William Lynch (1726—1797) was a long-term Kirby supporter. In the 1740s, he subscribed to the Twelve Prints and Historical Account; in the 1750s, he subscribed to the first edition of the Method of Perspective, and in the 1760s, he subscribed to the new edition of John Kirby’s Suffolk Traveller. Kirby was not alone in garnering his support, as he subscribed to both works of musical scores by Ipswich organist Joseph Gibbs, the Eight Solos for Violin and Continuo of 1744, and the much later string quartets for Two Violins, a Tenor and Violin-cello or Harpsichord of 1788. The Gibbs subscriptions point to a connection with the Ipswich musical world, of which Kirby was not really a part, but which was so important for Thomas Gainsborough in the 1750s.
Lynch was from a substantial Ipswich family, descendant of a 17th-century clothier “of good fame”, and his father, Edward, was an Ipswich Bailiff. Lynch himself was to be Bailiff twice, in 1788, and 1792. After attending Ipswich school, he went to St. Johns, Cambridge, where he was in the same admission class as John Dade (also a Kirby subscriber). He did not graduate, and seems rather to have passed his time enjoying life. In the 1750s he was a Captain in the Suffolk Militia under Colonel Francis Vernon, nephew of the famous Admiral Vernon.
In his role as easy-going officer, he clashed with the famously argumentative Philip Thicknesse, then Lieutenant Governor of Landguard Fort, where the regiment of the Suffolk militia was stationed. Thicknesse appears to have harbored an especial dislike of Colonel Vernon (possibly because he was nephew of the famous Admiral Vernon), and was anyway a man ever on the lookout for jurisdictional disputes. As far as I understand the issue, when the soldiers were inside the fort, they were under Thicknesse’s purview, but when they were outside it, they fell under the command of their colonel. One day, Lynch, and possibly a few other officers, slipped off to Ipswich for a few days rest and recreation. Incensed, Thicknesse sent a demand that they instantly return, an order that was cheerfully ignored. Some time later, Lynch passed Thicknesse on the road without so much as a “salutation of the hat”. For what follows, bear in mind that our only source is Thicknesse, who wrote in the white heat of indignation three decades later (the story is related in Philip Gosse’s biography of Thicknesse from Thicknesse’s memoirs).
Thicknesse had Lynch thrown in jail for twenty-four hours to reflect on his lack of discipline and threatened to report him to the Secretary of War. Lynch, for his part, demanded a court martial, where, despite admitting to all charges, he was found not guilty. The affair (one of many in Thicknesse’s turbulent life, but one of few in Lynch’s) was only resolved by moving the regiment and replacing it with a different one. We next hear of Lynch as steward of the Ipswich races in 1758, surely a more congenial pursuit.
While still an officer, Lynch had his portrait painted by Gainsborough, one of a series of young officers Gainsborough painted around 1756. The portrait is now in the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan, and I do not have a copy to show. There is, however, a mezzotint from the portrait by Samuel William Reynolds, and the National Portrait Gallery has usefully put a copy on display.
His coat is lighter in the portrait, and you will notice that he does not appear in military dress. This is because, ten years after the original was painted, Lynch had Gainsborough rework the portrait, removing his hat, and covering up much of his coat.
Once in civilian life (the regiment was disbanded in 1762), Lynch married the nineteen year old Mary Fowler, daughter of “an eminent merchant”, in 1765, and together they had nine children. Lynch became one of the worthies of the town, appearing as director of charities and heading up subscription lists for various good causes. In 1794, at the age of 68, he signed up as Captain for an Ipswich Regiment of Volunteers formed to meet the threat of French invasion, and he died in 1797.
Blatchly, John, 1994/5, “William Lynch of Ipswich 1726—97”, Gainsborough’s House Review, 50—54.
Gosse, Philip, 1952, Dr. Viper. The Querulous Life of Philip Thicknesse. London: Cassel & Co.