Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Perils of Drink

Back in the 1700s, the English were always getting into trouble drinking. Some things never change. Here is a selection of stories from the Ipswich Journal of the late 1720s.

Yesterday two Men quarrelling at an Alehouse in Holborn, went by Agreement into the Fields to fight, and one gave the other a Kick on his Groin which kill’d him on the Spot.

That same newspaper also carried the following advertisements for those seeking refreshment:

At Mrs. Thomas Summers at the King’s Head in Debenham, will be Sold good White and Red Port, at the following Prizes, viz. White port at 6s, 8d per Gallon, and 1s 8d per Quart within the House; and 6s per Gallon, and 1s 6 per Quart without Doors; Red Port at 6s 8d per Gallon, and 1s 8d per Quart within the House; and 6s per Gallon, and 1s 6d per Quart without Doors.

At Timothy Dickerson, living in St. Peter’s Parish, Ipswich, fine Cognac Brandy and Foreign Rum at Seven Shillings per Gallon, and right Holland Geneva at Five Shillings and Four Pence per Gallon; and fine Bohea Tea, by Wholesale or Retail at 12s. per Pound. N.B. He Sell no British Brandy, nor never did.

Being a tradesman was a chancy thing, and not all the punters were honest.

We hear from Eltham in Kent, that last Week two Fellows that were drinking at an Alehouse there, paid their Reckoning in new Half-Pence; but the Landlord shewing them afterwards to some Persons in the House, they were discovered to be counterfeited, being made of false Metal, upon which they pursued and found them at the next Alehouse on the Road, where, it seems they intended to play the same Game, and being seized and searched, they found more of the like Counterfeit Coin upon then, and the Moulds in which they were made, also Moulds for Shillings and Six-pences, upon which they were carried before a Magistrate and committed to Maidstone Goal.

And beware those drinking competitions.

We are informed from Thorn near Hagerston in Northumberland, That last Friday 7-Night, Francis Cooper and Joshua Threils, two noted Brandy Drinkers in those Parts, who for several Times had contended which could drink most, engaged each other which should drink most, the latter fell dead in taking off his 5th Pint Glass, and the former is so dangerously ill that ’tis thought he can’t recover.

It’s not just brandy you have to be careful of, there’s also gin.

Last Wednesday Night one White, a Barber in Salisbury Court, Fleet-Street, laid a Wager that he drank four Half Pints of Geneva, one at a Draught, in eight Minutes; and at drinking his second Half-Pint, dropt down dead.

Take care, people.

A Clique of Politicians

Joshua Kirby was a surprisingly well-connected guy, albeit within a fairly limited geographical reach. One example is the Suffolk Members of Parliament. Kirby’s Twelve Prints and accompanying Historical Account were published in 1748. There was an election in 1747, and it is instructive to look at the members returned.

At the time, Suffolk returned two members who represented the county, and there were seven boroughs within the county, each of which also returned two members. Kirby seems not to have had any contacts in Bury St. Edmunds, Dunwich, or Eye, which were further away from Ipswich. However, of the ten politicians representing Suffolk, Aldeburgh, Ipswich, Orford, and Sudbury, fully eight were subscribers. The representatives were:

The two who did not subscribe were both newcomers to the political scene. Zachary Philip Fonnereau was Thomas Fonnereau’s younger brother; and Richard Rigby was the person sent in from London on the Prince of Wales’ interest.

While some people subscribed as a matter of public duty, and the antiquarian nature of Kirby’s book may have been attractive, others on this list seem to have rarely subscribed. Kirby had corralled quite a collection of subscribers.

In graph theory a clique is a complete subgraph. The term comes from social network theory, and in Kirby’s context means a collection of subscribers all of whom knew each other. Given the intimate nature of Suffolk politics, and the fact that some of these men were politically active for decades, we can assume that they were all acquainted. Kirby’s subscriber graph has an 8-vertex MP clique.

And here is a draft showing the clique with names.

Samuel Kent

Samuel Kent subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account, as well as the first edition of his Method of Perspective. At the time he was an MP for Ipswich, along with Admiral Vernon. He was first elected in 1734 (he was asked to run in 1730, but he declined), and he held the position until his death in 1759.

