and believes that the turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.

Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.

A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King's ambassador to India. By Ian Sciacaluga.
A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King’s ambassador to India.

At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah.

Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her. 

Dido Elizabeth Belle

If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it seems highly likely that it would have been studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.

Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous headdress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.

It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:

Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”. 

Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman
Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman. Massachusetts Historical Society

When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:

A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.

We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.

It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.

From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé, David Martin (1737-1797), who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.

William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin
William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood

The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland (although he retained his property in Dartford until 1782). Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight!

David Martin self-portrait. National Galleries of Scotland
David Martin self-portrait. National Galleries of Scotland

If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.

The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. These proved inconclusive.

So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self-portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.

Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.

The Artist's Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 - 1782 by Allan Ramsay.
The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 – 1782 by Allan Ramsay. National Galleries Scotland

Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, Margaret, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay; Glasgow Museums

Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.

Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all, perhaps one for the BBC’s Fake or Fortune to investigate!

To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood  House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.

During our research into the life of Dido, we have also discovered NEW information about Sir John Lindsay’s other illegitimate children and  NEW information about what became of Dido and her husband John Davinière. To find out more follow the highlighted links.

UPDATE

Following the BBC’s programme Fake or Fortune, you might be interested to read our thoughts on the findings.

Sources:

The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul

General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771

English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham

John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810

The many faces of George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte

With so much interest in the Royal Collection’s Georgian Papers Project,  we thought we would examine some of the portraits of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was also patron of the arts. We took a brief look some time ago at some of the portraits of George III’s children, so other portraits of the Queen with her children can be found by following this link.

As you would imagine, both the King and Queen were painted by many of the leading artists of the day so we’ll take a look at just a few of them.

We begin with a miniature of Queen Charlotte by the artist Jeremiah Meyer, who was appointed miniature painter to her majesty.

Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/profile-of-queen-charlotte-17441818-7868
Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust

Our next portrait is attributed to Johann Zoffany, 1766. According to John Zoffany, His Life and Works by Lady Victoria Manners and Dr. G C Williamson:

Unfortunately for our artist he was addicted to the practical joke of introducing into his groups ‘without the permission of the original and often in unflattering guise‘ the representations of living persons with whom he had quarrelled or against whom he had  grievance. He is said to have scandalised the English Court by sketching out and showing to his friends a bold replica of his ‘Life School’ in which he had introduced a portrait of Queen Charlotte before she was married and had placed it opposite to the figure of one of her former admirers in Germany.

As Zoffany’ s Life School wasn’t painted until after this portrait of Queen Charlotte, it rather begs the question as to what she had done to upset him – perhaps she didn’t think he had captured her likeness in this portrait! We will probably never know.

som_hm_a359
Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) (attributed to) The Holburne Museum

In 1789 Queen Charlotte sat for the artist Thomas Lawrence but, according to the National Gallery,  apparently unwillingly, having recently undergone the shock of George III’s first attack of apparent insanity. The pearl bracelets on Queen Charlotte’s wrists were part of the king’s wedding gift to her; one clasp contains his portrait miniature, the other his royal monogram. Although Lawrence’s portrait was considered to be very like Queen Charlotte, it failed to please the king and queen and remained in the artist’s possession

Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-115071
Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London

This next painting is by one of the monarch’s favourite artists, William Beechey. In the biography of William Beechey R.A. written by W. Roberts in 1909, he notes that in 1793 Beechey painted a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte, the Queen, in turn, honoured him by the appointment of Her Majesty’s Portrait Painter.

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) by William Beechey; National Trust, Upton House
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Upton House

Interestingly, there is another copy of this portrait at the Courtauld Gallery, dated somewhat later – 1812 – and with slightly different dimensions.

Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-207040
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery

Probably one of the most well-known portraits of her is the one by Allan Ramsay.

Ramsay, Allan; Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of George III

 

Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-queen-consort-of-king-george-iii-29112
Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection

And finally, a portrait after Thomas Gainsborough.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-171645
Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall

Featured Image: