Friday, 19 September 2014

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)

Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron
with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Profile

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (30 October 1751 – 7 July 1816) was an Irish playwright and owner of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His most famous works include The School for Scandal and The Rivals. He was a Whig MP and intimate friend of Charles James Fox and George, Prince of Wales.

Read some of the clever things that Sheridan said and wrote.

Early life

Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born in Dublin on 30 October 1751(1), the son of Thomas Sheridan, an actor and teacher of rhetoric, and his wife, Frances Chamberlaine, a novelist and playwright. He was christened Thomas Brinsley on 4 November, but his parents called him Richard. (2)

He was educated in Dublin at Samuel Whyte’s school in Grafton Street and later in Windsor by his mother before being sent to Harrow in 1762. After spending a few years in London, Sheridan moved to Bath in 1770, where his widowed father taught elocution.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan from The Creevey Papers (1904)
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from The Creevey Papers (1904)
Playwright

In Bath, Sheridan began writing and had several poems published. His most popular works included The Rivals (1775), The School for Scandal (1777) and The Critic (1779) and the libretto for a comic opera, The Duenna (1775).

Drury Lane Theatre

In 1776, Sheridan bought David Garrick’s share in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and on 21 September, the theatre opened under his management. He bought the remaining share in 1778.

The theatre had to be rebuilt in the early 1790s, embroiling Sheridan in complicated financial arrangements.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
In 1809, the Drury Lane Theatre burnt down depriving Sheridan of his major income stream. The rebuilding of the theatre, together with its debts, was taken on by Samuel Whitbread, and when it reopened in 1811, Sheridan no longer had any share in its management.

Whig MP

Despite his success as a playwright, Sheridan was keen to enter politics. He became an MP in 1780, supporting the Whig opposition led by Charles James Fox. During his political career, he was MP for Stafford (1780-1806), Westminster (1806-7) and Ilchester (1807-12).

Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox
from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs
of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
During the Regency crisis of 1788, Sheridan acted as a link between the Prince of Wales and the Whigs. Sheridan spoke eloquently in favour of the impeachment of Warren Hastings.

George IV when Prince Regent  after Sir Thomas Lawrence (1815) NPG
George IV when Prince Regent
after Sir Thomas Lawrence (1815) NPG
Like Fox, Sheridan initially supported the French Revolution but opposed the execution of the King. He fell out with Edmund Burke who painted him and Fox as extreme radicals who wanted to remove the British monarchy.

Sheridan was in favour of reform and Catholic emancipation and became increasingly involved in Irish politics, supporting Irish independence. He also spoke enthusiastically in support of freedom of the press.

An infamous elopement

Thomas Linley's house on Royal Crescent, Bath
Thomas Linley's house on Royal Crescent, Bath
On 18 March 1772, Sheridan eloped with Elizabeth Linley from her father’s house in Bath. Elizabeth was a beautiful and talented soprano singer who was being relentlessly pursued by a married man named Captain Matthews. Elizabeth had called on Sheridan to save her from his importunities.

Neither family was in favour of the marriage. Thomas Linley wanted his daughter to continue her successful musical career; Sheridan’s father thought the Linleys an inferior connection. The couple were eventually married on 13 April 1773. Thomas Linley accepted the marriage; Sheridan’s father disowned him. They had one son, Thomas (1775).

Elizabeth Sheridan as St Cecilia  Print by W Dickinson after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1776)  © British Museum
Elizabeth Sheridan as St Cecilia
Print by W Dickinson after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1776)
© British Museum
A matter of honour

After the elopement, Matthews denounced Sheridan’s behaviour in the Bath Chronicle. Sheridan successfully fought a duel with him to make him apologise. Matthews then forced a second duel in which Sheridan was badly injured.

Extravagant living

Sheridan and his wife Elizabeth were welcomed into aristocratic circles where they were encouraged to live in a style beyond their means. Sheridan became an intimate friend of Charles James Fox and of George, Prince of Wales. He was not addicted to gambling like many of his friends, but frittered away his money on extravagant living and heavy drinking.

In March 1777, Sheridan was elected a member of the Literary Club at Samuel Johnson’s instigation. On 2 November 1780, he was elected a member of Brooks’ Club having been rejected twice previously.

Samuel Johnson  from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs  of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Samuel Johnson
from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs
of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
An errant husband

Sheridan was not a faithful husband. He had an affair with Mrs Frances Anne Crewe, a Whig hostess to whom he dedicated The School for Scandal.

Frances Anne Crewe as St Genevieve  Print by T Watson after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1773)  © British Museum
Frances Anne Crewe as St Genevieve
Print by T Watson after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1773)
© British Museum
He then embarked on a passionate affair with Harriet, Lady Duncannon, later Lady Bessborough, the Duchess of Devonshire’s younger sister. It was not until Harriet’s husband threatened to divorce her in 1789 that the affair was finally brought to an end. But Sheridan remained obsessed with Lady Bessborough, causing his ex-lover a good deal of embarrassment.

Harriet, Lady Bessborough from La Belle Assemblée (1810)
Harriet, Lady Bessborough
from La Belle Assemblée (1810)
An illegitimate child

In 1792, Elizabeth had a daughter, Mary, whose father was probably Lord Edward Fitzgerald, with whom she was having an affair. Sheridan treated Mary as his own daughter, but sadly she died as an infant. Despite his infidelities, Sheridan was distraught when Elizabeth became ill with tuberculosis and died on 28 June 1792.

A second marriage

On 27 April 1795, Sheridan married again. His second wife was Hester Jane Ogle, the 19 year old daughter of the dean of Winchester, known as Hecca. They had a son, Charles Brinsley, in 1796 and purchased the estate of Polesden Lacey in Surrey for their family.
Whilst Sheridan continued to pursue his obsession with Lady Bessborough, Hecca had an affair with Lord Grey.

Hester Jane Sheridan née Ogle  from La Belle Assemblée (1825)
Hester Jane Sheridan née Ogle
from La Belle Assemblée (1825)
Financial difficulties

Sheridan consistently outlived his income, but he was proudly independent and was reluctant to accept financial help from others. However, in 1804, Fox and the Prince of Wales persuaded him to accept the role of Receiver-General for the Duchy of Cornwall.

After losing his seat in the House of Commons in 1812, Sheridan was no longer exempt from being arrested for debt and was imprisoned several times.

Illness and death

Sheridan’s heavy drinking affected his political performance and his health and he suffered from bouts of depression. He became ill in December 1815 and died on 7 July 1816 at 14 Savile Row with his wife beside him. He was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey on 13 July.

Westminster Abbey  from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
Westminster Abbey
from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
Notes
(1) There would appear to be some uncertainty as to Sheridan’s date of birth. Jeffares says Sheridan was born in September or October 1751 whereas Stephen and others state it precisely as 30 October 1751.
(2) From Jeffares.

Sources used include:
Jeffares, A Norman, Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751-1816), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 18 Aug 2014)
Moore, Thomas, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1825)
Stephen, Sir Leslie (ed), Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Dictionary of National Biography, 1921-2, vols 1-20,22 (Oxford University Press, 1921-2; online edn 2010 on Ancestry.com)

History of Parliament online
The Peerage online

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Monday, 15 September 2014

Jane Austen Festival 2014 Regency Promenade in Bath

The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
A step back in time

On Saturday, Bath stepped back in time to its Georgian heyday. The streets were full of Jane Austen enthusiasts dressed up in Regency costume for the Jane Austen Festival Grand Regency Costumed Promenade.

The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
Photo © Stephen Knowles
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade  Photo © Stephen Knowles
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
Photo © Stephen Knowles
A new world record!

We met in the beautiful Georgian Assembly Rooms, where we successfully set a new world record for the most people dressed up in Regency costume in one place: 550! And that could have been more as people were still arriving after the official count as a rugby match and a university open day also taking place on Saturday had caused more than a few Austenites to be delayed by traffic.

Rachel outside the Assembly Rooms  Photo © Mirabelle Knowles
Rachel outside the Assembly Rooms
Photo © Mirabelle Knowles
Regency Bath

Soldiers in the Jane Austen Regency Promenade
Soldiers on parade
Photo © Stephen Knowles
The promenade was led by a dashing group of redcoats and staff from the Jane Austen Centre. We paraded through much of the Georgian city including the very fashionable Circus, where the painter Thomas Gainsborough and the Earl of Chatham once lived, and down Milsom Street, where Regency ladies would have visited the circulating library and gone shopping.

Soldiers in the Jane Austen Regency Promenade
Soldiers on parade
Parading around The Circus
Parading around The Circus
Photo © Mirabelle Knowles
The atmosphere was amazing. We were all joined together by our love of the Regency period and it was great to make new friends as we walked in the footsteps of Jane Austen, who lived in Bath for several years and set parts of two of her novels there – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Meeting Mr Wickham

An extra special moment for me was meeting the charming Adrian Lukis alias Mr Wickham from the superlative 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Rachel Knowles and Adrian Lukis, aka Mr Wickham
Meeting Mr Wickham (Adrian Lukis)
Photo © Mirabelle Knowles
Photographs in the park

The promenade ended in the Parade Gardens alongside the River Avon – a beautiful setting for a picnic and photographs.

A Regency picnic in the park
A Regency picnic in the park
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade - in Parade Gardens
The Jane Austen Festival - in Parade Gardens
Photo © Stephen Knowles
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade - in Parade Gardens
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade - in Parade Gardens
Silhouettes and milliners

After the promenade, I visited the Festival Fayre in the Guildhall where I had my silhouette cut out by the amazing Charles Burns – The Roving Artist – and tried on a wide variety of exquisite hats and bonnets made by Farthingale Historical Hats.

The Roving Artist at work
The Roving Artist at work
Silhouette of Rachel Knowles in Regency costume by The Roving Artist
My silhouette
by The Roving Artist
More photographs and video

I was fortunate to have a bevy of family members supporting me and taking lots of photographs of the day.

The Jane Austen Festival Promenade  Photo © Stephen Knowles
The Jane Austen Festival Promenade
Photo © Stephen Knowles
My husband took a video of the procession leaving the Assembly Rooms: Click here to see the video.

I will be posting more photos on my Facebook page and Google+ account.

I thoroughly enjoyed wearing my Regency costume for the first time and am looking forward to meeting up with everyone again next year.

Rachel with Natalie Garbett (left)  who made my beautiful Regency costume
Rachel with Natalie Garbett (left)
who made my beautiful Regency costume
Photo © Stephen Knowles
Read about the making of my costume here.

Photographs © Mirabelle Knowles and Stephen Knowles as stated.
All other photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Haddon Hall - a Regency History guide

Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall
Where is it?

Haddon Hall is in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

History

Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall overlooking the River Wye
Haddon Hall was acquired by the Vernon family through a marriage settlement in 1180 and passed to the last Vernon owner’s son-in-law, Sir John Manners, in 1565. Most of the existing house was built during this long period of ownership by the Vernon family.

Sir John Manner’s grandson, another John Manners (1604-1679), became 8th Earl of Rutland and inherited Belvoir Castle on the death of his cousin in 1642. His son, yet another John (1638-1711), was made 1st Duke of Rutland and Marquess of Granby in 1703 and he abandoned Haddon Hall for Belvoir Castle.

Belvoir Castle from The History of Belvoir Castle by Rev I Eller (1841)
Belvoir Castle from The History of Belvoir Castle
 by Rev I Eller (1841)
The Hall was restored by the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland in the early 20th century and is now home to their grandson, Lord Edward Manners.

Georgian connection

During the Georgian period, Haddon Hall was owned by successive Dukes of Rutland:
  • John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland (1676-1721).
  • John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland (1696-1779) - one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital (1). He married the heiress Bridget Sutton. Two of his sons, Lord Robert (1722-1762) and Lord George (1723-1783) adopted the name Manners-Sutton on inheriting from their maternal grandfather.
  • Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland (1754-1787) - married Lady Mary Isabella Somerset (1756-1831), a renowned beauty and political hostess.
  • John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland (1778-1857) - bred racehorses.
Entrance to Haddon Hall
Entrance to Haddon Hall
Georgian sightseeing

Although the Dukes lived at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and Haddon Hall was left uninhabited, people still visited the Hall.

Horace Walpole visited Haddon Hall in 1760. In a letter to George Montagu dated 1 September 1760, he wrote: “I saw Haddon, an abandoned old castle of the Rutlands, in a romantic situation, but which never could have composed a tolerable dwelling.”

Haddon Hall from Adam's guidebook (1852)
Haddon Hall from Adam's guidebook (1852)
A description of various places, including Haddon Hall, was published by Adam in 1852 “at a low price, to suit the general visitor”. The guide described Haddon as: “A most romantic Old Hall of the Elizabethan period, once the residence of Sir George Vernon, the ‘King of the Peak’, uninhabited, but still kept in complete repair – Fine old state bed – Tapestry or Arras – Pictures – Carvings in wood – Garden – Terraces, &c.”
 
Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall
Adam claimed that the Hall had “assisted the imagination of Mrs. Radcliffe in its wildest flights, when writing The Mysteries of Udolpho".

During the middle of the 19th century, Samuel Rayner and his family from Matlock Bath frequently painted the Hall.

View of Haddon Hall from outside The Chapel
View of Haddon Hall from outside The Chapel
Film set

Haddon Hall is a popular film set. It has repeatedly been used as the location for Thornfield Hall in film and TV productions of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Although it is unlikely that Charlotte ever visited, the fact that it existed in an eerie and interesting state during her lifetime makes it at least possible that she could have based Thornfield on Haddon Hall.

Haddon Hall was also used as Prince Humperdinck’s castle in The Princess Bride (one of my favourite films).

What can you see today?

• The Long Gallery

The Long Galllery, Haddon Hall
The Long Galllery, Haddon Hall
• The Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall, Haddon Hall
The Banqueting Hall, Haddon Hall
The Banqueting Hall, Haddon Hall
The Banqueting Hall, Haddon Hall
 • The Chapel

The Chapel, Haddon Hall
The Chapel, Haddon Hall
 • The gardens

Haddon Hall from the gardens
Haddon Hall from the gardens
Haddon Hall from the gardens
Haddon Hall from the gardens
Last visited: August 2014

Note
(1) From Wikipedia.

Sources used include:
Adam, W, Description of Buxton, Chatsworth, Bakewell, Haddon Hall, and Castleton: with a tabular view of the principal drives and objects of interest throughout the county: abridged from Adam's Gem of the Peak (1852)
Cleary, Bryan, Haddon Hall (2014)
Eller, Irvin, The History of Belvoir Castle, from the Norman conquest to the nineteenth century (1841)

 All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato