A Mansion, a Grand Dame, and a Portrait by George Romney

Today, I’m delighted to welcome a new guest to All Things Georgian, Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. to tell us more about a fascinating portrait by George Romney housed at DACOR Bacon House, Washington D.C.

DACOR Bacon House
DACOR Bacon House

An oil portrait by George Romney graces the second-floor dining room of the historic DACOR Bacon House at 1801 F Street, N.W., Washington, DC. It is one of the very few Romney paintings found in the US, and you won’t find it on the internet. The portrait, hanging above the sideboard, is the focal point in a room furnished with exquisite antiques. It is Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray, holding her infant son, Augustus Frederick d’Este.

Unlike Romney’s many famous paintings of Lady Emma Hamilton, the portrait of Lady Murray is obscure, familiar mainly to those who frequent the DACOR Bacon House and know something of the mansion’s history. On the other hand, like Emma, and many of Romney’s female subjects, Lady Murray is portrayed in a charming manner. With dark curls encircling her face, she looks directly at the viewer with a tilt of her head and a shy, captivating smile. She wears a white, short-sleeved, high-collared dress and a turban. The boy, in a white frock, gazes into the distance, somewhere behind the viewer.

Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son
Romney’s portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son

The DACOR Bacon House, the woman who owned the house and the portrait, and the portrait itself, all have complex histories that make for rich and fascinating tales of the Georgian Era and beyond, reaching into the twentieth century. Here are those interrelated stories.

The DACOR Bacon House

Built in 1825, the DACOR Bacon House is an architectural treasure; one of the best-preserved nineteenth-century, Federal-style landmarks in Washington DC. Just a short distance from the White House, the Capitol building, and the Supreme Court, the venue can boast almost two centuries of connections to the influential and the powerful who have conducted the nation’s domestic and foreign affairs.

The Entrance to the Bacon DACOR House
The Entrance to the Bacon DACOR House

To enter the house is to walk in the footsteps of presidents, justices, governors, senators, diplomats, military leaders, and dignitaries who lived there or visited to attend dinners, balls, receptions, and musicales. As a family home and sometime boarding house, the structure has been the residence of a diplomat, a US Marshall, Supreme Court justices, an heiress and one-time English countess, and a New York congressman, as well as social and cultural leaders. The house is named after Congressman Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, who owned the house from 1925 until her death in 1980.

Today the stately, four-story, beautifully appointed mansion is the headquarters of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired foundation, known as DACOR, a non-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to excellence in the field of international understanding and discourse in shaping US public policy. The foundation hosts meetings, dinners, receptions, and conferences for discussions of literature, history, and topics related to and bearing directly on current foreign affairs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation holds an easement to preserve the property and structure for future generations.

The property on which the house sits was once part of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Census records show that it was a farm tract owned by David Burnes who emigrated from Scotland in 1721. Burnes expanded his holdings to encompass much of the area that would eventually become Washington, DC. Upon his death, the land passed to his son, James, who expanded the holdings, and eventually, in 1772, to his grandson, David Burnes II, who served as a lieutenant in the War for American Independence. In 1790, Congress established a federal city on the banks of the Potomac River. Within the following year, Burnes sold a portion of his holdings to the newly formed federal government. That land today forms a segment of the Washington Mall and the south half of the White House grounds.

David Burnes II retained the remaining portion of his land that had become situated in the District of Columbia. When he died in 1800, his property passed to his teenaged daughter, Marcia Brown Burnes. In 1802, her guardian, John Oakley, sold three lots of the property to William Hammond Dorsey, a prominent member of the nearby Georgetown community and a judge of the Orphan’s Court of Washington County, Maryland.

Subsequently, the remaining property passed through additional owners. Respectively, they were: Jacob Wagner, chief clerk of the Department of State and the owner of the Federal Republican newspaper; Tobias Lear V, former private secretary to George Washington and, afterward, a US diplomat serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; and Mr. Tench Ringgold, US Marshall for the District of Columbia, appointed by President James Monroe.

In 1824, Ringgold built a three-story, Federal-style house on the property with borrowed money (from his daughter, Sarah) and slave labour. He added two outbuildings; a storage/gardening shed and a carriage house.