The Kent family were wealthy merchants from London, and Samuel appears to have been the only one connected to Suffolk, after he bought the estate of Fornham St. Genevieve in 1731. His grandfather, Griffith Kent, was a Norway merchant. Griffith and his wife had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Praise Kent, did not have any children, but the daughter married another Norway merchant from Southwark and had seven children. The other son, Thomas, was Samuel’s father.

Thomas continued the family business trade with Norway, and married Sarah Wight. They had ten children, eight boys and two girls. Samuel grew up and lived his life with an extensive collection of relatives, mostly in trade. The eldest son, Daniel, continued the Norway trade, but did not have children; nor did the second son Thomas. The third son, Griffith, took up the trade of distiller (his mother Sarah Wight’s father Daniel was a distiller), and had one son, who died young. The next son, John Kent was a whalebone merchant, married Mary Collman, the daughter of a merchant. They had numerous children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Thomas’ sister Elizabeth married Dabe Wells, a leather-seller, and had ten children.

Samuel himself married Sarah Dean, daughter of a skinner. They had two sons and a daughter. The sons did not have children; the daughter Sarah married Charles Egleton, a merchant, who rose to become Sheriff of London in 1743, and was knighted. Their son inherited from Samuel, adding the name Kent to become Charles Egleton Kent and was created a Baronet in 1782.

Samuel Kent’s political career seems to have been largely unremarkable. The History of Parliament Online quotes Egmont’s 1750 assessment of him as “always votes dead with the Court and has done so as long as I can remember”. However, he was chosen Sheriff of Surrey in 1730.

On the business side, he was a wholesale malt distiller, being appointed distiller to the Court 1739. He was also appointed purveyor of Chelsea Hospital in 1740. He had interests in the South Sea Company and the Sun Fire Office, one of the first fire insurance companies, established in 1710. Although he had the estate in Suffolk, his main residence was Vauxhall-House, which he leased from 1725, and may have used as a distillery.

William Windham

A William Windham, Esq. subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. The Windhams were an old, prominent, and complex Norfolk family, far too many of whom were called William. However, Kirby’s Windham is probably the William Windham of Earsham in Norfolk, just across the county border from Bungay who was MP for Aldeburgh at the time. His father, Colonel William Windham, had served under Marlborough and lost a leg at Blenheim. He bought Earsham Hall in 1720 and was himself MP for Sudbury from 1722 to 1727 and then Aldeburgh from 1727 until his death in 1730.

Earsham Hall

The younger William (c.1706—1789), was appointed sub-governor to the Duke of Cumberland (son of George II, and also called William) in 1731. Windham was to serve the Duke until he died in 1765. While in service as governor, he naturally met the governess of the younger princesses. She was Mary, Dowager Countess Deloraine. Born Mary Howard, daughter of Captain Charles Howard, she had first been a maid of honour to Queen Caroline (then the Princess of Wales), but had lost her position when she married Henry Scott, Earl of Deloraine in 1726. He was lord of the bedchamber to George II (then the Prince of Wales), continuing on after the accession. He died in 1730, leaving a pretty widow and two young daughters. Mary now came back into royal service as governess of the princesses and appears in that role in Hogarth’s conversation piece “The Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico”. The performance being commemorated had taken place in 1732, although Hogarth did not finish the painting until 1735.

Mary bending down pointing out a dropped fan

Mary and William Windham married in April 1734, and this time she got to retain her position having at length talked Queen Caroline into keeping her on as a married woman. She soon added another post, that of mistress to the king. John Hervey, who Lucy Worsley in The Courtiers terms, “The most malicious, amusing and memorable spokesperson for the Georgian court”, and who really did not like Mary, said that the king had made “the governess of his two youngest daughters his whore… and the guardian director of his son’s youth and morals his cuckold”. Mary and William had one son, who died in 1743, and she followed in 1744, having lost the king’s favor a couple of years previously.

John Affleck

John Affleck (1710—1776), subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. At the time he was MP for Suffolk, along with Sir Cordell Firebrace. John Affleck’s grandfather bought Dalham Hall in Suffolk, and this is where John and his siblings grew up. Dalham Hall Gilbert Affleck was himself an MP, sitting for Cambridge from 1722 to 1727, and again from 1737 to 1741. The election of 1737 was particularly hard-fought and the papers enjoyed giving blow-by-blow accounts of the campaign. The Stamford Mercury of 20 January 1737 carried this report:

We are advis’d from Cambridge, that a greater Struggle was never known for a Representative in Parliament for that Corporation than at present: That no less than 33 Persons from London only, posted to that Town within these three Days, to take up their Freedoms (Tuesday being a grand Common Day) and qualify themselves to vote at the ensuing Election: That the Freemen never lead merrier Lives than of late, no Night passing without their meeting at one or other House on Account of the Rival Candidates; That Mr. Affleck’s Friends, offer great Odds against their Opponents; whilst on the other hand, Mr. Ascham’s Party, with Sir John Cotton’s Interst, leave no Stone unturn’d to defeat their Adversaries Designs.

In the event, Affleck won the battle for votes by 131 to 115, a majority of just 16. When not fighting for votes in Cambridge, Gilbert Affleck and his wife Anna Dolben busied themselves raising an extensive family. Inevitably, some of the children died young, and accounts vary about how many there were, but it was around twenty. John Affleck was the second son, but the first, also named John, had died in infancy. Poor Mrs. Affleck came to a sad end, as reported in the Ipswich Journal of 29 December 1744.

On Monday last the Lady of Gilbert Affleck, Esq; of Dalham in Suffolk, was unfortunately burnt to Death at the aforesaid Seat; a Servant being sent up to fetch Mrs. Affleck down to Dinner, found her fallen into the Fire, her Cloaths burnt off her Back, and some Part of her Body consum’d to Ashes; ’tis suppos’d she fell down in an Apoplectick Fit. Mrs. Affleck had been married upwards of 30 Years, and been Mother of 22 Children.

John Affleck himself married Sarah Metcalfe, who came with a substantial fortune; they had fewer than 22 children. A younger brother of John, Edmund Affleck, went to sea, became a captain in 1757 and served throughout the Seven Years’ War. Staying in the Navy, by 1782 we was in command of the Bedford in the Caribbean and won a famous action against the French, for which he was created a Baronet and promoted to Rear Admiral.

Sir Cordell Firebrace

Sir Cordell Firebrace (1712—1759) subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. He was one of the two MPs for Suffolk at the time, representing the county from 1735 until 1759. He was considered a reliable Tory and consistently voted against the Whig government, although he rarely gave speeches and never held high office. His grandfather had been a vintner in London, and his father lived in Leciestershire. However, his mother, Margaret Cordell was form Long Melford in Suffolk. Her father, Sir John Cordell had been an MP, as was her brother Sir John Cordell. He died from a fall from a horse in 1704, and Margaret and her sister inherited the estates. The Long Melford land passed down to Sir Cordell Firebrace, who at the time of Kirby’s book was estimated to have an annual income of £3500 and cash of £30,000. He could afford the book.

Melford Hall

Melford Hall is now owned by the National Trust. They have a portrait of the unfortunate John Cordell,

Sir John Cordell

and a miniature of Sir Cordell Firebrace.

Sir Cordell Firebrace

Perhaps a better sense of the interests of this Suffolk country gentleman is obtained from this picture, that is also still in Melford Hall.

Sir Cordell Firebrace’s Dogs by a Dead Hind

Sir Cordell Firebrace had the good fortune to marry a rich widow, Bridget Evers (née Bacon) and there is also a miniature portrait of Lady Firebrace at Melford Hall, painted to celebrate her marriage.

Lady Firebrace

Samuel Johnson dedicated a poem to her, although it is possibly not one of his greatest efforts.

To Lady Firebrace

At length must Suffolk beauties shine in vain,
So long renown’d in B—n’s deathless strain?
Thy charms at least, fair Firebrace, might inspire
Some zealous bard to wake the sleeping lyre:
For such thy beauteous mind and lovely face,
Thou seem’st at once, bright nymph, a Muse and Grace.

Campbell on Painting

Among the many trades and professions Campbell covers in his London Tradesman is that of painting. He begins with a general disquisition on painting, and the state of the art in England, and then moves on to various subcategories. In his judgments, I think he is reflective of his times, but he offers his opinions with his characteristic robustness. Here are some extracts from his much lengthier chapter.

The Painter must be born, not made; that is, if he has not a natural Genius, all the Learning and Art on Earth cannot make him eminent or tolerable in his Profession. It may be discovered n Children in their Infancy, by their Inclination to be scrawling upon the Wall, or Paper, with whatever they can get: If a Boy is observed to amuse himself in this Manner, without an accidental Impression, such as I mentioned in the first Chapter, it is a plain Indication of a Genius disposed for this Art; which must be early improved; for the Joints and Fingers, if soon used to the Pencil, become pliable, and naturally answer the Dictates of the Mind: whereas, when a Child grows old, before he is taught to handle these delicate Instruments, the Muscles are not easily moved, and he may still retain his Liking and Taste for Painting, but prove a bungling Performer.

“Pencil”, of course, at this time, includes brushes. “Bungler” seems to be one of Campbell’s favorite words. Next we have the hierarchy of painting.

The History Painter is by far the noblest Branch of this useful Art; though we have very few in England that excel or have been eminent in the Part: Sir Godfery Kneller and Sir James Thornhill are most revered by Connoisieurs of our Nation; but these come far short of the Italian Masters.

He goes into a long rant about how much the English have spent on Italian painting over the past decades, including this choice passage:

Nothing goes down but the Works of Foreigners; let our own Hands excel ever so much, their Works do not bring them one Tenth of the Price that is afforded the meanest Italian Bungler. That this Country might produce as good Painters as any other on Earth, if they were equally encouraged, is what no Man in his Wits will deny.

Bunglers again. However, Campbell does acknowledge that the British are good at portrait painting, although even at that, talent is not enough.

Our present Excellence in Painting, consists in the Portrait Way; and in this, all our Neighbours justly yield us the Preheminence. There are as good Prices give, and Pieces as well executed in this Branch as any where on Earth; yet even to prosper in this Business depends oftener upon Chance, or Caprice than real Merit. The good Face-Painter must have the Name of having travelled to Rome; and when he comes Home, he must be so happy as to please some great Personage, who is reputed a Connoisieur, or he remains in continual Obscurity. If he should paint a Cobler, with all the Beauties of Art, and the most glaring Likeness, he must paint only Coblers, and be satisfied with their Price; but if he draws a Duke, or some dignified Person, though his Features should prove so strong that the mere Signpost Dauber could not fail to hit the Likeness, he becomes immediately famous and fixes what Price he pleases on his Work. This undiscerning Foible is a great Discouragement to modest Merit, and must check the Growth of the Art in every Country where it prevails. It is strange that a Nobleman would not pique himself, and take a Pride in searching for and encouraging concealed Worth; since none could remember a Horace but must hear of a Mecaenas, who received more Fame by the Countenance he gave that Poet, than by the high Honours he received from the Emperor of the World.

He goes on to Landskips, and the education required of the painter, before getting to advice to the parents.

By this general View of the liberal Part of this Art, it may be observed, that the true Genius for Painting is rarely to be met with; that the Education equired to compleat the young Student in this Profession, is expensive; and that, after he has attained all the Perfection which Art and his natural Endowments are capable of affording him, his Employment depends upon a happy Introduction to Business by some eminent Patron, and the Continuance of it be a large Acquaintance; therefore Parents ought to be cautious how they plunge a Child into this Business, to depend on it for his Livelihood, wiothout being previously assured that they can go through the Expense, and procure him those Friends to usher his Merit into the Knowledge of the Public. They ought likewise to be satisfied, that the Youth has a healthy Constitution: It does not require a robust Person; but he ought to have no Indication of a Consumption or a pthisicky Disposition, or any nervous Disorder: Persons of this Habit of Body have seldom a steady Hand; and they are apt to be affected by the Smel of the Oyls with which they are daily conversant. A sober Disposition, free from all Excess in the Use of Women of Wine, is absolutely necessary, not only to preserve the Hand from Tremors (the constant Attendant of Debauches of these Kinds) but to keep the Understanding clear and the Judgment unclouded.

I’m sure all London artists heeded these proscriptions, and if your “young student” wants to be an Art major, you have been warned. It’s expensive and uncertain. Some things haven’t changed that much.

Related Posts

Campbell on Education Campbell on Book-Sellers