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SIR WILLIAM BEECHEY is one of the many dis-
tinguished artists of the Early English school whose
merits have not been sufficiently recognised, and the
object of this book is to show that this neglect is
unjustified. It is not claimed that Beechey ranks side
by side with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough and
Romney ; but just as all officers in an army cannot be
Generals at the same time, at all events so it may be
urged that men of the second rank are indispensable.
Beechey, with such men as Opie, Northcote, and many
others greatly helped to consolidate and to continue
the position and work begun by the few men whose
fame has to some degree overshadowed the merits and
achievements of the lesser artists.

This monograph is biographical and iconographical
rather than critical. Each generation has its formulas
and schools of art criticism, but the opinion of to-day
often becomes the archaic curiosity of to-morrow. I
have therefore taken upon myself the less ambitious
but, I think, the more permanently useful office of
chronicler. My own preference would have been a
Catalogue Raisonne of Beechey^ work, and it is in this
form that my material was first arranged ; but it would


not have fallen in with the general scheme of the series
in which this volume appears. So my Catalogue
Raisonnt may be conveniently postponed, and nn
exhaustive Index serve here in its stead.

The material in connection with Beechey and his
pictures is much more voluminous than I had antici-
pated. For over sixty years his brush was never idle,
and he had as sitters more than an average share of the
distinguished and wealthy people of the last quarter of
the eighteenth century and of the first thirty-nine years
of the nineteenth century; and so it would not be
difficult to compile a book in connection with his work
and his clients at least twice the size of this. As a first
attempt, however, perhaps my book will be found
sufficiently exhaustive and useful.

Since the work was commenced, and after much of it
was in type, many fresh facts have come under my
notice. I had overlooked the acceptable bequest by
William Thomas Sandby to the National Portrait
Gallery in July 1904, namely, Beechey 's portraits of his
old friend Paul Sandby, painted in 1789, and Thomas
Sandby painted in 1792. These are the two portraits
which were exhibited at the Royal Academy of the
respective years. The portrait of Mrs. Riley, mentioned
on page 146, is more fully described on page 192, and
was lent to the recent exhibition of Old Masters at
Burlington House (No. 118), by Sir Isidore Spielmann.
The Oddie group with the title of " Children at Play "
was reproduced in colours from the engraving by T. Park
in The Comioissetir^ vol. ii. page 7 ; and a similar


reproduction of Wilkin's engraving with the legend
" Here Poor Boy without a Hat, take this Ha'penny "
(page 140) was published in the same magazine of
November 1906. The late Baroness Burdett-Coutts
exhibited at the Grafton Gallery, 1894 (No. 172A>,
one of Beechey *s many portraits of his wife. The
publication of the Registers of St. George's, Hanover
Square, has revealed the exact date, unknown to me
until after the earlier sheets were printed off, of Beechey's
second marriage.

I have received assistance from so many friends and
correspondents that specific enumeration is difficult.
My special thanks are due to several members of the
artist's descendants, particularly to Mr. Ernest Beechey
and his uncle, the late Canon St. Vincent Beechey, for
the loan of letters ; to Mr. Sydney Chancellor and to the
President and Council of the Royal Academy for per-
mission to copy their extremely interesting and valuable
Beechey Account Books ; to Mrs. Champion Jones, to
Mrs. Commeline, to Mrs. F. A. Hopkins, to Mr. Herbert
Jackson, for kindnesses of various kinds, all of which
are acknowledged, however feebly, in the respective
places. The Earl of Altamont has been good enough
to take a keen interest in the book, and has settled
several points about which I was in doubt notably in
connection with the group exhibited at the Royal
Academy in 1809 (page 112), No. 62. Some of the
papers of the period described this picture as represent-
ing Mrs. and Miss Wetherell, and others as of Mrs.
and Miss Cockerell. Lord Altamont tells me that it


represents Mrs. S. P. Cockerell, and Miss Cockerel),
afterwards Mrs. Hungerford Pollen. This picture, with
the portrait of Samuel Pepys Cockerell (page 200), now
belongs to Miss Cockerell of Mandeville Place, W. I
am likewise indebted to Lord A 1 turnout for clearing up
the mystery in connection with the two copies of the
Lady Sligo portrait mentioned on page 114 : these
are, there can be no doubt, the two half-length
portraits in fancy dress now at Earl Howe's residence at
Gopsall, Leicestershire. I have still further to acknow-
ledge from the same source the information that
Lady Emily Browne, of Montagu Square, possesses a
portrait of Lord Stowell by Beechey of which I had
no record. Mr. H. B. Spencer, the artist's grandson,
possesses a portrait of Beechey by himself painted in
1794, and also H. P. Bone's enamel copy of it.

I am also under considerable obligations to Mrs.
Bruce Clarke, to Colonel Noel, to Mr. Humphry
Ward, to Messrs. Thomas Agnew and Sons, to Messrs.
Colnaghi and Co., to Messrs. Christie, and to many
others, particularly to the owners of the various
pictures which form the subject of the illustrations in
this book. These illustrations will do much to sub-
stantiate Bcechey's claim to rank as one of the leading
figures in the annals of the Early English School
of painting. There must still be in existence a large
number of important portraits of which I have no
record, and for particulars of which I should at any
time be grateful.

W. R.




I- i753-'787 i

II. 1788-1797 . . 30

III. 1798-1806 57

IV. 1807-1817 104

V. 1818-1838 141



VIII. BEECHEY ACCOUNT BOOKS, 1789-91, 1807-1826 220



INDEX ........ 292



Beechey, Sir William
Augusta Sophia, Princess
Augusta Sophia, Princess

Bathurst, Lady G.

Beechey, Sir William
Beechey, Sir William
Beechey, Lady
Bernard, Lady
Bernard, Lady Thos.

(Psyche) .

Bourgeois, Sir P. F. .
Boyce, Master . .
Boydell, John . .
Brother and Sister .
Charlotte, Queen . .

Coppell, Mrs. . .
Coutts, Mrs. .


E. G. Raphael, Esq. . Frontitpiece
Buckingham Palace . . 4
Duke of Cambridge's

Collection ... 8

Mrs. Marsland Hopkins . 12

National Portrait Gallery . 18

Mrs. F. A. Hopkins . 22

E. G. Raphael, Esq. . 26

James Price Collection . 30

W. Younger, Esq. . . 34

Dulwich Gallery . . 40
Sir C. Tennant . ,46

National Portrait Gallery . 52

The Louvre ... 56
Executors of W. L. Elkins,

Esq 62

Henry Pfungst, Esq. . 66

From the Engraving . . 72




Crotch, William .
Crowe, Miss .
De La Warr, Lady
Duckworth, Admiral


Elizabeth, Princess
Fiddler, the Blind .
George III. . .

George III. Reviewing
the Dragoons .

Hallam, Henry

Hebe .

Herbert, Miss Georgina .

Hill, Mrs. and Child

Hoare, Hon. Louisa

Idle, Master . < .

Kent, the Duke of

Lady and Child

Lake, General Viscount,
and Son . * .

Little Mary .

Marshall, Mrs. . .

Mary, Princess
Merry, Mrs. . .

Noel, Hon. Mrs. W. M.
Nollekens, Joseph .


Royal Academy of Music . 76

E. S. Traford, Esq. . 80

Messrs. Dowdeswell . . 86

From the Engraving. . 92

Buckingham Palace . . 96

Mrs. F. A. Hopkins . 100
Executors W. L. EUcins,

Esq. . . . 106

Kensington Palace
Eton College .

. 112

. 116


fler. T. Crawford, B.D. . 126
Mm L. J. Reeve . .132

Col. W. F. L. Noel . 138

Mrs. Oscar Leslie Stephen 142

National Portrait Gallery . 148

W. W. Hallam, Esq. . 154

Major J. C. Wardlan . 158

H. J. Pfungst, Esq. . 164
Messrs. P. and D. Colnaghi

and Co. . .170

Buckingham Palace . . 176

M. C. Sedelmeyer . . 182

Col. W. F.L.Noel. . 188

National Gallery . 1 94





Dr. Charles E. Shelley . 218

Pel ham-Clinton, Lady C. Earl of Radnor
Riley, Mrs. . . . Sir Isidore Spielmann
St. Vincent, The Earl of The Lady Harris .
Shelley, John, and his

Sister . . .
Sheridan, Mrs., as St.

Cecilia, after Sir J.

Reynolds .
Siddons, Mrs.
Sligo, Howe Second

Marquess of

The Misses Cameron
National Portrait Gallery

Tambourine Girl, The
Wilkie, Sir David .
York, the Duchess of

Marquess of Sligo .
Messrs. Thomas Agnew and

Sons ....
National Gallery of










SIR WILLIAM BEECHEY occupies a singularly interesting
place in the annals of English art. The contemporary
and to some extent the friendly rival of the great men
who founded the early English school of portrait
painters, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Romney, he
long outlived them all. He was an exhibitor at the
Royal Academy in the year of Constable's birth, and
was still exhibiting a year after his death. His appear-
ance at the Royal Academy dates four years before that
of Hoppner, whom he survived nearly thirty years ; he
was exhibiting when his greatest rival, Sir Thomas
Lawrence, was a child of eight, and was represented on
the walls of the Academy for eight years after Law-
rence's death. As an exhibitor he had twenty-six years
to the good when Sir Francis Grant, the eighth Presi-
dent of the Royal Academy, was born. It will be seen,
therefore, that Sir William Beechey's career as an
exhibiting artist, covering as it does the extraordinarily
long period of sixty-two years, is almost unique.* It
began with the birth or, at all events, with the early

* It may be mentioned that John Linnell, sen. (1792-1882),
was exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1807 to 1881, a period


youth of English art, and remained an important
factor in the progress of that art long after it had
triumphed over its early difficulties, and had emerged
into the arena of acknowledged success.

In other respects, too, Beechey had witnessed the
passing of the old order of things and the establishment of
the new ; the gradual metamorphosis of the London of
the Stuarts and the Georges into the London of Victoria.
The introduction of gas, railways and steamboats into
every-day life were all witnessed by him ; the entire
political re-arrangement of the Continent, and the
gradual expansion of England from little more than a
mere island kingdom to a great and mighty world-
power, were among the events which synchronised with
his working life. It seems strange, therefore, that a
man who lived through such an interesting period
should have had to wait so long for a separate
biography. It cannot be urged in extenuation of this
neglect that his individuality was a small one, or that
his work falls so far behind that of his rivals and con-
temporaries that either may be regarded as a negligible
quantity. For he was a man of strong character and
originality, and enjoyed the patronage of the most
distinguished men of his times. A mere glance at the
reproductions in this book will sufficiently demonstrate
the high quality of his work. The interest and im-

of seventy-four years, which is probably a unique record so far
as this country is concerned. Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., was
exhibiting from 1840 to 1902, a length of time identical with that of
Beechey, who, however, exhibited up to the year of his death.
Mr. Frith is still living, but has ceased to exhibit.

portance of his art may be seen to-day, but
only imperfectly, in our national collections, for the
finest of his pictures are in private hands and in the
galleries of very many of the great residences in the

The Beecheys had been settled at or near Burford on
the Windrush for many generations. The artist's
grandfather, Samuel, married Eleanor Mills, daughter
of William Mills, and died in 1764. Their elder
son, William, married Hannah, daughter of Francis
Read (who was born in Dublin and who died at
Burford). The elder William had one brother,
Samuel, who married and settled, it is not known
when, at Chipping Norton, and two sisters. Both
William Beechey* and his wife died when their
children were quite young, and the responsibility of
bringing them up devolved upon Samuel Beechey, who,
according to the family documents, was a solicitor or
attorney. These children, four sons and one daughter,
included William, afterwards Sir William Beechey, R.A.,
Samuel, who died unmarried about 1780, Thomas, who
died in infancy, Hannah, who was twice married, and
the youngest child, named Thomas after his deceased

It was Samuel Beechey's wish that his nephew should
become a lawyer, but the boy did not at all take to the
proposition, for from his very early years his mind was

* It is interesting to note that the Gentleman's Magazine records
the death on December 28, 1789, "at an advanced age" of
"William Beechey, senr., Esq., of Dublin."