Ringgold was well-placed socially. He attended the inaugural ball for President John Quincy Adams in May 1825. He befriended Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who both died in 1826, as did Ringgold’s wife, Mary, with whom he had five children. In keeping with local custom, the Ringgold’s opened their home as a boarding house to non-resident, government officials. Chief Justice John Marshall and numerous associate justices and their clerks boarded at the Ringgold home. Former President Monroe and his wife were guests in 1829 and 1830.

When President Andrew Jackson took office in 1831, he dismissed Ringgold from his post as US Marshall, despite Ringgold’s strenuous objections. Ringgold fell into financial difficulties and defaulted on the loan, urging Sarah and her husband, John M. Thomas, to foreclose on the property and take ownership. The Thomas’s held possession from 1833 to 1835, when they sold the house to Samuel Sprigg.

Sprigg, born about 1783, was a wealthy landowner. He was married to Violetta Lansdale with whom he had two children. He was the first governor of Maryland, a position he held until December 1822. At his death in 1855, his estate was valued at $50,000, including 61 slaves. He bought the house as a residence for his daughter, Sally, and her husband William Thomas Carroll, who was a Supreme Court clerk appointed by Chief Justice John Marshall, a position he held for 36 years. The F Street house, known as the Sprigg-Carroll House, stayed in Sprigg’s name until his death, when it went in trust to his daughter. During the Carroll’s occupancy, the house underwent expansion and many renovations to include connections to city’s new water and sewer system in the 1860s.

The Carroll’s enjoyed affluence and social prominence. They entertained lavishly and spent summers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They had four daughters and three sons, two of whom died in childhood. The daughters all married well. The surviving son was an officer in the Union Army, wounded during the Civil War, retiring as a major-general.

William Carroll died in 1863 at age 61. Sally Carroll remained in the house until her death in 1895 at age 81. Her son-in-law and executor to her will then sold the house to Mary Ellen (Mollie) Fuller, the second wife of Melville Weston Fuller, Chief Justice to the Supreme Court, nominated by President Grover Cleveland in 1888. The Fuller family lived at the mansion for 14 years, enlarging and modernizing the living spaces and outbuildings.

The Fullers were a fixture of Washington high society. They entertained with grand fetes and, as the Chief Justice aged, small dinner parties for close friends. Justice Fuller also opened his home to weekly conferences with associate justices. The family spent the summers in Maine, where, in 1904, Mollie died of a heart attack. Justice Fuller died in 1910, replaced by Chief Justice Edward D. White, grandson of Tench Ringgold, who built the house on F. Street.

In 1911, a new owner took residence. Alice Copely Thaw was one of 10 children born to William Thaw, a wealthy capitalist who left a fortune to his heirs upon his death in 1889. In 1903, she married George Francis Alexander (Seymour), Earl of Yarmouth and relocated to England. When the marriage failed in 1908, she returned to the US, bought the mansion in 1911, and retained ownership until 1923. She continued remodelling and improvements, to include installing electricity throughout the house. In 1912, she married Geoffrey Whitney, a broker from New York. The Whitney’s moved to New York and rented the home on F Street to various tenants.

In 1923, the newly elected US congressman from New York’s First District, Robert Low Bacon, and his wife, Virginia Murray Bacon, rented the house. They bought it from Alice Thaw Whitney in 1925.

Virginia Murray Bacon

Virginia Murray was born in New York City in 1890. Her father’s family was descended from Scottish nobility; her great-great-grandfather was Lord John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia. He fled the colonies under protection of the Royal Navy. Subsequently, he became the royal governor of the Bahamas.

Her father, Henry Murray, was the son of an English diplomat. As a young man, Henry moved from England to Canada, and eventually to New York, where he found work with a securities firm. In 1889, he married Fannie Morris Babcock, an heiress from a family of wealthy landowners, soldiers, bankers, and businessmen. Henry Murray enjoyed a successful career in finance and the couple quickly rose to social prominence. The Murrays had three children. The eldest was Virginia, born in 1890.

Virginia Murray Bacon as a young woman
Virginia Murray Bacon as a young woman

Virginia Murray was beautiful, well-educated, and well-connected. Her marriage to Congressman Robert Bacon was the highlight of the New York social season. Born in 1884, Robert was the son of a successful banker, soldier, and diplomat. Robert, himself, was a Harvard graduate and successful banker who went into politics and served in the Army Officer Reserve Corps.

Virginia rapidly became a grand dame of Washington society. She hosted presidents, noted musicians, statesmen, and social leaders. She generously supported organizations concerned with world affairs and the arts. She was named to several boards and committees and received prestigious awards.

She remodelled the mansion and planted majestic trees in the garden, where she often hosted buffet luncheons during World War II, inviting weary officials to drop by, unannounced, for a midday respite. She filled the rooms with tasteful furniture, much of it imported from Europe and England, and objects of art, especially historic lithographs, and family portraits.

The Bacon House Foundation

Robert Bacon served eight terms and died in office in 1938 at age 54. His wife remained in residence until her death in 1980 at age 89. Prior to her death, she considered options for leaving the building to an organization that would preserve its history and character. She wanted the Bacon house to “enjoy a lively existence consistent with the interests and connections of its occupants through the years, and be characterized by dignity, taste and intelligence.” In 1975, she established the Bacon House Foundation to that end.

The foundation took ownership of the house, with a permanent deed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The foundation then purchased adjoining lots, razed the homes on these lots, and sold the lots to the Organization of American States for the organization’s headquarters and offices. In 1980, with Virginia Bacon’s blessing, the foundation partnered with DACOR and the DACOR Educational and Welfare Foundation, to convert the home, upon her demise, from a residence to offices and an educational center. The DACOR Bacon House merger was finalized in 1985.

The house and outbuildings have undergone extensive renovations since 1980. DACOR added a library and a collection of diplomatic memorabilia. Every effort has been made to give the home a nineteenth century atmosphere and to preserve the beautiful furnishings and works of art that once belonged to the Bacon family. One such piece is the Romney portrait of Lady Augusta Murray and her son.

The History of the Romney Painting

The Romney oil painting that hangs in the DACOR Bacon House dining room has a small, gold plaque mounted on the bottom of the frame that reads:

George Romney R.A. 1734 – 1802. Lady Augusta Murray, 2nd Daughter of the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Married the Duke of Sussex. Holding on her lap her infant son Sir Augustus Frederick d’Este in white frock. Collection of Lord Truro.

Lady Augusta Murray (1768 – 1830) was the daughter of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (hence, the connection to Virginia Murray Bacon, as described above). Her mother was Lady Charlotte Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway. She and Prince August Frederick (1773 – 1843), sixth son of King George III, met while he was a young man vacationing in Rome. They married in 1793 in a private ceremony in Rome in opposition to the Royal Marriage Act. They later married again in a religious ceremony in London, without revealing their true identities.

The royal family declared the marriage null and void. The couple remained together for eight years, producing two children: Augustus Frederick d’Este (1794 – 1848) and Augusta Emma d’Este (1801 – 1866). While the Romney painting is not dated, it was most likely painted in 1795 or 1796, in that the infant, Augustus Frederick, looks to be about 18 months old.

The couple parted company in 1801, when the prince grew frustrated with the monarch’s refusal to grant him a dukedom. The prince gave Augusta custody of the children, at which point she and the children took the surname d’Este (some sources say Ameland). In 1809, the prince took custody of the children, arranging a pension for his former wife. He became the Duke of Sussex.

After Augusta’s death, Prince Augustus married Lady Cecelia Buggin, daughter of the second Earl of Arron. Again, the marriage was contrary to the Royal Marriage Act. However, in 1837, Queen Victoria dubbed Lady Cecilia as Duchess of Inverness, granting a royal favor to her favourite uncle, and acquiring royal precedence for her consort, Prince Albert.

At age 18, the younger Augustus was commissioned in the Seventh Royal Fusiliers and fought in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Although he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was known for his unlikable, pretentious personality. He died in 1848, unmarried, with no heirs, and crippled by the first-ever diagnosed case of multiple sclerosis.

His sister, Emma, was the second wife to Thomas Wilde (1782 – 1855), 1st Baron Truro, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain 1850 – 1852, formerly the Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. They married in 1845. She had no children. She inherited the Romney portrait of her mother and brother. Thus, it became part of the Truro Collection.

The Romney portrait hangs on the left wall of the DACOR Bacon House second floor dining room
The Romney portrait hangs on the left wall of the DACOR Bacon House second floor dining room

Little else is known about the portrait, until 1921, when Charles W. Schwab, a wealthy American industrialist, bought it at an auction in London. Three years after Schwab’s death in 1939, the portrait again came up for auction in New York. Virginia Bacon bought it and placed it in the second-floor dining room of her home at 1801 F Street, Washington, DC where it remains today.

The portrait delights all visitors who appreciate seeing one of the few works by Romney to be found in a private collection in the US.

UPDATE

Since Judith wrote this article I have been made aware that there has been some doubt as to the identity of the portrait, which led me to carry out some of my own research.
DACOR Bacon House understands it to be Lady Augusta Murray, as you can see on the plaque beneath it, and it was certainly believed to have been that of Lady Augusta Murray, when it was sold by auctioneers, Christie’s in 1900.
The portrait formed part of a collection belonging to the estate of the then, late Lord Truro. The painting achieved a mere 500 guineas in comparison to another portrait of her which sold for £3,800 guineas, some 6 years previously.
The Illustrated London News, 30 June 1900, included a copy of the portrait, as can be seen below:
The Morning Post described it thus:
Morning Post 29 April 1901
Could this reduction in sale price indicate that it was of interior quality in comparison to the other known portrait of Lady Augusta Murray, whose whereabouts are still unknown? 
Art historian, Dr Alex Kidson, who has recently produced the catalogue raisonné  of Romney’s painting, did not include this portrait in his catalogue, as he did not believe it to be by Romney.  Therefore, if not by Romney, then it would appear that more work needs to be carried out to ascertain who painted it.
The is another portrait of Lady Augusta by Romney which was sold back in the 1960’s and has since disappeared from public view, so if anyone knows where it is please do let me know.
Romney - The Graphic 1923
Romney – The Graphic 1923

Sources

William D. Calerhead, DACOR Bacon House. (Archetype Press, Inc. Washington, D.C. 1999)

Lady Augusta Murray Wikipedia

Lady Truro of Bowes Augusta Emma d’Este Wilde. Geni.com

Thomas Wilde, 1st Baron Truro. Wikipedia

Art Detectives: Anne Birch by George Romney

The portrait of Anne Birch is housed at the Phoenix Art Museum and is described by them as

George Romney’s depiction of Anne Birch reveals why his portraits were so in demand. Elegantly dressed, seated languidly on a bench in a dark glade that opens tantalizingly to a distant, sunlit view, Anne holds a flute in one hand while resting her head gently on the other.

But who was Anne Birch?

Anne Birch Phoenix Art Museum
Anne Birch Phoenix Art Museum

The portrait by George Romney came to my attention recently on social media and apart from her name, the artist and the approximate year it was painted, 1777, little if anything, seems to be known about the sitter, so it was time to do a spot of investigating to see what, if anything, I could find out. Given the instruments in the painting it would appear that she was perhaps a talented musician, but so far nothing has come to light to support this. Music would have been a subject that young ladies like her would have been instructed in, so maybe she excelled in this area.

The portrait is believed to be that of Anne Birch nee Clowes, the daughter and only child, therefore heir apparent, to William Clowes Esq, of Huntsbank, Manchester and his wife Elizabeth, nee Neild, who were married in 1738. Anne was baptised 18 October 1743 in Manchester, making her about 34 when the portrait was painted, although in my opinion the sitter looks much younger, which makes me question whether it could have been painted slightly later and be of her eldest daughter, also named Anne.

So far it hasn’t been possible to establish exactly who William Clowes was, but he was described as being ‘the fourth brother of the House of Clowes, who afterwards settled in Broughton‘.  I have however, managed to establish is that William died 15 February 1772, aged 68 and was buried in Manchester Cathedral.

Manchester Cathedral courtesy of http://www.speel.me.uk/index.htm
Manchester Cathedral courtesy of http://www.speel.me.uk/index.htm

William was clearly affluent, as when his only daughter married on 18 October 1764 the newspapers reported the marriage:

The Leeds Intelligencer Tuesday 30 October 1764
The Leeds Intelligencer Tuesday 30 October 1764.

