Hugh Dalrymple, father of the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, had two surviving brothers, Cathcart Dalrymple, a Glasgow merchant and Primrose Dalrymple, a naval officer. Primrose’s wonderfully unusual forename is given a possible explanation in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot.
Primrose had a steady naval career, dying in London at the age of only thirty years and, in his will, leaving everything he owned to the woman he had loved and had intended to marry.
Primrose’s intended spouse was his cousin Susan, the daughter of the Reverend Alexander Orr and his aunt Agnes Dalrymple and, from his will written in 1766, he clearly loved her deeply. The marriage never took place though for Primrose died in 1767 and Susan, after a year of mourning for her lost love, married another man, William Murray of Murraythwaite. She was keeping it in the family too! William Murray’s mother was Elizabeth Dalrymple, and William Murray was therefore also related to both Susan Orr and Primrose Dalrymple.
Susan’s brother was Alexander Orr, a man who would become a Writer to the Signet, trusted (perhaps mistakenly) by all the extended Dalrymple and Brown family (Grace’s maternal relatives); he was named as executor on Primrose’s will but left it unadministered until 1773 when it was finally proved. Neither Hugh nor his family were mentioned at all in the will despite Hugh living in London and being the closest geographically to Primrose at his death, hinting at a rift in the family.
Lieutenant Primrose Dalrymple was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Islington on 17th April 1767.
You can find out more details of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s extended family in our biography of her, available now at all good bookshops and via the links above and in the sidebar.
Overmantle painting of Newport c.1740 from a private collection via “Another Pair Not Fellows“; Adventures in Research and Reinterpreting the American Revolution
Today we offer a little exclusive snippet of extra information to our biography, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. It concerns something we looked at in the course of our research, but which proved too vague to be included. And so we present it here instead, for our readers to make up their minds on. Does it relate to Grace’s family, or not?
At the very end of 1774, The Town and Country Magazine included another of their infamous Histories of the Téte-à-Téte annexed, this one titled ‘Memoirs of the Pious Preacher and Miss D___mple’. The Pious Preacher is easily discernible as John Wesley, the Methodist preacher, who had been attacked in the same magazine before. But Miss D___ple? The most likely surname for this lady is Dalrymple and this would be a name well known to the readers of the magazine with Grace herself having appeared in her own ‘Téte-à-Téte’ following her indiscretion with Lord Valentia. The description of Miss D___ple does seem to fit with a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, Grace’s father.
This young lady is the daughter of an eminent attorney, who made a capital fortune by usury and the rapine of the law. He gave her a polite education and imagined, with the portion he could bestow on her, that she was entitled to a husband in a man of fashion and family. Upon the death of his wife he sent for Miss D___ from the boarding-school to superintend his domestic affairs. She was not about eighteen and though not a regular beauty was a very genteel, agreeable girl.
We know Hugh practised as an attorney, we know Grace at least had attended a convent school and returned home after the death of her mother. If this is a daughter of Hugh’s, perhaps the mysterious third daughter sometimes alluded to, she would be born c.1750 if she was just under eighteen at her mother’s death in 1767, placing her as a middle sister between Grace and her elder sister Jacintha.
The magazine tells us that this girl fell in love with her father’s clerk and he with her, but her father, when approached to ask if they may marry, ‘would not listen to it, having far more elevated views for his daughter’. The clerk, having finished his service, went abroad and settled in America. The bereft Miss D___ple, whilst her father was seeking a match for her, met an army officer. He, ‘finding he had no chance of succeeding in an honourable way, he used all the artillery of stratagem to succeed upon other terms. He was too fortunate and the event was very natural. Upon her being visibly pregnant, her father banished her, his house and the only asylum she could find was at a kinswoman’s, who prefessed midwifry’.
Grace’s sister Jacintha married an army officer, but he at least was in line for inheritance to a fine estate. If this is indeed a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, this affair took place before he left for Grenada in the spring of 1772 and presumably before Grace’s marriage in October 1771. Was this the reason he was so happy to marry his youngest daughter off to Dr. Eliot, not wanting to see her follow in the footsteps of a sister?