set on drawing, and his lesson-books were embellished
with his sketches and caricatures. Young Beechey
doubtless attended the old-established Grammar School
at Burford, and his artistic instinct would have been
excited and cultivated by the famous Lenthall gallery
of portraits which remained in the old hall at Burford
until the choicer portion of them came up for sale at
Christie's in 1808. After various reproofs, Beechey 's
uncle, in despair, took to shutting the boy up in an
attic with nothing but his school-books until he had
mastered his lessons. One day the uncle went up as
usual to let the boy out, and found the bird flown. He
had escaped by climbing down a pear tree, and on
looking out of the window the uncle saw the boy flying
across the fields. He set off after him, and on seeing
that he was pursued the boy swam across the river,
escaped, and begged his way to London. Soon after he
arrived he passed a carriage-painter's establishment and
went in to watch ; the man seemed to be amused, and
asked him what he wanted ; he said he wanted to earn
some money, and thought he could paint. The good-
natured man said he should try, and gave him a board
and paints and a device to copy ; he was so pleased
with the result that he finally employed him to assist.
He got on so well that he painted the arms, etc., of
several great people's carriages, one of them, on hearing
it was quite a youth who had painted the panel of his
carriage, asked to see him, heard his history, and had
him taught to paint. While he was still a youth he
went with some friends for a holiday into the country,

Collection A. Riscltgitt

Buckingham Palace

1753-1787 5

and they decided upon a walking tour from London to
Norwich. On their way they stopped one night at an
inn, and the next day after breakfast discovered that
they had no money left. Beechey at once offered to get
them out of the dilemma, which he did by offering to
replace the very shabby sign-board with a brand-new
one in discharge of their account. The landlord agreed,
and Beechey furnished him with a splendid sign of St.
George and the Dragon. In after years Beechey made
an attempt to get hold of this early work, but the land-
lord and the sign had both disappeared.

Such are the stories of Beechey 's early youth as handed
down in the family.

The hitherto published accounts of Beechey 's earlier
years differ somewhat from those preserved by his
descendants. Three obviously inspired accounts appeared
during his lifetime the first in the Monthly Mirror of
July 1798, the second in " Public Characters " of 1800-
1801, and the third in "The Cabinet of Modern Art, 11
1836, edited by A. A. Watts. We gather from these
articles, that he was born at Burford, Oxfordshire, on
December 12, 1753, and that he was intended "for
the law," for which purpose he was placed " at the
proper age" under an "eminent conveyancer" near
Stow-in-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. But Beechey was

" Early foredoom'd his father's [i.e., uncle's] soul to cross,
And paint a picture when he should engross."

He did not remain long at his first place : he was
bent on coming to London, and to London he came.


He is said to have been " disillusioned,' 1 finding " neither
pavements of gold nor houses of silver."" He obtained
employment with a Mr. Robinson, of Inner Temple
Lane, with whom he remained until Robinson's death ;
he then went to a Mr. Hodgson in Cliffords Inn, and
from here he passed to the employment of Mr. Owen,*
of Took's Court, Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, to
whom he was articled.

It was during his engagement with Owen that he
accidentally became acquainted with several students
of the Royal Academy. "The objects in which they
were engaged " (says the writer of the notice in " Public
Characters "), " attracted and enchanted him ; by the
splendid assemblage of colours which they mixed upon
the palette, and transferred to the canvas, his eye was de-
lighted and, by the field thus opened to him, his disgust
of his original profession increased, and he determined
to change his pen for the pencil, his ink-stand for the
colour-box, and his desk for the easel ; eagerly embarked
in a new pursuit, and exerted every effort to acquire the
rudiments of that art in which he has since so eminently
distinguished himself." He prevailed upon Mr. Owen
to accept a substitute for the remaining time of his
articles, and in 1772 entered the Royal Academy School
as a student. Young Banister was there at the time,
and the two students toon became intimate friends.

According to several writers, Beechey received lessons

* In the 1782 edition of "Browne's General Law List." we
find in the " List of Attornies," the name and address of " Owen.
Charles. Took's Court, Cursitor Street."

'753-1787 7

from Sir Joshua Reynolds himself, but this is doubtful ;
Dawson Turner, who knew the artist personally, states
in his "Sepulchral Reminiscences," 1848 (p. 74) that
Beechey studied under Zoffany,and the style of his earlier
works strongly supports this theory. The probability is
that he may have received hints from and visited the
studios of both artists. It is also stated that soon after
his entrance to the Academy schools, Beechey married,
" before he had secured any certain provision for him-
self. 1 " And this brings us to a point about which there
is no room for any doubt namely, that Beechey was
twice married. This fact seems to be unknown to any
of his numerous descendants. In more than one
biography published during his lifetime there are
references to the fact of his having been married more
than once. Moreover, in J. Chamber's "General
History of the County of Norfolk," 1829 (vol. i. p. 1 1 14),
we have the following exceedingly explicit information
respecting the artist and his second wife : " After the
death of his first wife he married the present Lady
Beechey, then residing at the foot of Household Hill,
who, having very early discovered considerable talent
in crayon drawing, he, with that liberality which is his
characteristic, gave her gratuitous instruction, and,
having married her, he went to reside in London ; by this
union he has fifteen children, thirteen of whom are living."
Who the first wife was, when they were married, or
when she died, are points about which we have found
no information. That she was with him in Norwich
when he first went there may be inferred from an