So, we now not only have a family for Anne, but also a husband, John Peploe Birch, Esquire. According to this newspaper we know that Anne was not only beautiful, but also very wealthy, making her, at that time, an ideal candidate for marriage. It appears that the two families knew each other though, so could this have been the marriage of two houses possibly?

Anne’s father William, appears to have had some familial connection with the manor of Broughton Old Hall, Manchester, could this have been where his money came from, but what about her husband, who was he?

John Peploe Birch was born 1742 and was the son of Rev Samuel Peploe, Chancellor of Chester and Warden of Manchester and his first wife, Elizabeth Birch.

John was later to benefit from the demise of his uncle Samuel in 1752, at which time he inherited the estate of Garnstone, Weobley, Herefordshire, which was left  in trust for him until he reached the age of twenty-one, to be granted to him if he adopted the surname Birch, which he duly did, retaining Peploe as a middle name.

A series of picturesque views of seats of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland. With descriptive and historical letterpress by Morris, F. O. (Francis Orpen), 1810-1893; Fawcett, Benjamin; Lydon, A. F. (Alexander Francis)
A series of picturesque views of seats of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland. With descriptive and historical letterpress by Morris, F. O. (Francis Orpen), 1810-1893; Fawcett, Benjamin; Lydon, A. F. (Alexander Francis)

John and Anne moved to Barnstone which was where they spent the rest of their lives, but whilst in London they also had another home on Curzon Street, Mayfair. During their marriage they had three known children, Anne (1765-1846), Mary (1769-1830) and Samuel (1774-1845).

In 1767 John was appointed High Sherriff of Herefordshire, but as to whether he had an occupation seems unclear or was he simply landed gentry spending his time managing his estate?

John lived until 1805, leaving his estate to his beloved wife Anne, who lived until the age of 76. Both John and Anne was buried at Weobley, Herefordshire.

Anne left a will in which she provided for her three children, Anne who was by that time married to a Daniel Webb, Mary who remained unmarried and Samuel who had married the daughter of Sir George Cornewall, but she described her legacy as being ‘what little I have’. What little she had amounted to about £6,000 (about £300,000 in today’s money), but this is probably far less than she had hope to leave.

Although still little remains known of their life together, this at least sheds a little more light on this beautiful portrait.

Sources

The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure … Volumes 12-13. Page 126

The Episcopal See of Manchester by Samuel Hibbert

Memorials of St. Ann’s church, Manchester, in the last century by Charles Wareing E. Bardsley

Manchester, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1573-1812 (Cathedral)

Art Detectives: Miss Mary Hatton by George Romney

We came across this portrait by George Romney, in the Frick Collection purely by chance, and wanted to know more about who the sitter was, so off we disappeared down one of our proverbial rabbit hole in search of more information about her.

Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788.
Miss Mary Finch Hatton by George Romney, 1788. The Frick Collection

Our first port of call was the Frick itself, who were extremely helpful and sent us all the information they had about the painting. So, exactly who was this enigmatic woman?

We knew that  Dido Elizabeth Belle’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray had married into the Finch-Hatton family, but we hadn’t come across this lady within the family, which slightly surprised us, as she would have been somewhere around the same sort of age as both Dido and Elizabeth, perhaps a little older, but not much.

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

Some sources had suggested that the portrait was possibly Lady Elizabeth Murray, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit, we couldn’t see a likeness at all.  There was another suggestion that she was a  different Lady Mary Hatton, the daughter of Daniel Finch-Hatton, 7th Earl of Winchilsea, but it couldn’t possibly be her, as she died in 1761 and the portrait wasn’t painting until 1788, also her appearance confirmed that it had to post-date 1761.

Eventually, we came across a book, Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick which contained the same portrait and confirmed for us that she was:

Miss Mary Hatton, the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton of Longstanton Hall, Cambridgeshire and wife of Hale Wortham Esq.

Further information from Romney’s own ledger tells us the number of sittings it took to complete the painting, where Mary was living at the time and how much was paid.

It seems quite feasible that this was a pre-wedding painting, as Mary married a gentleman named Hale Wortham at St Marylebone, on 4th December 1788, the very year it was painted or perhaps her mother wanted a painting of her daughter as a keepsake.

Church at Marylebone by James Miller.
The church at Marylebone by James Miller. Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of Dudley Snelgrove

However, with more research, we discovered that even this information wasn’t quite accurate, she was not the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton, but his sister and that she was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, 8th Baron of Longstanton, Cambridgeshire (1728-1787).

The marriage allegation for Harriot Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton
The marriage allegation for Harriott Askham and Sir Thomas Hatton

Sir Thomas and his wife Harriott Dingley (daughter of Dingley Askham Esq), married 22nd April 1752 and had 8 children – Mary, in the portrait, was the eldest and born 4th October 1754 at Conington, Cambridgeshire.

Her siblings were Harriet (1755); Frances (1757); John (1758) later to become the 9th Baronet; Elizabeth Ann (1759); Susanna (1761); Anne (1763) and the youngest, Thomas Dingley Hatton (1771) who became the 10th and final Baronet.  When Sir Thomas died in 1788 he helpfully named all his children individually in his will, so we were now certain we had the correct person.

An entry in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests that before Mr Wortham, Mary’s hand in marriage had been sought by Dr Richard Farmer of Emanuel College, Cambridge.

At this time he [Farmer] formed an intimacy with Sir Thomas Hatton, bart., of Long Stanton, Cambridgeshire, and for some time aspired to the hand of his eldest daughter. The marriage was postponed on account of Farmer’s want of means, and when after many years this objection was removed, he found on mature reflection that his habits of life were too deeply rooted to be changed with any chance of perfect happiness to either party. Such is George Dyer’s version of the story; but Cole says: ‘Dr. Coleman told me, 3 May 1782, that he had it from sufficient authority, that Sir Thomas Hatton had refused his eldest daughter to Dr. Farmer, but upon what foundation he knew not. The lady is 27 or 28, and Dr. Farmer about 47 or 48. It will probably be a great mortification to both, as to every one it seemed that their regard for each other was reciprocal. Dr. Farmer’s preferment is equal to 800l. per annum; and I guess the lady’s fortune, there being six daughters and two sons, not very great’

Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
Richard Farmer by George Romney. Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

We still hadn’t worked out where the Finch-Hatton mistake had come from in her name, she was simply Mary Hatton, not Finch-Hatton. Even at her death, there was no reference to the Finch part of her surname. According to the Oxford Journal 1st November 1828 and the London Evening Standard, 21st October 1828:

Mary, relict of the late Colonel Wortham and eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, Baronet of LongStanton, died 17th October, aged 74.

So we moved on the checking her will which was proven on 20th November 1828. Mary left a number of bequests to each of her living sisters, Anne, Elizabeth Ann, and Susanna, all just named as Hatton, not a ‘Finch-Hatton’ in sight. She also left £200 (which is around £13k in today’s money) to Addenbrookes hospital.

Finally, this led us to the will of one of her siblings, Anne who died in 1842 and in her will she left part of the family estate to a relative – Rev Daniel Heneage Finch-Hatton, the son of Lady Elizabeth Murray, so it seems likely that is where the erroneous addition to Mary’s surname came from, but quite what their connection was to the Finch-Hatton’s we still haven’t managed to confirm, so, more work required!

Sources and Notes:

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18: Farmer, Richard by Thompson Cooper

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland by John Burke and Bernard Burke, 1841

Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick: at One East Seventieth Street, New York, 1910

Birth/baptism of Mary and her siblings – Familysearch online

The will of Sir Thomas Hatton (1788) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1161

The will of Mary Wortham nee Finch (1828) –  The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1748

The will  of Anne Finch (1832) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1799

Hale Wortham died February 19th, 1828 (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 29 February 1828)

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby (1741-1810), author, critic and educational reformer

Sarah Trimmer née Kirby, author, critic and religious and educational reformer, was born in 1741 at Ipswich, the only daughter of the Suffolk landscape painter Joshua Kirby (a close friend of Thomas Gainsborough) and his wife Sarah née Bell. The Kirby family, including Sarah’s younger brother, William moved to London in 1755 where Joshua Kirby tutored the Prince of Wales (the future George III) in perspective.

Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Kirby (née Bull) and her husband (John) Joshua Kirby by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1751-52. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Many well-known personalities of the day counted the Kirbys as friends, including William Hogarth and Samuel Johnson and, as befitted the daughter of an artist, and one with social connections to the best artistic and literary talents of the day, Sarah later had her portrait painted three times, by Henry Howard, George Romney and Thomas Lawrence. She herself was a talented amateur artist, and several miniatures by her survive.

Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1790. © National Portrait Gallery, London

In time, the family moved to Kew when Joshua Kirby was appointed Clerk to the Works of the Royal Household at Kew Palace and it was at Kew that Sarah met her future husband, James Trimmer whose family owned a brick making business at Brentford; the young couple married on 21st September 1762, at Ealing. The notice of their marriage in the Ipswich Journal reveals the name by which Sarah was known to her family.

MARRIAGE – At Great Ealing, Mr. James Trimmer, of Brentford, to Miss Sally Kirby, of the Chapelry of Kew.

A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales.
A View of the Palace at Kew from the Lawn, in the Royal Gardens at Kew, 1763. This plate was engraved after Joshua Kirby for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, published in 1763 and dedicated to the Dowager Princess of Wales. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Trimmers had twelve children in all, equally divided between boys and girls and – as she was responsible for their education – Sarah, both a mother and a teacher, discovered a lifelong passion for education. She founded the first Sunday school for poor children in 1786 and began to write and publish books, initially treatises on how to establish Sunday schools with a sub-text of social reform and then branching out into instructive works and fiction for children, such as her ‘Fabulous Histories’. She also reviewed children’s literature in her periodical, ‘The Guardian of Education’, with the aim of influencing both authors and publishers and redefining the content of these books.

She used to say, that as soon as she became a mother, her thoughts were turned so entirely to the subject of education, that she scarcely read a book upon any other topic, and believed she almost wearied her friends by making it so frequently the subject of conversation. Having experienced the greatest success in her plan of educating her own family, she naturally wished to extent that blessing to others, and this probably first induced her to become an author.

After James Trimmer died in 1792, Sarah and her unmarried daughters moved to Brentford, and it was there that she died on 15th December 1810, in the act of writing a letter.

Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sarah Trimmer by Henry Howard, c.1798. © National Portrait Gallery, London

She had been known to fall asleep at her desk in her study, and so when her daughters found her, with her head bowed forward onto her bosom, they assumed she merely slumbering and it was some time before they could be made to believe that she was dead. This gave rise to a few ‘Chinese whispers’ which were reported in the newspapers, with a slightly more lurid take on poor Sarah’s demise.

MRS TRIMMER – This authoress died under circumstances of a peculiar nature. Having received intelligence of the death of a favourite sister, she sat down to write a letter of condolence to her family; but soon after, on her female servant going into the room, she found her mistress sitting, apparently in the utmost composure, with her pen in one hand, and her head reclining on the other; in this attitude it appears that she died. What added to the singularity of this extraordinary occurrence was, that although she had been dead three weeks, her countenance had not changed in the least, and in consequence her relatives had directed that no interment should take place, in the hope (a vain one, it is feared) that the body might be recovered from a trance.

Sarah had no sister, favourite or otherwise, and her sister-in-law – and her brother – had both died some years previously. She was buried on the 5th January 1811, in a family plot in St Mary’s churchyard, Ealing, the delay between her death and burial probably being more to do with the weather and the season rather than any fanciful notions supposed to have been entertained by the children of such an eminently sensible, moral and instructive mother.

Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.
Portrait of Sarah Trimmer by George Romney (1734-1802). Image taken from Illustrated Catalogue of the Fifth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1899.

One of Sarah’s daughters, at least, followed in her footsteps; her daughters, Sarah (known as Selina) was appointed by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to be the governess to their daughters and their cousins, including the future Lady Caroline Lamb. You can read more about Selina and her life as a governess in the Cavendish household here, in a blog post by Lauren Gilbert.

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Ipswich Journal, 25th September 1762

Chester Chronicle, 1st February 1811

Chalmer’s General Biographical Dictionary, volume 30

Brentford High Street Project: The Trimmer family

Featured image:

Sandpit near Sudbury, Suffolk by Joshua Kirby (1716-1774)