The kinswoman attended discourses held by the Pious Preacher and, after helping her to abort the baby, began to remonstrate with Miss D___ple on ‘the heinous sins she had been guilty of… she persuaded Miss D___ to follow her footsteps and be regenerated’. The Pious Preacher, the magazine states, ‘made a great impression upon our heroine. He now frequently visited mother Midnight [the kinswoman] and seemed to take particular pains and pleasure to make Miss D___ a convert. He at length successed to the utmost extent of his wishes and gave her the appellation of his fair Proselyte’.
The article ends with the suggestion that Miss D___ple has borne twins to the Pious Preacher. No evidence can be found to back up any of the assertions in the article, but it would suggest a reason why, if there were a third Dalrymple sister, she may have been airbrushed from their family history.
NB: In an earlier blog post for Laurie Benson, we recounted a night at a Ridotto in 1777, and speculated that a ‘Mother M’ who was mentioned was ‘Mother Mordaunt’, aka Grace’s aunt, Robinaiana Mordaunt, Countess of Peterborough. Here we have another ‘Mother M’ mentioned, seemingly in connection with a close relative of Grace’s, ‘Mother Midnight’, an eighteenth-century term for a midwife or, sometimes, for a bawd.
As they continue to do today, people in the 1700s wrote to the newspapers using an alias to hide their true identity, and needless to say there was much speculation as to who these people were. We came across such a name during our book research, someone using the pseudonym ‘Modestus’ who engaged in literary battles with the great Junius. Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to who Modestus was; many people claimed it was Sir William Draper and more recently John Cleland, author of the novel Fanny Hill has been mooted. The true identity of Modestus was actually none other than Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s father, Hugh Dalrymple. But to find out why we know that Hugh was Modestus, you’ll have to read our book, where all is revealed.
Modestus penned a very interesting letter in the January of 1771, which jars with the topics of his previous letters and could, just possibly, be about his celebrated daughter Grace before her marriage and infamy. In fact, we’re not at all sure that this letter was actually written by Hugh, as it is of such a change of topic than his others. We have more than a sneaking suspicion that it was perhaps his namesake eldest son who might just have penned this one, using his father’s pseudonym. We do know he later wrote to the newspapers on occasion, using his father’s alias.
This letter is very different from the others which had mainly been political. This one stands out and knowing that Hugh had a daughter who was about the same age as the one in his letter, who married in London later that year, it is extremely tempting to suggest that this may be a sighting of Grace Dalrymple and Modestus a vengeful father or brother.
The letter from Modestus, addressed to the committee for conducting the free-press, appeared in the Public Register newspaper (based in Dublin) on the 1st January 1771.
Your readiness to insert every Thing conducive to the publick Good, assures me you will not refuse the following Fact a Place in your Paper, as it may prevent a Repetition of an Action, both infamous in its Nature, as well as repugnant to every Rule of Good-breeding.
And you will oblige,
Your constant Reader and Admirer, MODESTUS.
Some few Nights ago, as a young Lady was returning from an Evening Visit, attended by a Servant, she was, opposite to Capel-street Play-house, sallied out on by some young Ruffians of the Military, by their Uniforms seemingly Officers of the _th Regiment, who wantonly drew water on her, to the infinite Terror and Amazement of the helpless young Creature. Had the Gentlemen Reason enough to consider (which I much doubt) the unmeaning Barbarity of their behaviour, they would never have committed an Action, warranted by nothing, but the lustful Instinct of Dogs, whose Nature it is to turn up at every Post.
We’re sure you can imagine just what the soldiers might have been doing when they ‘drew water’ on the poor young lady!
There was indeed a theatre on Capel Street, but in Dublin. Is it Grace at all and if so, was she in Dublin just a few months before her marriage to Doctor Eliot? Unfortunately, with no further information, not even the number of the regiment involved, it is fruitless to pursue this further and it must remain as merely a possible tantalising reference to Grace.
Header image: Trompe l’oeil, Letter Rack; Edwaert Collier; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow