Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

Does this chalk drawing depict Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

A chalk drawing dating to around 1782 by John Hoppner, whilst unproven, is reputed to depict the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  If there is a corresponding portrait it has yet to be discovered.  There certainly does look to be a good similarity between the Gainsborough portraits of her and, if it is Grace, it dates from the time of her pregnancy with the reputed child of George, Prince of Wales (and the end of her relationship with her royal lover).  The lady in the portrait is wearing a chemise à la reine, a diaphanous white muslin gown made popular in France by Queen Marie Antionette and in 1782 the latest fashion.  Grace was one of the first women in London to appear dressed in one of these gowns, along with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire and the Prince’s former mistress, the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (Perdita).

Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as 'Perdita' by John Hoppner, c.1782. (c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as ‘Perdita’ by John Hoppner, c.1782.
(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hoppner was connected with the Court, having been encouraged to paint by George III and eventually becoming Principal Portrait Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1793 after the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Is it just possible that this chalk drawing is Grace, sitting for a portrait commissioned by the Prince and that nothing more than a preliminary sketch was produced following the rupture of their union? What do our readers think?

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
The Frick, New York.

You can read more about Grace in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which is the product of many years of research into her life and which is available now in the UK, published by Pen and Sword Books. Containing much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too, our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.

Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.

The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.

Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.

This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

 

Sources:

British Museum

 

18th Century Masquerade Balls

Some things never change … today the newspapers and magazines are full of Royal  & celebrity gossip with images of our royals, aristocrats and celebs in their finery etc. Was it any different in the Georgian era? The simple answer is ‘no’, the media were just as fascinated with the nobility and aristocrats and one in particular  – the Prince of Wales, later George IV who loved to party, as did our very own Grace Dalrymple Elliott along with the other demi-reps, any excuse to don the finery or the fancy dress costume!  So with that in mind, we thought we’d take a quick peek at how the media covered events such as Royal and masquerade balls.

Masqurade 1795
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The masquerade ball season took place indoors during the winter months, with most being around Christmas and New Year, whereas open-air balls and ridottos were held during the summer months.  In order to attend a ball, you did, of course, have to purchase a ticket, these varied dramatically in price according to the event.

AN00694250_001
Bayswater Masquerade Pre Admission Ticket January 1818. Image courtesy of British Museum.

Having purchased your ticket you would naturally require a costume.  As you peruse the newspapers you find an amazing number of shops and warehouses offering masquerade costumes at ‘very reasonable prices’ from fancy dresses to Venetian masks to dominos, hoods and cloaks in assorted colours and fabrics. These balls would have been an amazing sight to behold. The domino was a large cloak designed to cover the whole body, sometimes it had a hood too, but mostly these were purchased separately.  They were usually black, but other colours were available.  Wardens Warehouse of No.1 Great Pulteney Street, Golden Square, London were, in 1785, selling dominos for as little as five shillings which is about £15 in today’s money.  This image is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and shows a typical beautiful silk domino that would have been worn.

18th c silk Domino

Metropolitan Museum of Art, c.1765-1770.

Oracle and Public Advertiser  28th April 1795

Some very ugly old ladies are labouring to revive the horrible absurdity of long waists; and they ascribe the unnatural innovation to our illustrious Princess.  Her Royal Highness has more taste about her than to renovate deformity.

The Princess of Wales wore at the Royal Ball and Supper, a spangled crape dress, exactly like the robe worn by Miss Wallis in Windsor Castle and among the fair styled ‘the Wallis robe’. 

beauty unmasked
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser  5th March 1783 provides us with an article entitled ‘Masquerade Intelligence’ which gives us a detailed account of the events of the evening. The event took place at one o’clock in the morning at the King’s Theatre, ticket prices were extremely high, but it did attract between six and seven hundred people.

The company was composed of mainly young men of fashion plus the usual distinguished demi-reps of the age. These ladies were mainly in fancy dress ‘admirably calculated to display their charms and to fascinate desiring youth’.   Food and drink were plentiful, but apparently not to the usual quantity and it was noted that shell-fish was missing – clearly quite a faux pas!

Perdita and Colonel Tarleton were present, the Colonel sporting the costume he wore in the painting by Reynolds. The press missed nothing and noticed that the couple had some sort of argument and Perdita stormed off to her box, just as Florizell (The Prince of Wales) was passing, apparently ‘linked and tantalised by  Mrs C_____ll_’ (Mrs Cornely).   Whatever the dispute, it was soon resolved.  The press had nicknames for many of the demi-reps; Mrs Mahon was The Bird of Paradise, Mary Robinson – Perdita and Grace Dalrymple Elliott was frequently known as ‘Dally the Tall’ among other sobriquets.

Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782
Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782 via Wikimedia Commons

Another newspaper Parker’s General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer described the demi-reps as:

The rest of the Cyprian corps as vestals, virgins, nuns, flower girls, wenches, queens, sultanas, milk-maids, and all that sort of thing, were numerously dispersed through the rooms, and drank, and sang, and danced, and laughed, and seemed to be quite happy.

Betty Bustle

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Morning Herald  24th May 1786:

Opera House Masquerade, King’s Theatre

In point of numbers, Monday night’s masquerade at this place was inferior to any former ones, but equal in insignificant dullness to what we have seen before. Harlequins without wit, clowns known only by the stupidity that is their natural characteristic; nosegay girls, men turned into women and vice versa, equally distinguishable by their impudence, together with a world of characters badly supported throughout, until the fumes of port and other such palatable wines, though we must own the best in their kind, had inspired the representatives with a fictitious glee, composed the whole group of above 600 masks assembled on the occasion.  However, the supper was good, the wines answerable and the purveyor, justly commended.

The least exceptionable of the masks in the room was a little brunette, who sung several songs in French and English, with tolerable good humour.  His Royal Highness, who came in late, was for a long while pestered, with a little blue eye nun of St Catharine, who was, and remained, masked so very close, that we could not guess at her sex, much less ascertain her real identity.

The dances introduced during the entertainment were highly relished by those who can feel the merit of some of the very best dancers in Europe. He whole, we understand, was under the direction of Mr Degville, the ballet master. We cannot congratulate him on the manner of which the entertainment was conducted, but give him joy of a well-earned and not inconsiderable gain on the occasion.

Rotunda 12 May 1789
Rotunda Masquerade Ball 12th May 1789 Click to enlarge Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

This image from the National Portrait Gallery depicts a masquerade ball at the Pantheon.

NPG D14263; 'Pantheon masquerade' by Thomas Rowlandson, and by Augustus Charles Pugin, aquatinted by J. Bluck, published by Rudolph Ackermann

And finally, the morning after…

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Women in 18th Century Politics – 1784 Election

A Borough secur'd or Reynards resource: a caricature featuring the Duchess of Devonshire and Charles James Fox
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

As we all know the ‘well to do’ women of the Georgian era were regarded as objects of beauty that simply swooned and fainted at the sight of a gallant gentleman. They wore stunningly beautiful clothes and shoes and spent hours on their hair and beauty regime. They paraded around Georgian London, Bath, Brighton etc. in their finery and partied into the early hours, but on the whole, they were regarded as fairly vacuous creatures.

STOP RIGHT THERE!

OK, so we’ve done the whole film thing, now let’s move on and dispense with that image. If we’re being totally honest that is, to a certain extent, the stereotypical image held of women from that period as, let’s face it, they had very few, if any ‘rights’ during that time. Only those in what was regarded as the lower class, worked, the remainder were kept in comfort by their spouses or parents if not married, they had no voting rights, rarely any disposable income of their own unless they had inherited money that was solely for their use and their husband could divorce them with minimal discomfort on their part.

The Duchess of Devonshire and Charles James Fox
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Whilst women were maybe not able to publicly ‘have a voice’ in the world around them and how it worked it, appears from reading the newspapers of the day that actually they took more than a passing interest in the arts, science and politics. Many of the names we have become familiar with over the years did, in fact, take a more active role in politics than we had at first assumed with many of them engaged in gathering support for their chosen politician during elections using whatever methods were at their disposal.

One of the most famous election campaigns that took place was that of the 1784 Westminster election.   If you thought politics and political campaigning today was vicious then take a look back to the Georgian era when things were far worse!  We came across a book written October 1784 that provides a detailed account of all the events during the campaign – History of the Westminster Election from 1st  April to the 17th May.  

