Friday, 16 January 2015

Anne Seymour Damer, sculptor (1749-1828)

Anne Seymour Damer after Angelica Kauffman (c1800)
Anne Seymour Damer
after Angelica Kauffman (c1800)
Profile

Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828) was an English sculptor and author. She was a cousin of Horace Walpole and in his will, he left her a life interest in his Twickenham home, Strawberry Hill.

Family background

Anne Seymour Conway was born on 8 November 1749 in Sevenoaks, Kent. She was the only child of Henry Seymour Conway, a Field Marshal in the British army and Whig MP, and his wife Caroline, daughter of John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll, and widow of the 3rd Earl of Ailesbury.

Anne lived with her family at Park Place, Remenham, near Henley-on-Thames. Her father’s secretary, David Hume, encouraged her to develop her skills in sculpture.

Anne Conway (Mrs Damer) 'dared' by Hume  from Queens of Society  by G and P Wharton (1860)
Anne Conway (Mrs Damer) 'dared' by Hume
from Queens of Society
by G and P Wharton (1860)
An unhappy marriage

On 14 June 1767, Anne married the Honourable John Damer, but the marriage was not happy. They separated after seven years and on 15 August 1776, Anne’s husband committed suicide, leaving huge debts behind him.

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole from a portrait by John Giles Eccardt (1747-8)
Horace Walpole
from a portrait by John Giles Eccardt (1747-8)
One of the biggest influences on Anne’s life was Horace Walpole. Walpole was a cousin of her father’s and stood as her guardian during her parents’ frequent trips abroad. Walpole was very fond of Anne and admitted to his friend Horace Mann: “I love her as my own child.” (1)

He thought very highly of Anne’s artistic and mental abilities, describing her in a letter to the Earl of Strafford as “so eminently a classic genius” and “so superior an artist”. (2)

On his death in 1797, Walpole made Anne one of his executors and left her a life interest in Strawberry Hill. She lived there until 1811 when she had to give the house up because it was too expensive to maintain.

Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill
Sculptor

Anne was a skilled sculptor and was an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1784 to 1818.

Mrs Damer in the act of having just finished her head of the Young Paris  by Richard Cosway (1790)
Mrs Damer in the act of having just
finished her head of the Young Paris

by Richard Cosway (1790)
Her works included busts of Lady Melbourne, Admiral Nelson, Joseph Banks, George III, Charles James Fox, Princess Caroline of Wales, Mary Berry and herself.

Portrait bust of Elizabeth Lamb,  Viscountess Melbourne by Anne Damer (1784)
Portrait bust of Elizabeth Lamb,
Viscountess Melbourne by Anne Damer (1784)
Walpole wrote:
“She has a singular talent for catching the characters of animals. I have two dogs sleeping, by her (which she has since executed in marble for her brother, the Duke of Richmond) that are perfection.” (3)
He also wrote:
“Mrs Damer has given me her Eagle, which I call the spoilt child of my antique one, it is in such a passion.”
He put the terracotta eagle on display in the library at Strawberry Hill with the words: “Non me Praxiteles finxit, at Anna Damer.” (I was made by Anne Damer not Praxiteles.) (4)

Anne carved “two colossal heads for the bridge at Henley” (5) in 1785 and a ten foot high statue of Apollo for the new Drury Lane Theatre which opened in 1794.

Isis, sketch for a keystone  on Henley Bridge by Anne Damer (1784)
Isis, sketch for a keystone
on Henley Bridge by Anne Damer (1784)
Bluestocking

As well as her artistic achievements, Anne was a classical scholar. Walpole wrote that “she writes Latin like Pliny, and is learning Greek”. (1)  She wrote a romantic novel, Belmour (1801).

Performer

Walpole described Anne as having “much reserve and modesty” (1) but there was another side to her character. She frequently attended masques at the Pantheon and took part in amateur theatricals, both at Richmond House, the London residence of the Duke of Richmond, her half-sister Mary’s husband, and at Strawberry Hill.

Supporter of Fox and the Whigs

Anne was a long-term friend of Charles James Fox. During the Westminster election of 1780, she canvassed for him alongside Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, and Mrs Crewe. It was Fox who broke the news of her husband’s death to her.

In 1775, Anne was painted by Daniel Gardner as one of The Three Witches from Macbeth along with her Whig friends, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne.

From The Three Witches from Macbeth by Daniel Gardner (1775)
From The Three Witches from Macbeth by Daniel Gardner (1775)
Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Anne Seymour Damer
Supporter of Princess Caroline

Anne was a personal friend and loyal supporter of Caroline, Princess of Wales. The Princess visited Anne at Strawberry Hill and is said to have received sculpture lessons from her.

Portrait bust of Princess Caroline  of Wales by Anne Damer (1814)
Portrait bust of Princess Caroline
of Wales by Anne Damer (1814)
Female friends

Anne had a number of close female friends, including Princess Daschow; poet and dramatist Joanna Baillie; actresses Elisabeth Farren and Sarah Siddons; and most especially, the author Mary Berry.

Her close friendships with other women caused some unfavourable publicity, in particular, the anonymous pamphlet A Sapphick Epistle from Jack Cavendish to the Honourable and Most Beautiful, Mrs D- which was published around 1770.

Portrait bust of Mary Berry  by Anne Damer (1793)
Portrait bust of Mary Berry
by Anne Damer (1793)
Traveller

Anne was “very delicate” (3) and often visited the continent where the warmer climate was beneficial to her health. During a voyage in 1779 she was captured by privateers but fortunately she was restored to her father on Jersey.

She visited Sir Horace Mann in Florence and Sir William Hamilton in Naples. In 1798, she met Admiral Nelson whilst in Naples.

Napoleon

The snuffbox given to Mrs Damer by Napoleon in 1815
© British Museum
In 1802, Anne visited Paris with Mary Berry and was granted an audience with Napoleon.
Anne gave Napoleon plaster busts of Admiral Nelson and Charles James Fox, and promised him a marble version of the bust of Fox.

Anne was given a gold snuffbox, set with a miniature of Napoleon and decorated with 28 diamonds in silver settings. The snuffbox was bequeathed to the British Museum by Anne in 1828.

According to the inscription, the box was “presented by Napoleon on 1st May 1815 to the Hon. Anne Seymour Damer, sculptress, on receiving from her a bust of Charles James Fox, promised to him at the time of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802”. (6)

Death

Anne died on 28 May 1828 in her house in Grosvenor Square, London. She was buried next to her mother in Sundridge, Kent, with her sculptor’s tools and apron and the ashes of her favourite dog. At her request, her private papers were destroyed after her death.

Notes
(1) In a letter from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, 7 Sept 1781, from The Letters of Horace Walpole (1857) Vol VIII.
(2) In a letter from Horace Walpole to the Earl of Strafford, 31 Aug 1781, from The Letters of Horace Walpole (1857) Vol VIII.
(3) In a letter from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, 7 May 1785, from The Letters of Horace Walpole (1857) Vol VIII.
(4) In a letter from Horace Walpole to the Countess of Ossory, 14 June 1787, from The Letters of Horace Walpole (1859) Vol IX.
(5) In a letter from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, 30 Oct 1785, from The Letters of Horace Walpole (1859) Vol IX.
(6) In her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Yarrington suggests that the box was received as a memento in 1802, but the inscription from the British Museum website stated that it was not received until 1815.

Sources used include:
Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, edited by P Cunningham, in eight volumes (1857)
Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, edited by P Cunningham, in nine volumes (1859)
Walpole, Horace, The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, in 5 volumes (1798)
Wharton, Grace and Philip, The Queens of Society (1860)
Yarrington, Alison, Damer, Anne Seymour (1749-1828), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 27 Aug 2014)

British History online
British Museum website

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

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Strawberry Hill - Horace Walpole's Gothic castle - a Regency History guide

Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill
Where is it?

Strawberry Hill is a Gothic castle in Twickenham in London created by Horace Walpole.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)

Horace Walpole from portrait by John Giles Eccardt (1747-8)
Horace Walpole
from a portrait by John Giles Eccardt (1747-8)
Horatio Walpole, known as Horace, was the youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, the first British Prime Minister. In 1741, after spending two years on the Grand Tour, Walpole became a Whig MP. He was a prolific letter writer and author of a Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764), as well as an antiquarian and collector. He became 4th Earl of Orford in 1791 on the death of his nephew.

The creation of Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill
In 1747, Horace Walpole took out a lease on a house in Twickenham, not far from the River Thames. Known locally as Chopped Straw Hall, Walpole renamed it Strawberry Hill after discovering a reference to the name in an old lease. He bought the property in 1749 and embarked on an ambitious building project to transform Strawberry Hill into a model of Gothic architecture.

The original property consisted of two buildings joined together. Walpole delighted in their lack of symmetry and used them as the core of his new house. With the help of a committee of friends including John Chute, an architect and the owner of The Vyne in Hampshire, and Richard Bentley, an illustrator, Walpole designed his fairytale castle.

He clad the outside of the original buildings and added battlements and pinnacles. Internally, he added chimney places and bookcases, stained glass windows and intricate ceiling and wall designs. His aim was to create a route through his house where the visitor was constantly surprised, with gloomy areas leading into bright open spaces.

Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill as a tourist attraction

Walpole created Strawberry Hill as his Gothic summer house and filled its rooms with his collections of art, books and antiquities. The aristocracy flocked to see his fairytale castle and its famous collections. Walpole showed round some visitors, but others were taken round by his housekeeper who expected a guinea from each person for the trouble.

Walpole wrote A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill near Twickenham, Middlesex, an illustrated guide to Strawberry Hill, and printed it on his own printing press. However, he seldom gave copies out as he feared that visitors would never leave if they sought to see everything in the book!

Frontispiece to A Description of the Villa at Strawberry Hill
Frontispiece to A Description of the Villa
at Strawberry Hill
In The Description he hoped that “the prospect would recall the good humour of those who might be disposed to condemn the fantastic fabric, and to think it a very proper habitation of, as it is, the scene that inspired, the author of the Castle of Otranto”. (1)

By 1774, Walpole had introduced a ticketed system. Tours were only available from 1 May to 1 October and he only allowed a maximum of four visitors per day. Children were expressly prohibited!

Horace Walpole's rules for viewing Strawberry Hill
Horace Walpole's rules for viewing Strawberry Hill
After Walpole 

On Walpole’s death in 1797, Strawberry Hill passed to his cousin, the sculptor Mrs Anne Seymour Damer, for life. She lived there until 1811 when she gave the house up because she found it too expensive to maintain.

The house then passed to Walpole’s great niece, Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, widow of the 4th Earl Waldegrave. Lady Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Maria, Countess Waldegrave, later Duchess of Gloucester, by her first marriage. Maria was the illegitimate daughter of Walpole's brother Edward.

Left to rot

Two generations later, Lady Elizabeth’s grandson, George, 7th Earl Waldegrave, was sent to prison for riotous behaviour, and he blamed the Twickenham justice system for convicting him. In 1842, he took his revenge on Twickenham by auctioning off all Walpole’s collections and leaving the house empty to decay.

A new lease of life

After George’s death, his widow, Frances, restored and lived at Strawberry Hill. In 1923, the property was bought to house what is now St Mary’s University College. In 2007, the College leased the property to the Strawberry Hill Trust and renovation work began. It reopened to the public in 2010.

What can you see today?

The Gothic façade of Strawberry Hill, restored to its white magnificence.

Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill
The Entrance Gate

Entrance gate, Strawberry Hill
Entrance gate, Strawberry Hill

Entrance, Strawberry Hill

The Entrance Hall – Described by Walpole as “the most particular and chief beauty of the Castle”. (2) The staircase was inspired by the library staircase at Rouen Cathedral.
 
Staircase, Entrance Hall, Strawberry Hill
Staircase, Entrance Hall, Strawberry Hill
Detail from the staircase, in the Entrance Hall, Strawberry Hill
Detail from the staircase,
in the Entrance Hall, Strawberry Hill
The Great Parlour - In Walpole’s time, the famous painting of Walpole’s three nieces, The Ladies Waldegrave, by Sir Joshua Reynolds would have hung opposite the fireplace. The original Gothic fireplace has been restored; the chairs are replicas.

The Great Parlour, Strawberry Hill
The Great Parlour, Strawberry Hill
Replica Gothic chairs, the Great Parlour, Strawberry Hill
Replica Gothic chairs,
the Great Parlour, Strawberry Hill
Lady Maria Waldegrave, Laura Viscountess Chewton and Lady Horatia Waldegrave from The Letters of Horace Walpole ed P Cunningham Vol 5 (1859)
Lady Maria Waldegrave, Laura Viscountess Chewton
and Lady Horatia Waldegrave by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1780)
from The Letters of Horace Walpole ed P Cunningham Vol 5 (1859)
The Library – This is the most amazing room! The Gothic arches swing open to enable access to all the books. They were designed by John Chute.

The Library, Strawberry Hill
The Library, Strawberry Hill
The Library, Strawberry Hill
The Library, Strawberry Hill
The Gallery – The fan-vaulted ceiling is made of papier mâché. The brilliance of the restored gilding in this room is breathtaking!

The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The ceiling in The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The ceiling in The Gallery, Strawberry Hill
The Tribune – This room is square with semi-circular recesses in each side. Walpole kept the most valuable part of his collections here including a cabinet containing his precious collection of miniatures.

The Tribune, Strawberry Hill
The Tribune, Strawberry Hill
The Round Drawing Room – The fireplace was inspired by the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey and “improved” by Robert Adam. Adam also designed the frieze round the walls.

The Robert Adam fireplace in the Round Drawing Room, Strawberry Hill
The Robert Adam fireplace in the Round Drawing Room, Strawberry Hill
Detail from the Robert Adam fireplace in the Round Drawing Room, Strawberry Hill
Detail from the Robert Adam fireplace
in the Round Drawing Room, Strawberry Hill
The Chapel (in the carpark of St Mary’s University)

The Chapel in the Woods
The Chapel in the Woods
Last visited: August 2014.

Note
(1) From the preface to A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill near Twickenham, Middlesex (1774).
(2) In a letter from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann reported in The Gentleman's Magazine (April 1834).

Sources used include:
Iddon, John, Strawberry Hill and Horace Walpole, Essential Guide (2011, Strawberry Hill Trust)
Walpole, Horace, The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, in 5 volumes (1798)

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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review of my year 2014

Rachel at the Jane Austen Festival
Grand Regency Promenade in September 2014
Join me as I review my year – the exhibitions and places I have visited and the things I have blogged about – together with my favourite post each month. If you want to ensure you don’t miss any of my posts in 2015 and are the first to hear my news each month, please sign up to my monthly newsletter here.

January

The year started with some of the worst storms I can remember. The road across from where I live in Weymouth in Dorset to the nearby Isle of Portland was shut and Chesil Beach was reshaped by the ferocious waves. It prompted me to write about the Great Storm of 1824 which caused even greater damage, washing away Weymouth promenade.

My favourite January post: The Great Gale in Weymouth and Portland

Stone commemorating the Great Gale of 1824  on Weymouth seafront
Stone commemorating the Great Gale of 1824
on Weymouth seafront
February

In February, the rain kept on falling and parts of Weymouth were flooded. I gave my first blogging workshop and wrote about the bluestockings.

My favourite February post: The bluestocking circle

March

Whilst in Yorkshire for a family funeral, I was able to visit Nostell Priory and admire the work of architect Robert Adam and furniture made by Thomas Chippendale. I visited the Georgians Revealed exhibition at the British Library and braved the cold to look round Georgian Leamington Spa.
 
My favourite March post: Regency History’s guide to Nostell Priory

The Royal Pump Room, Leamington Spa
The Royal Pump Room, Leamington Spa
April

I was invited to a bloggers’ event at the Queen’s Gallery in April and had the privilege of previewing the First Georgians exhibition. I researched the life of actress Mary Robinson who became the mistress of the future George IV and blogged about her.

My favourite April post: Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson

David and Eva Garrick by Hogarth  on poster advertising The First Georgians exhibition
David and Eva Garrick by Hogarth
on poster advertising The First Georgians exhibition
May

I visited the Georgian fayre at Blandford, which was nice, but not very Georgian, and the wonders of Stourhead.

My favourite May post: Regency History’s guide to Stourhead

Stone bridge, Stourhead
Stone bridge, Stourhead
June

My youngest daughter turned 18 in June and I celebrated my birthday with a visit to Arlington Court in Devon to visit the National Trust Carriage Museum. I blogged about The Sylph by Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, and was fascinated by what her novel can tell us about her.

My favourite June post: What can The Sylph tell us about its author?

July

We had a short break in Plymouth in Devon in July and visited Saltram, Mount Edgcumbe and Cotehele. I also attended a bloggers’ event at Buckingham Palace with a special tour of the state apartments and a preview of the summer exhibition.

My favourite July post: Mary Robinson – more than Perdita

Home-made wooden dolls that belonged to the young  Queen Victoria at the Royal Childhood exhibition  at Buckingham Palace
Home-made wooden dolls that belonged to the young
Queen Victoria at the Royal Childhood exhibition
at Buckingham Palace
August

As well as plenty of visits to the Sealife Centre with my grandchildren, I also found time to visit a number of historical places: Haddon Hall, Osterley Park, Sudbury Hall and the National Trust Museum of Childhood (which the grandchildren loved), Kedleston Hall and Uppark.

Favourite August post: Georgian architecture (the first post on my site by my husband)

September

It was very exciting to have my own Regency costume made and I thoroughly enjoyed parading at the Jane Austen Festival Grand Regency Promenade in September, meeting lots of lovely people who shared a love of Regency history and Jane Austen. Another highlight was being filmed by KBS-TV, the South Korean equivalent to the BBC, talking about George III and the Georgian fashion of seabathing.

Favourite September post: Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Rachel being filmed by KBS  on Weymouth seafront
Rachel being filmed by KBS
on Weymouth seafront
October

A long overdue holiday in Derbyshire enabled me to visit Chatsworth, Eyam Hall and Lyme Park as well as go down a Blue John mine. Other visits included Kenwood and The Vyne and a visit to London to join Louise Allen in an event called Writing Historical Fiction the Westminster Way.

Favourite October post: Polesden Lacey

The Painted Hall, Chatsworth
The Painted Hall, Chatsworth
November

November did not go according to plan as we had water damage after a particularly violent storm leaving the house in a mess until we could get the roof fixed. I paid a fleeting visit to Kingston Lacy where the National Trust team were busy boxing up the outside ornaments to protect them during the winter closure.

Favourite November post: Regency History guide to Chatsworth and A photo tour of Chatsworth.

December

The roof was finally repaired, a new ceiling put in and we just managed to get the decorating done in time for Christmas. A few days after Christmas, we took our daughter to a wedding in Alton and stopped off at Jane Austen's House in Chawton.

This is my video of a 360° panorama from outside Jane's house:


Favourite December post: What is the haut ton?

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscences. Have a very Happy New Year in 2015!

For 21 of my favourite Georgian posts in 2014 on my fellow bloggers' sites, click here.

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