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Beau Brummell: Nothing but a Name Mysteriously Sparkling

The name Beau Brummell is synonymous with Regency England, but what do you know about him? Researching this article I found that people associate him with silks, satins, and snuff, while one thought he was a fictional detective. It seemed the French writer Barbey d’Aurevilly was right: once the most famous man in the kingdom was “nothing but a name mysteriously sparkling in all the memoirs of his time.” So, what happened to Beau Brummell? George Bryan Brummell was born in 10 Downing Street on 7th June 1778. He was the youngest son of William Brummell – an enterprising man who had risen to the position of Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, with all the influence and trappings that came with the role – a grace and favour apartment in Hampton Court Palace, a country house in Berkshire, and friendship with Charles James Fox, Richard Sheridan, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted the two curly-haired Brummell boys in 1781. The Brummell family had risen a long way in two generations and young George was to take the family name to even greater heights, and depths. He became a legend in his own lifetime and worked as hard at this as his father had done as a junior clerk. In 1783, William Brummell retired with an income of about £2,500 a year – enough to send his two sons to Eton. There, George was well liked. He was good natured and clever but lazy and already developing his fastidious nature, (more…)
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James Brydges: Cassanda Austen’s Princely Uncle

James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, MP, PC (6 January 1673 – 9 August 1744) was the first of fourteen children by Sir James Brydges, 3rd Baronet of Wilton Castle, Sheriff of Herefordshire, 8th Baron Chandos; and Elizabeth Barnard. Three days after his father’s death on 16 October 1714, when he became 9th Baron Chandos, he was created 1st Viscount Wilton and 1st Earl of Carnarvon; he became 1st Duke of Chandos and 1st Marquess of Carnarvon in 1719. He was a Member of Parliament for Hereford from 1698 to 1714. The rise and fall of Henry James Brydges, first duke of Chandos, provides as worthy a subject as any for a film or television drama. Within the space of ten years, from say 1710 to 1720, he rose to fame and riches, only to descend into relative obscurity following the loss of his wealth which was equally as dramatic as the gaining of it. Along the way he created one of baroque London’s most palatial mansions, and was responsible for bequeathing to posterity the inestimable gift of Handel’s Chandos Anthems. Born in 1673 the son of a Herefordshire squire, in 1696 he married his cousin, Mary Lake (c.1666-1712), who brought to the marriage the manor known as Canons as part of her dowry. Two years after his marriage to Mary Lake, Brydges became Member of Parliament for Hereford. He rose by force of personality, administrative ability and the favour of the Duke of Marlborough to become Paymaster of the (more…)
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Samuel Fancourt: Founder of the First Circulating Library

The Circulating LibrarySamuel Fancourt: Founder of the First Circulating Library Charles Hayter had been at Lyme oftener than suited her; and when they dined with the Harvilles there had been only a maid-servant to wait, and at first Mrs Harville had always given Mrs Musgrove precedence; but then, she had received so very handsome an apology from her on finding out whose daughter she was, and there had been so much going on every day, there had been so many walks between their lodgings and the Harvilles, and she had got books from the library, and changed them so often, that the balance had certainly been much in favour of Lyme. Persuasion To the Editor: Sir, The formation of the circulating library has conferred such an obligation on the reading public, that it will perhaps thank an admirer of your work for affording them some particulars of the life of one who was the author and origin of so innocent and profitable a scheme. J. C. Samuel Fancourt, a native of the west of England, was at the beginning of the last century pastor of a congregation of Protestant Dissenters in Salisbury, where he had a number of hearers for near twenty years. Professing a creed very different from the opinions of Calvin, as appears by his numerous publications, he incurred the displeasure of persons of that persuasion, and a controversy arose, in which clergymen of the Establishment and Dissenters had an equal share. It turned on the divine prescience, the freedom (more…)
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Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany

The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (Frederick Augustus; 16 August 1763 – 5 January 1827) was a member of the Hanoverian and British Royal Family, the second eldest child, and second son, of King George III. From the death of his father in 1820 until his own death in 1827, he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, King George IV, both to the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Hanover. As an inexperienced young military officer, he presided over the unsuccessful campaign against the forces of France in the Low Countries, during the conflict which followed the French Revolution. Later, as commander-in-chief of the British army, he made amends for his initial military setbacks during the late 1790s by brilliantly reorganising his nation’s forces, putting in place administrative reforms which enabled the British to defeat Napoleon’s crack troops. He also founded the United Kingdom’s renowned military college, Sandhurst, which promoted the professional, merit-based training of future commissioned officers. Early life Prince Frederick Augustus, or the Duke of York as he became in later life, belonged to the House of Hanover. He was born on 16 August 1763, at St. James’s Palace, London. His father was the reigning British monarch, King George III. His mother was Queen Charlotte (née Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz). On 27 February 1764, when Prince Frederick was six months old, his father secured his election as Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in today’s Lower Saxony. He received this title because the prince-electors of Hanover (which included (more…)
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The Rev. Sidney Smith

“I sat next to Sydney Smith, who was delightful–I don’t remember a more agreeable party.” ~ Benjamin DisraeliIn late 1797, Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra, and their parents made a visit to Bath. They had connections there; Mrs. Austen’s brother and his wife, the Leigh Perrots, lived there, and the Austens had courted and been married there. 1797 was the year of Cassandra’s bereavement, when her fiancé Tom Fowle died of yellow fever during military service in the West Indies, and perhaps Mrs. Austen thought her daughter’s grief would be alleviated by the gaiety of the resort town.In 1797 Bath was still relatively fashionable and attracted a large crowd in the winter months. But that particular winter a gentleman was in town, a young clergyman who was acting as a tutor to the eldest son of a family from near Salisbury. His name was Sydney Smith, and he would go on to become one of the most celebrated wits of his day. “He drew such a ludicrous caricature that Sir James Mackintosh rolled on the floor in fits of laughter.” ~ Lord John Russell But in the winter of 1797, Sydney Smith was tutor to Michael Hicks Beach. The Hicks Beach family was related to the Bramstons of Oakley Hall in Hampshire, very near to Steventon, and the Austens were acquainted with the Hicks Beaches through that connection. And, as Irene Collins says, “Even without such information, the Master of Ceremonies would have regarded a clergyman-tutor as the very person (more…)