A meeting of the female canvassers in Covent Garden
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Westminster election was of paramount importance as this was one of the key boroughs for two reasons – firstly every male homeowner could vote and secondly due to the number of voters it was equally important to both the Whig and Tory parties. There were two seats to be had and three candidates, so the battle was between Cecil Wray and Lord Hood, both Tory’s, and Charles Fox, Whig, therefore the candidates needed to use every weapon in their armoury to achieve success; none more so than Charles Fox. The battle then commenced.

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

The Duchess of Devonshire led the female canvassers accompanied by her sister Lady Harriet Duncannon, as she was titled at that point, later to become Lady Bessborough. The list of women involved in the election included Albinia, The Countess of Buckinghamshire, the Duchess of Portland, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s wife, Elizabeth née Linley, Lady Jersey, the Honourable Mrs Bouverie and the Scandalous Lady Worsley.

Lady Worsley by Joshua Reynolds
Lady Worsley, Joshua Reynolds

Others including Perdita aka Mrs Robinson, The White Crow, aka Maria Corbyn,  The Bird of Paradise aka Gertrude Mahon, Lady Archer, Lady Carlisle, Mrs Crewe, Mrs Damer and the Miss Waldengraves,  Lady Grosvenor and Mrs Armistead, the future Mrs Fox,  so quite a little collection.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser of 6th April 1784 confirmed that the

Duchess of Devonshire along with Lord Derby & Lord Keppel are the firm of Mr Fox’s responsible committee.

This seems to imply that her role was a little more than just to ‘look pretty’; presumably, she was there to help to obtain votes however she could. It is reported that she canvassed every day and that she arranged for a thousand coalition medals to be struck, one of which she gave to every voter who agreed to support Fox.

NPG D9540; 'A coalition medal struck in brass' (Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford; Charles James Fox) by James Sayers, published by Edward Hedges
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Just over a week later The Bath Chronicle reported that

‘ It was observed of the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Duncannon, while they were soliciting votes in favour of Mr Fox, on Saturday last, they were the most lovely portraits that ever appeared upon a canvas’.

Like most people we had heard the story that the Duchess secured votes for Charles Fox by offering kisses in exchange for their vote, but until now we had assumed this was simply a myth that has evolved over time due to the astounding number of caricatures of such a scene, but it does seem from this letter written by a certain Duchess to Fox that there was some truth in it*.

‘Dear Charles

Yesterday I sent you three votes but went through much fatigue to procure them. It cost me ten kisses for every plumper.  I’m afraid we are done up – I will see you at the porter shop and we will discuss ways and means’.

Yours

D_____e House

NB Clare Market is a filthy place – keep up your spirits. I have a borough – you know where.’

The was much printed in the newspapers about her ‘method’ and many derogatory comments made about morals. The reality, however, was that amongst the public she was a very popular figure, not only because of her looks but also because she did actually engage with the public and by all accounts was able to discuss eloquently and put forward information about what Fox stood for.

As a campaigner for Wray we have the much quieter and more demure Duchess of Rutland, needless to say, we don’t have a plethora of caricatures for her!

‘we can assure the public, that the beautiful and accomplished Duchess of Rutland does not drive about the streets and alleys, or otherwise act in a manner unbecoming of a lady of rank and delicacy’.

Procession to the Hustings after a successful canvass.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Duncannon and possibly Mrs Crewe

Despite the mocking and caricatures of these women, predominantly  of the Duchess of Devonshire, and the vile abuse they apparently received from Wray’s supporters and the press, the only person who apparently clearly objected to her participation in the election was her mother who felt that she was being used by Fox, no-one else appeared to have any objection which is quite telling; it appears that even the Queen was a supporter of the Duchess of Devonshire:

Her majesty has all the morning prints at breakfast every day and the Princesses are permitted to read them. Her eye caught the indecency of that one which attacked the Duchess of Devonshire. She gave it to an attendant and said let that paper never more enter the palace doors.  The story got round and the same orders were given everywhere else.’ 

There were even comments made that women’s participation in politics could result in them wanting to vote – shock horror, how times have changed!

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

The Duchess of Devonshire suffered greatly at the hands of the press, but she clearly had a passion for politics and felt that the country would benefit from Fox’s appointment. We are aware from The Cavendish Family by Francis Bickley, that she wrote to her mother advising her of how miserable she was, but that she had begun her involvement and that she would see it through to the end.  Given that the odds were stacked against Fox winning the election from the beginning, it could be argued that a win from Fox was highly unlikely that without the help of these women!

Election te^te-a`-te^te
1784 Election Tete a Tete

15th May of 1784 The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser printed the following letter purporting to be from Lady Worsley to the Duchess of Devonshire, whether it was genuine or not we have no idea, but it is nevertheless interesting

Madam

Before the General Election in the year 1780, the name of Lady W____y stood fair and respectable; the gay world derives no entertainment from her follies. The forms of decency and decorum had not been neglected, and, therefore men of gallantry felt but little encouragement to make approaches.  Sir Richard found not Cassio’s kisses on my lips, for neither Cassio nor Roderigo revelled there. But, Madam   in the general Election of that day I acted like yourself – like a woman of life – a woman of spirit, but how unlike a politician! As you set your face against Sir Cecil Wray, I opposed my influence to that of Jervoise Clerk Jervoise.  I coaxed, I canvassed; I made myself, in the language of Shakespear ‘base, common and popular’. I was charmed with the public attention I received from the men; they talked to me of irresistible graces; the pressed my fingers; they squeezed my hand and my pulse beat quicker; they touched my lips, and my blood ran riot; they pressed me in  their arms and turned my brain. O, the joy! The rapture, the enchanting, thrilling, aching sensations, which beset my soul! They banished in an instant, all ideas of a cold, a formal education; they drove from my mind all decent forms which time and observation had copied there. Your Grace is apprized of the sequel. Before the canvas – Was your Grace strict? So was I. Was your Grace modest? So was I.  And if after the canvas, your Grace should find a violent metamorphosis in your feelings; I am ready to confess – so did I.

I am, Madam

Dorothea W____y

If you found this article interesting then you might also enjoy our book, A Georgian Heroine, about an 18th century woman who lived life on her own terms and who took far more than a passing interest in the politics of the day!

 

* History of the Westminster Election, 1784

Kissing under the mistletoe at the North Pole in 1830

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe has its origins in Norse myth and is still practised today.

The Mistletoe Bough, Francis Wheatley. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
The Mistletoe Bough, Francis Wheatley.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In the Georgian era, when a sprig of mistletoe was hung up, a berry had to be picked off for every kiss taken and when there were no more berries left then there could be no more kisses under it, but the berries are poisonous so we don’t recommend a return to this method of limiting kisses.

Mistletoe, print from A Curious Herbal, 1782
Mistletoe, print from A Curious Herbal, 1782

However, when this custom was practised the bunch of mistletoe hung in the North Pole tavern on Oxford Street in London during the Christmas of 1830 obviously did have a few berries left.

MARLBOROUGH-STREET – KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE.

William Duncan, a young man of respectable appearance, was yesterday brought before the Presiding Magistrates, J.E. CONANT and T. HALL, Esqrs., charged under the following circumstances:-

Duncan, an ex-policeman, had gone it appeared into the house in question, the North Pole, in Oxford-street, and the Defendant, who was there, went out and left his wife in the room.  The mistletoe hung gracefully from the ceiling, and the moment was propitious, for the lady was saluted by one of the tap-room gentlemen present.  The Defendant, however, shortly appeared, and then somebody informed him of the gallantry somebody had shewn towards his wife during his absence, with the important addition that he had infringed on the rules of gentility.  He had committed an heinous offence – he had kissed the lady with his hat on – and the whole of the company insisted that nothing less than a pint of gin should be “stood,” as a compensation at the shrine of etiquette.  The Defendant denied this, and refused to treat the company at all.  Some words ensued, and then the Defendant struck Complainant repeatedly, and in fact shewed him all the new hits of the season.

Witness corroborated this statement, and stated that in fact it was he that had saluted the lady and not the unfortunate Complainant.

The Defendant said the other had peeled to fight him, and he merely struck afterwards; indeed they had no right to have kissed his wife at all.  He did not like a policeman to do such a thing.

Mr. CONANT – Is he a policeman? – Defendant: No; but he was, and did duty in Duck-lane, Westminster.

Mr. CONANT thought it was merely the effects of gallantry; and even had there been an affront intended he had received a great deal of punishment in return, and the Defendant must pay 10s.

(The Morning Post, 29th December, 1830)

We end this article with a poem on kissing under the mistletoe written between December 1799 and December 1800 by Perdita or Mary Darby Robinson, that great rival to our favourite eighteenth-century lady, Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

The Mistletoe... a Christmas Tale
Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The Mistletoe (A Christmas Tale)

 

A farmer’s wife, both young and gay,

 And fresh as op’ning buds of May;

 Had taken to herself, a Spouse,

 And plighted many solemn vows,

 That she a faithful mate would prove,

 In meekness, duty, and in love!

 That she, despising joy and wealth,

 Would be, in sickness and in health,

 His only comfort and his Friend–

 But, mark the sequel,–and attend!

 

This Farmer, as the tale is told–

 Was somewhat cross, and somewhat old!

 His, was the wintry hour of life,

 While summer smiled before his wife;

 A contrast, rather form’d to cloy

 The zest of matrimonial joy!

 

‘Twas Christmas time, the peasant throng

 Assembled gay, with dance and Song:

 The Farmer’s Kitchen long had been

 Of annual sports the busy scene;

 The wood-fire blaz’d, the chimney wide

 Presented seats, on either side;

 Long rows of wooden Trenchers, clean,

 Bedeck’d with holly-boughs, were seen;

 The shining Tankard’s foamy ale

 Gave spirits to the Goblin tale,

 And many a rosy cheek–grew pale.

 

It happen’d, that some sport to shew

 The ceiling held a MISTLETOE.

 A magic bough, and well design’d

 To prove the coyest Maiden, kind.

 A magic bough, which DRUIDS old

 Its sacred mysteries enroll’d;

 And which, or gossip Fame’s a liar,

 Still warms the soul with vivid fire;

 Still promises a store of bliss

 While bigots snatch their Idol’s kiss.

 

This MISTLETOE was doom’d to be

 The talisman of Destiny;

 Beneath its ample boughs we’re told

 Full many a timid Swain grew bold;

 Full many a roguish eye askance

 Beheld it with impatient glance,

 And many a ruddy cheek confest,

 The triumphs of the beating breast;

 And many a rustic rover sigh’d

 Who ask’d the kiss, and was denied.

 

First MARG’RY smil’d and gave her Lover

 A Kiss; then thank’d her stars, ’twas over!

 Next, KATE, with a reluctant pace,

 Was tempted to the mystic place;

 Then SUE, a merry laughing jade

 A dimpled yielding blush betray’d;

 While JOAN her chastity to shew

 Wish’d “the bold knaves would serve her so,”

 She’d “teach the rogues such wanton play!”

 And well she could, she knew the way.

 

The FARMER, mute with jealous care,

 Sat sullen, in his wicker chair;

 Hating the noisy gamesome host

 Yet, fearful to resign his post;

 He envied all their sportive strife

 But most he watch’d his blooming wife,

 And trembled, lest her steps should go,

 Incautious, near the MISTLETOE.

 

Now HODGE, a youth of rustic grace

 With form athletic; manly face;

 On MISTRESS HOMESPUN turn’d his eye

 And breath’d a soul-declaring sigh!

 Old HOMESPUN, mark’d his list’ning Fair

 And nestled in his wicker chair;

 HODGE swore, she might his heart command–

 The pipe was dropp’d from HOMESPUN’S hand!

 

HODGE prest her slender waist around;

 The FARMER check’d his draught, and frown’d!

 And now beneath the MISTLETOE

 ‘Twas MISTRESS HOMESPUN’S turn to go;

 Old Surly shook his wicker chair,

 And sternly utter’d–“Let her dare!”

 

HODGE, to the FARMER’S wife declar’d

 Such husbands never should be spar’d;

 Swore, they deserv’d the worst disgrace,

 That lights upon the wedded race;

 And vow’d–that night he would not go

 Unblest, beneath the MISTLETOE.

 

The merry group all recommend

 An harmless Kiss, the strife to end:

 “Why not ?” says MARG’RY, “who would fear,

 “A dang’rous moment, once a year?”

 SUSAN observ’d, that “ancient folks

 “Were seldom pleas’d with youthful jokes;”

 But KATE, who, till that fatal hour,

 Had held, o’er HODGE, unrivall’d pow’r,

 With curving lip and head aside

 Look’d down and smil’d in conscious pride,

 Then, anxious to conceal her care,

 She humm’d–“what fools some women are!”

 

Now, MISTRESS HOMESPUN, sorely vex’d,

 By pride and jealous rage perplex’d,

 And angry, that her peevish spouse

 Should doubt her matrimonial vows,

 But, most of all, resolved to make

 An envious rival’s bosom ache;

 Commanded Hodge to let her go,

 Nor lead her to the Mistletoe;

 

“Why should you ask it o’er and o’er?”

 Cried she, “we’ve been there twice before!”

 ‘Tis thus, to check a rival’s sway,

 That Women oft themselves betray;

 While VANITY, alone, pursuing,

 They rashly prove, their own undoing.

December and May, 1828
December and May, 1828

A longer version of the poem, published under the pen name of Laura Maria, can be read here.

The Illegitimate child of Major General Banastre Tarleton

Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782
Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782 via Wikimedia Commons

In the course of our research, we came across a reference to an illegitimate child of Banastre Tarleton, army officer and politician.  Regular readers will probably be aware by now that we’re both natural ‘nosey parkers’ and as such simply had to find out more about this child.  So, here is some additional gossip on the subject for you.

In 1797 Major General Banastre Tarleton was ending his relationship with the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (before Banastre she was better known as the Perdita to the Prince of Wales Florizel).  The diarist Joseph Farington recorded on the 2nd May 1797 that Banastre and Mary had separated due to his designs on her daughter ‘who is now 21.’  Maria Elizabeth Robinson, the daughter of Mary and Thomas Robinson, the husband from whom she had separated many years before, had been born in October 1774 so was actually a year older than the diarist thought.

In December 1798 Banastre married Susan Priscilla Bertie, illegitimate daughter and heiress of his former friend Robert Bertie, 4th Duke of Ancaster, who had been brought up by her titled grandmother and her aunt Lady Cholmondeley and who was almost a quarter of a century her husband’s, junior.

And at some point around his split from Mary and before his marriage to Susan Priscilla, Banastre was to father an illegitimate daughter, named in his honour and for his friend the Prince, as Banina Georgiana Tarleton.  Born on the 19th December 1797, the little girl was not baptized until the 26th May 1801, at the Old Church in Saint Pancras, her mother named as Kolina on the baptism register.

This girl had but a short life, almost anonymous until a notice of her death appeared at the age of just twenty years on the 12th April 1818.  If her birth date (which is given in the parish register entry of her baptism) is correct, then she must have been conceived around the middle of March 1797, and Banastre appears to be resident in London at that time.  Interestingly, the only other woman he is linked with by the press in 1797, other than Mary Robinson, was her daughter.  Was Farington merely repeating salacious gossip or was there some truth behind the rumours?

General T_____ is said to fluctuate between the “Perdita” and her fair daughter, like the ass between two bundles of hay.

The Times, 13th October, 1797

Why Banina Georgiana was not baptized sooner is a mystery.  She was three and a half years old when she was taken to the church at St Pancras, but Banastre hadn’t been in London much in the interim; after his marriage to Susan Priscilla Bertie the newly-wed couple left for Portugal where Banastre had been given a command, not returning to England until the October of 1799 and in 1800 they spent some months in Wales.

Mary Robinson, after failing to reclaim Banastre and with the ill-health, she had suffered from since possibly undergoing a miscarriage during the early days of her relationship with him, died on the 26th December 1800 at her daughter’s cottage in Englefield Green near Egham.  After her death, a lock of her hair was reputedly sent to ‘a General and a Prince’, the two great loves of her life.  Is it somehow significant that the baptism of this little girl did not take place until after the great Perdita had died?

Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781 (c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (Perdita) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781
(c) The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Despite our best efforts, we can still add little to Banina Georgiana’s life but we have found her burial, surprisingly up in Scotland, and as this does not seem to have been mentioned before we thought that we should share this new information with you, our readers.  In the Findo Gask parish burial records is the following document.

 Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Baronet, died at Gask House, on Sunday the 12th, and was interred within the Old Church on Wednesday the 15th of April, 1818.

Sir Banastre sent five pounds to the poor as the price of a burial place, which sum, the Men and Managers of the Fund, after stating to Sir Banastre their uncertainty whether it was in their power to dispose of the ground, received in lieu of any right which the public may have in it, – and grateful for the bounty and human attention of Sir Banastre and Lady Tarleton to the poor of the place, as well during the whole term of their residence at Gask as on the present occasion, they promised to use their utmost endeavours to preserve entire the ground in which the remains of Miss Tarleton were deposited.

O.P.R. Deaths 352/00/0010 029

Banina Georgiana Tarleton died at Gask House at Findo Gask in Perthshire, the family home of Carolina Nairne nee Oliphant (1766-1845), a Scottish songwriter and poet from a Jacobite family.

Carolina Oliphant, Baroness Nairne, 1766 - 1845. Songwriter & son William Murray Nairne
Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne with her son

In 1806, when Carolina was forty-one years of age, she married her second cousin William Murray Nairne who in 1824 became the Baron Nairne.  The Nairnes lived in Edinburgh after their marriage.  We have to here point out that the name Carolina is very similar to the name of Banina’s mother, Kolina, although in doing so we wish to cast no aspersions on her moral character; it may just be a coincidence that the two names are similar and that Banina died at Gask House.

Died . . . At Gask House, on the 12th current, Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Bart.

Caledonian Mercury, 18th April 1818

Gask House (rebuilt 1801-1805 by Laurence Oliphant) via visitdunkeld.com
Gask House (rebuilt 1801-1805 by Laurence Oliphant) via visitdunkeld.com

The Tarleton’s seem to have been using Gask House as a Scottish estate although their main residence was at Leintwardine in Herefordshire and their London address was 29 Berkeley Square; the Nairnes seem to mainly reside in Edinburgh.

Was Banina Georgiana there as part of a family unit with her father and her stepmother, or did Sir Banastre (he was made a baronet in 1816) and Lady Tarleton travel to Scotland after her death?  Certainly, they were there during June 1818 and as Susan Priscilla herself was illegitimate and had been brought up as part of the Cholmondeley family due to the kindness of her aunt it would not be surprising if she accepted Banastre’s illegitimate daughter as part of her family as the couple had no children of their own.

Sir Banaster [sic] and Lady Tarleton arrived on Thursday, at their house in Berkeley-square, from their seat in Scotland.

Morning Chronicle, 20th June 1818

Susan Priscilla, after her marriage in 1798, became religious and befriended Mary Robinson’s daughter; in 1804 Wild Wreath, a collection of poems put together by Maria Elizabeth Robinson included engravings from drawings by Mrs B. Tarleton along with poems written by ‘Susan’, which hints at a friendship just a few years after the baptism of Banina Georgiana between the Tarleton’s and the girl who reportedly was the cause of Banastre’s split with Mary Robinson.  Maria Elizabeth Robinson herself just predeceased Banina Georgiana for she was buried in Old Windsor (where her mother lay) on the 26th January 1818.  Her will, written in the August of 1801, left all she owned to Mrs Elizabeth Weale who shared her cottage on Englefield Green.

Is it just possible that the name Kolina is hiding the identity of someone else, someone close to Mary Robinson?

The Thunderer, 1782. Satirical print featuring the Prince of Wales, Colonel Banastre Tarleton and Mary (Perdita) Robinson. Ban Tarleton is boasting of his exploits to the prince, outside a brothel named the Whirligig.
Satirical print featuring the Prince of Wales, Colonel Banastre Tarleton and Mary (Perdita) Robinson, 1782. (Library of Congress prints)

Mary Robinson: Selected Poems, edited by Judith Pascoe

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org