erased passage in his Note Book quoted on p. 20. If
the identity of his first wife is involved in uncertainty
that of his second is at least real. Anne Phyllis Jessup
(or Jessop) is described as a woman of great beauty, and
the existing portraits of her, both by her husband and
by herself, go to prove this. They are said, in the family,
to have effected a " runaway match," but perhaps a
" hurried marriage " would be a more accurate descrip-
tion. Miss Jessop (this seems to me the more generally
accepted form of spelling) was born at Thorpe on
August 3, 1764, the daughter of William Jessop, of
Bishopsgate, Norwich, and his wife nte Hart, a
"collateral descendant of Shakespeare." The second
marriage presumably did not take place until 1787, for
in that year " Miss A. P. Jessup," of Norwich, exhibited
five drawings at the Royal Academy.

He made rapid progress as an art student, and at an
early stage " found employment M in copying Sir Joshua
Reynolds and " painting panel ornaments for Lucas the
coach-builder." Beechey painted in the lifetime of
Sheridan (who died in 1816), a copy of Reynolds'^
famous picture of Mrs. Sheridan as St. Cecilia, exhibited
at the Royal Academy in 1775, as may be seen from an
entry in the Account-Book under date, March 20, 1826 ;
the copy was never claimed by Sheridan, and it was
sold to a Mr. Burgess for I7ogs. This very fine full-size
copy was the property of the late Mr. T. H. Woods,
a former partner in the firm of Christie, Manson and
Woods, at whose sale on May 26, 1906, it was bought
by Mr. J. L. Rutley, for 75ogs. " During this period "

From the Duke of Cambridge's Collection

(we are again quoting " Public Characters "), " labouring
up hill to attain that rank in his profession which he
must have felt he had a right to, he inevitably experienced
many difficulties under which a common mind would
have sunk. But the ardour and energy of his spirit
supported him ; for, happily, with the ambition of
attaining reputation, he possessed the power of deserving
it, and surmounted every obstacle."

An artist's first picture like an author's first book
possesses a distinctly sentimental interest, at all events
to the artist himself and to his family. Henry Angelo
tells us in his interesting " Reminiscences " : " It is with
additional gratification I can add that the second
portrait painted by Sir William Beechey was of my
father, the first which this distinguished veteran of the
British School painted, being that of my father's
esteemed friend, the Chevalier Ruspini, whose elegant
hospitalities I have often enjoyed at his house, then
situated at the corner of St. Albans Street." As
Angelo also claimed that Hoppner's first portrait was
painted for him, perhaps his memory was slightly con-
fused. According to the accounts published in Beechey's
lifetime, the artist's first serious patron would seem to
have been Dr. Strachey, afterwards Archdeacon of
Suffolk, who happened " by accident to see one of his
productions," with which Strachey was so pleased " that
he immediately employed the artist to paint himself
and family " (Monthly Mirror). But here again there
seems to be a slight discrepancy, for Beechey's most
important work for Dr. Strachey was done in 1789,


according to the artist's Account-Book, but there were
perhaps earlier commissions, of which we have no record,
executed for the Archdeacon. Soon after this Beechey
was introduced by Mr. Fenton,* " a gentleman of very
elegant manners, and whose love for poetry and the
arts is not unknown to the world," to Mr. Ruspini, who,
in his turn, introduced him to the Duke and Duchess
of Cumberland. The picture of the Chevalier's family
was, it is said, Beechey 's first exhibit at Somerset
House. This brings us to the year 1776, when Beechey
(whose address is given in the catalogue as " at Mr.
Leader's, Cross Street, Carnby Market") appeared for
the first time at the Academy, Nos. 20 and 2ox being
" a small portrait " and " ditto."

By " a small portrait " is meant a portrait on a
small canvas similar to those executed by Hogarth and
by Zoffany, or what are known as " small whole
lengths." Curiously enough, several of these portraits,
among Beechey's earliest efforts, have come into the

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