Tag Archives: Sir Cordell Firebrace; Lady Firebrace

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.

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.