Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Saltram - a Regency History guide

Where is it?

Saltram is a Georgian mansion just outside Plymouth in Devon.


Before the civil war, Saltram was owned by the Bagge family. One of them, James Bagge, was a particularly disreputable character. He was an intimate friend of James I’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, who was a frequent visitor at Saltram, but he died in disgrace in 1638 after embezzling funds entrusted to him to supply the King’s fleet.

His son George was more respectable and became Deputy Governor of Plymouth, but as a Royalist, he had to forfeit the estate to Parliament after the civil war. When the monarchy was restored, the estate was given to Sir George Carteret who sold it to George Parker, a wealthy squire from Boringdon, in 1712.

The house remained in the Parker family until it was given to HM Treasury in lieu of death duties in 1957 and then passed into the care of the National Trust.

Saltram from the South West by Philip Hutchins Rogers (c1813)
Saltram from the South West by Philip Hutchins Rogers (c1813)
The Georgian connection

John Parker I (1703-1768)

George Parker bought Saltram in 1712 and let the house to tenants. His son John inherited in 1743, and John and his wife Catherine, daughter of the 1st Earl Poulett, decided to make Saltram their home. The house they inherited was a three-storey house built around a central courtyard. They commissioned a local architect to give the house a new look by adding three distinct classical façades to the existing building and they extensively remodelled the interior.

Lady Catherine had superior taste and was an early patron of Sir Joshua Reynolds who came from nearby Plympton. She was almost certainly responsible for the introduction of the fashionable Chinese wallpapers used in several of the first floor rooms.
Chinese wallpaper, The Chinese Bedroom, Saltram
Chinese wallpaper, The Chinese Bedroom, Saltram
John Parker II (1734/5-1788)

John Parker II was MP for Bodmin and then Devon and was made 1st Baron Boringdon in 1784. He lived at Saltram with his second wife, Theresa Robinson, and continued to remodel the house and gardens. He appointed Robert Adam to design the Saloon and Library (now the Dining Room), and added new features to the gardens, such as the Orangery. John was good friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds who often visited Saltram and painted a number of portraits for the family.

John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon  by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1767)
John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon
by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1767)
John Parker III (1772-1840)

John Parker III’s mother died when he was three years old and his aunt, Anne “Nanny” Robinson, looked after him and his sister Theresa at Saltram. He inherited on his father’s death in 1788, before he had reached his majority. George III and Queen Charlotte stayed at Saltram in August 1789 whilst they visited Plymouth and the surrounding area.

John married twice, firstly to Augusta Fane who scandalously eloped with Sir Arthur Paget, and secondly to Frances Talbot. In 1815, John was made Viscount Boringdon and Earl of Morley.

What can you see today?

• The Georgian façade of Saltram

Entrance to Saltram
Entrance to Saltram
 • Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, such as this one of John Parker III and his sister Theresa as children.

John Parker, later 1st Earl of Morley, and his sister Theresa
by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1779)
• Portraits by Angelica Kauffman, such as this self-portrait hanging in the library.

Angelica Kauffman painted by herself (c1764)
Angelica Kauffman painted by herself (c1764)
• The Saloon designed by Robert Adam.

The Saloon, Saltram
The Saloon, Saltram
 • The Dining Room, designed by Robert Adam as the Library.

The Dining Room, Saltram (originally The Library)
The Dining Room, Saltram (originally the Library)
 • Rare Chinese wallpaper in several of the upstairs rooms

The Chinese Bedroom, Saltram
The Chinese Bedroom, Saltram
 • The Library, with a writing desk dating from c1700 believed to have belonged to Louis XIV.

The Library, Saltram
The Library, Saltram
 • The Tudor courtyard, showing a glimpse of the original building.

Tudor courtyard, Saltram
Tudor courtyard, Saltram
 • The Orangery.

The Orangery, Saltram
The Orangery, Saltram
 • The Amphitheatre on the banks of the river, thought to date from pre 1743.

The Amphitheatre, Saltram, from across the river
The Amphitheatre, Saltram, from across the river
Last visited: July 2014.

Sources used include:
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Evans, Sian, Saltram (National Trust 2012)
Fletcher, Ronald, The Parkers at Saltram 1769-1789 (BBC 1970)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -

Monday, 14 July 2014

Mary Robinson - more than Perdita

Mary Robinson  from an engraving by Smith after Romney  in Memoirs of Mary Robinson (1895)
Mary Robinson
from an engraving by Smith after Romney
in Memoirs of Mary Robinson (1895)
Mary Robinson the writer

Mary 'Perdita' Robinson (1757-1800) was an actress who famously became the first mistress of George IV when he was still a teenager. But what is less well known today is that in addition to her beauty, her exalted lover and her success on the stage, Mary was a talented writer.

Early patronage

In 1775, Mary published her first volume of poems. She presented the Duchess of Devonshire with a copy, and in return, the Duchess was pleased to offer her support. A second volume of poems in 1777 was dedicated to her patroness.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire  from Posthumous memoirs of his own time  by NW Wraxall (1836)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
from Posthumous memoirs of his own time
by NW Wraxall (1836)
Reinventing Mary

A severe illness in 1783 left Mary lame and she struggled with ill health for the rest of her life. The following year, Lister published his Memoirs of Perdita, a scandalous history of Mary's life that she was eager to contradict. She wanted to create a new persona for herself as a respectable person and not as the courtesan Perdita that the world labelled her. Her writing gave her that opportunity.

Mary’s obituary

On 14 July 1786, The Morning Post announced that Mrs Robinson, the once famous Perdita, had died a few days before in Paris. It printed an obituary that praised her beauty and person but reminded its readers of her immoral relationships. Mary’s response was to write a witty letter declaring that she was alive and well, apart from her lameness, and implying that the details of her life were as fictional as her death.

The Della Cruscans

In 1788, Mary started writing poems under the pseudonym of Laura in response to Robert Merry’s Della Crusca in The World. The Della Cruscans favoured a flowery sort of poetry and included Hannah Cowley and Hester Theale amongst their number.

When The Oracle started up as a rival paper to The World, Mary became its regular poet, writing under the pseudonym Laura Maria. One poem of particular note was Insanity (1791) which Mary composed whilst drugged with opium to dull the pain of her illness. It was later renamed The Maniac.

Mary also wrote poems for The Morning Post and essays under the pseudonym The Sylphid.

The English Sappho

Mary published a deluxe anthology of her poems in 1791 with 600 subscribers. It was later republished as a cheaper volume as The Beauties of Mrs Robinson. It was generally well received by the critics and the Monthly Review labelled Mary “our English Sappho” – a nickname that stuck.

Her final volume of poetry – Lyrical Tales – was published in 1800 shortly before her death.


Mary wrote a number of novels of varying quality. Her first, Vancenza, or the Dangers of Credulity (1792) was a Gothic romance and included veiled references to the Prince of Wales. Her second novel, The Widow, or a Picture of Modern Times (1794), painted faro players in a bad light and was less popular.

Angelina (1796) was enthusiastically reviewed by Mary Wollstonecraft, but Hubert de Sevrac: A Romance of the Eighteenth Century (1796) was hastily written and was a rather poor Gothic novel.

Walsingham (1797) had a cross-dressed hero/heroine, The False Friend (1799) was full of feminist ideas and The Natural Daughter, with portraits of the Leadenhead Family (1799) was her most autobiographical novel but was poorly received because of its radical content.

Writing for the stage

Mary returned to the theatre, not to perform, but to write. However her major attempts did not meet with success. Her play, Nobody, written to showcase the comedic talents of Dora Jordan, but its anti-gambling undertones prompted hate mail to Mary and Dora and it failed after only three performances.

Mrs Jordan  from The Life of Mrs Jordan by J Boaden (1831)
Mrs Jordan
from The Life of Mrs Jordan by J Boaden (1831)
Another play, A Sicilian Lover – a tragedy – was greatly admired by the Duke of Leeds, but poorly received by everyone else.

She also wrote an opera for Sheridan called Kate of Aberdeen, but it was never performed.

Radical writings

Toward the end of her life, Mary became increasingly radical in her views, possibly influenced by such friends as William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.

In 1790, she wrote a poem Ainsi va le Monde, in support of the French revolution, inscribed to Robert Merry.

She also wrote anti-slavery poems and a feminist essay - A Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination (1799) under the pseudonym of Anne Frances Randall. In this essay she advocated the creation of a university for women.

Monodies and Memoirs

Mary wrote a monody – a poem lamenting another’s death – in honour of her close friend Sir Joshua Reynolds who died in 1792 and another to the memory of Marie Antoinette in 1793.

Sir Joshua Reynolds  from The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds  ed Farington and Malone (1819)
Sir Joshua Reynolds
from The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds
ed Farington and Malone (1819)
Intense personal emotion also impelled her to write Stanzas written between Dover and Calais, July 24th 1792 inscribed to .… which were dedicated to her lover Tarleton, when she thought they had separated irrevocably. The stanzas were set to music and became very popular.

Tarleton’s History of the Campaigns in Virginia and the Neighbouring Provinces (1787) was generally believed to have been written, at least in part, by Mary.

Mary also wrote her memoirs - Memoirs of the Late Mrs Robinson written by herself (1801) - which, though undeniably biased in her own favour, are one of the first examples of an English author writing an autobiography. They were published posthumously by her daughter.

Sources used include:
Byrne, Paula, Perdita, the life of Mary Robinson (2004)
Levy, Martin J, Robinson, Mary (Perdita) (1756/8-1800) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 2 July 2013)
Robinson, Mary, Memoirs of Mary Robinson "Perdita" from the edition edited by her daughter with intro & notes by J Fitzgerald Molloy (1895)
Robinson, Mrs Mary, The Poetical Works of the late Mrs Mary Robinson: including many pieces never before published (1806)

Friday, 4 July 2014

Arlington Court and the Wimbledon connection

The Enderlein Charger at Arlington Court
The Enderlein Charger at Arlington Court
When I visited Arlington Court last week, I discovered that it has a special connection with the tennis championships at Wimbledon: the ladies’ singles trophy - the Rosewater Dish – was copied from a large pewter dish which is currently on display in the White Drawing Room.

The Enderlein Charger

The pewter dish, sometimes called a charger because it is more than 18 inches in diameter, was cast by Caspar Enderlein of Nuremberg in 1611. It is decorated with figures from classical mythology. The design is not very easy to work out, but the placard next to the charger explained the engravings.

The Enderlein Charger
The Enderlein Charger
In the centre is the goddess of Temperance sitting on a chest with a lamp in her right hand and a jug in her left hand and other objects including a sickle and fork around her. The central part of the dish shows four gods from classical mythology whilst the area around the rim shows the goddess Minerva ruling over the seven liberal arts: Astrology, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Rhetoric, Dialectic and Grammar. Miss Chichester bought the charger in the early 20th century as part of her large pewter collection.

The Rosewater Dish

The Rosewater Dish, sometimes called the Venus Rosewater Dish, is a partly gilded sterling silver copy of the pewter charger and was made by Elkington of Birmingham in 1864. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club bought the silver salver for 50 guineas as the trophy for the new ladies’ championship in 1886. Each year, the ladies' champion receives a miniature version of the salver to keep.

I like the suggestion made on the Arlington Court website that this design was chosen for the ladies’ trophy because the central figure of Sophrosyne, the Greek goddess of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion, represented desirable character traits for Victorian women athletes!

More than one charger

As I was researching this post, I discovered that the relationship between Arlington Court’s charger and the Rosewater Dish is not unique. There are, in fact, several other chargers besides this one. A small number of pieces cast by Enderlein in this or a very similar design have survived including an almost identical one owned by the V&A Museum. (1)

I discovered that the V&A also owns a piece known as the Temperantia Basin made by Francois Briot around 1585. It would seem that the Enderlein chargers were based on this earlier basin by Briot. The V&A website explains that the Enderlein chargers “were not cast from an original but were made from moulds cut as line-for-line copies of the Briot dish”. (2) There are also ceramic copies of the Temperantia Basin, one of which is in the Louvre.

Briot made another, very similar, charger, known as the very Mars dish, which is in the Louvre. According to the V&A website (2), it is Briot's Mars dish which is the basis of the Rosewater Dish rather than the Enderlein Charger. I have not been able to find a picture of Briot's Mars dish to compare it to the Enderlein charger, but as the design on the Enderlein Charger is so similar to that on the Rosewater Dish, I conclude that both were copies of one of Briot's original dishes.

(1) In the Arlington Court guidebook, there is a picture of another dish - the Nurnberg Temperantia basin - which is not identical to the Enderlein Charger shown above.
(2) From the V&A website.  

Sources used include:
Badcock, Marigold, Gibbons, David and Parker-Williams, Demelza, Arlington Court and the National Trust Carriage Museum, National Trust Guide (2009)

Arlington Court website
V&A website

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Arlington Court – a Regency History guide

Arlington Court
Arlington Court
Where is it?

Arlington Court is a Neo-classical house near Barnstaple in North Devon. The stables are home to the National Trust Carriage Museum.

The stables, Arlington Court
The stables, Arlington Court

The Arlington estate was owned by the Chichester family who had been wealthy Devonshire landowners since the 14th century. They supported the King during the Civil War and had a strong Catholic heritage. A Georgian house was built at Arlington in the early 1790s and a second Georgian house, in the Neo-classical style, was built in the 1820s. It is this house that still stands today.

The estate was given to the National Trust by Miss Rosalie Chichester in 1949.

The Georgian connection

Colonel John Palmer Chichester (1769-1823)

Colonel Chichester married Mary Anne Cary in 1790 and commissioned a fashionable Georgian mansion to be built at Arlington to replace the Tudor manor house he had inherited.

A View of Arlington Court and St James' Church Tower  from the Park by Maria Pixell (1797)
A View of Arlington Court and St James' Church Tower
from the Park by Maria Pixell (1797)
After the death of his first wife in childbirth, Colonel Chichester married the Protestant, Agnes Hamilton, with whom he had six children. To the great distress of his family, he publicly renounced his Catholic faith in Exeter Cathedral in 1793.

By the early 1820s, it became apparent that the Colonel’s Georgian house had structural issues and he commissioned the architect Thomas Lee to build him a new house in the Neo-classical style. This house was completed in 1823, but sadly Colonel Chichester died the same year and never lived in it.

Sir John Palmer Bruce Chichester (1794-1851)

Sir John Palmer Bruce Chichester
Sir John Palmer Bruce Chichester
Known to his friends as ‘Arlington Jack’, Sir John Chichester served in the navy before inheriting Arlington on the death of his father in 1823. He decorated and furnished the house that his father had commissioned but never lived in; the Morning Room, Ante Room and Boudoir still have the original schemes of decoration.

Part of the Morning Room, Arlington Court
The Morning Room, Arlington Court
Sir John was a Whig MP for Barnstaple from 1831 to 1841 and he was made a baronet in 1840. He married Caroline Thistlethwayte in 1838 and had two children.

What can you see today?

• The Neo-classical frontage of Arlington Court

Arlington Court
Arlington Court
• The Enderlein Charger

The Nurnberg Temperantia

• Snuffboxes and other items from Miss Chichester's collections

Snuffboxes and other items

• The ceiling in the White Drawing Room

Ceiling in the White Drawing Room

• The National Trust's collection of carriages (in the stables)

Travelling chariot in the National Trust Carriage Museum, Arlington Court
Travelling chariot in the National Trust Carriage Museum, Arlington Court
Last visited: June 2014.

Sources used include:
Badcock, Marigold, Gibbons, David and Parker-Williams, Demelza, Arlington Court and the National Trust Carriage Museum, National Trust Guide (2009)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -

Thursday, 26 June 2014

What can "The Sylph" tell us about its author, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire?

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire  and her sister Harriet, Countess of Bessborough  from Lord Granville Leveson Gower's  private correspondence 1781-1821 (1916)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
and her sister Harriet, Countess of Bessborough
from Lord Granville Leveson Gower's
private correspondence 1781-1821 (1916)
I really enjoyed reading The Sylph. Why? Not because it was a brilliantly written novel; it wasn’t. And not because of the ingenious plot; it didn’t have one. But The Sylph gave me an inside view of life in the ton in the 1770s and, moreover, insights into the life of the author, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. If you want to know the plot, read my Regency History guide to The Sylph. In this post, I am going to look at what the book can tell us about the author.

Lady Stanley and the Duchess of Devonshire

There are many similarities between Lady Stanley, the heroine of The Sylph, and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the author. Julia Grenville marries Sir William Stanley, a man she hardly knows, at the age of 17, the same age at which Georgiana married the Duke of Devonshire. Lady Stanley had a beloved sister Louisa whom she wrote to after she was married; Georgiana had a devoted sister Harriet, later Lady Bessborough. Julia had two lady advisors, Lady Besford and Lady Anne Parker; Lady Besford is based upon Georgiana’s own worldly-wise friend, Lady Melbourne.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire from Posthumous memoirs of his own time by NW Wraxall (1836)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
from Posthumous memoirs of his own time
by NW Wraxall (1836)
“Unacquainted with men and manners”

Georgiana expressed her own insecurities on entering the fashionable elite through her heroine’s words. Julia declared at the beginning of the novel:
“All my hopes are, that I may acquit myself so as to gain the approbation of my husband. Husband! What a sound has that, when pronounced by a girl barely seventeen,—and one whose knowledge of the world is merely speculative;—one, who, born and bred in obscurity, is equally unacquainted with men and manners.” (1)
An “unsafe and critical situation”

Georgiana was well aware of the dangerous position in which she was in. In the words of the hero’s friend, James Spencer:
“The most unsafe and critical situation for a woman, is to be young, handsome, and married to a man of fashion; these are thought to be lawful prey to the specious of our sex. As a man of fashion, Sir William Stanley would blush to be found too attentive to his wife.”
Two ladies in the newest dress  from drawings taken at Ranelagh May 1775  from The Lady's Magazine (1775)
Two ladies in the newest dress
from drawings taken at Ranelagh May 1775
from The Lady's Magazine (1775)
“A slave to fashion”

Georgiana’s disillusionment with her husband was expressed in Julia’s analysis of her husband’s character:
“I think I can discover Sir William Stanley has great pride, that is, he is a slave to fashion. He is ambitious of being a leading man. His house, his equipage, and wife—in short, everything which belongs to him must be admired; and I can see, he is not a little flattered when they meet with approbation, although from persons of whose taste and knowledge of life he has not the most exalted idea.”
Sir William Stanley believed that:
"Custom justified everything; nothing was indecent or otherwise, but as it was the ton."
An indifferent husband

In the same way that Georgiana was admired and loved by everyone but her husband, so was Julia. The Sylph was published in December 1778, just four years after Georgiana’s marriage to the Duke. Within its pages, we see Georgiana’s disillusionment with her own relationship and the heartbreak she was suffering through a lack of affection from her husband. Julia wrote:
“Sir William seemed to tread on air, to see and hear the commendations which were lavished on me from all sides. To a man of his taste, I am no more than any fashionable piece of furniture or new equipage; or, what will come nearer our idea of things, a beautiful prospect, which a man fancies he shall never be tired of beholding, and therefore builds himself an house within view of it; by that time he is fixed, he hardly remembers what was his motive, nor ever feels any pleasure but in pointing out its various perfections to his guests; his vanity is awhile gratified, but even that soon loses its goût (2); and he wonders how others can be pleased with objects now grown familiar, and, consequently, indifferent to him.”
Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire
 “My damned love of play!”

Both Georgiana and Julia were drawn to gambling, but here the similarity ends. Julia had the counsel of the Sylph to urge her not to pursue her passion for gambling; Georgiana became addicted to play. It was, perhaps, Georgiana’s own feelings that were expressed in the words of Julia’s husband, Sir William Stanley:
“Curses, everlasting curses, blast me for my damned love of play! That has been my bane.”

The Sylph also urged Julia not to be drawn into a relationship with another man, despite the infidelity of her husband. Maybe The Sylph was a cry for help – Georgiana’s realisation that she faced danger and needed help to make the right choices. Maybe it was a cry for freedom – a freedom that never came. The suicide of Julia’s husband freed her to make a second and better choice. Georgiana’s story had no happy ending.

(1) All quotes are from The Sylph by Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1778)
(2) Goût is the French word for taste.

Sources used include:
Cavendish, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778)
Foreman, Amanda, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1998)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -