Francis Tussaud: Madame Tussaud’s Son

Francis Tussaud, from his great-grandson’s book of 1920, “The Romance of Madame Tussaud’s.”

Francis (François in French) Tussaud was Madame Tussaud‘s son. He was born to her and her husband François on a Saturday, 2 August 1800. Two years later, Madame Tussaud decided to promote her waxworks in England, and she left her son Francis behind in the care of her husband, mother, and aunt, and took her 4-year-old son, Joseph, with her. Madame Tussaud eventually broke it off with her husband but continued to write to Francis, her mother, and her aunt from England.

Francis grew into a young man who had a strong desire to be an architect. However, his father must have thought otherwise because he obtained an apprenticeship for him with a grocer. The apprenticeship proved costly, and once François discovered this, he then found an apprenticeship for his son with a billiard table builder. For a time, Francis unhappily pursued that career, and, perhaps, that is why he finally joined his mother and brother in England. Continue reading

What Did Jane Austen Look Like?

Watercolor portrait of Jane Austen by Cassander in 1804. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

There are few images of Jane Austen drawn when she was alive, and because she never sat for a professional portrait, people often wonder what did Jane Austen look like? To answer this question, there are some published descriptions by those who knew her best.

One description of Jane comes from a relative of Anne Lefroy, better known as Madame Lefroy. She was Jane’s closest neighbor, and despite being twenty-six years older than her, Madame Lefroy respected young Jane’s intelligence and encouraged her. However, it was not Madame Lefroy who left a description of her but rather her brother. He was an English bibliographer and genealogist named Sir Egerton Brydges, and years after Jane had grown, Brydges stated: Continue reading

Jane Austen’s Novel Persuasion

Jane Austen. Public domain.

The first draft of Jane Austen’s novel “Persuasion,” a romantic novel that examines human foibles and flaws, was completed on 18 July 1816. Apparently, however, according to her nephew and biographer, James Edward Austen-Leigh, she was unhappy:

“[H]er performance did not satisfy her. She thought it tame and flat, and was desirous of producing something better. This weighed upon her mind, the more so probably on account of the weak state of her health; so that one night she retired to rest in very low spirits.”[1]

Her low spirits encouraged her to revise it and she finished it on 6 August 1816 (two chapters of her manuscript that were cancelled can be viewed by clicking here). However, according to Jocelyn Harris, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Otago, New Zealand, Jane continued to tinker with it and probably didn’t actually finalize it until 27 January 1817. After it was completed, Jane made a cryptic mention of “Persuasion” in a letter she wrote to her niece, Fanny Knight that was dated 13 March 1817: Continue reading

Silhouette Artist and Prosopographus Inventor Charles Samuel Hervé II

Likenesses created from the prosopographus. Courtesy of Bonhams.

The silhouette artist and prosopographus inventor Charles Samuel Hervé II (hereafter referred to as Hervé) was christened on 28 February 1785 at the All Hallows London Wall. His father was a British-born French Huguenot merchant named Peter Daniel Hervé and his mother Margaret Russel. They had several sons Peter (born 1779), Henry (born 1783), Francis (born 1787) and Hervé, who was the youngest. Continue reading

5 Things Horace Walpole Disliked

Horace Walpole by John Giles Eccardt in 1755. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Horace Walpole was an English historian, man of letters, politician, and writer. He had plenty of things that he liked, such as his extraordinary Strawberry Hill House. It was a Gothic Revival villa in Twickenham, London, that he began building in 1749. However, as much as Walpole may have liked Strawberry Hill, there were five things Walpole did not like (or in some cases detested). They included the city of Bath, cricket, gout, princes and princesses, and the French Revolution.

While many people reveled in the spa city of Bath and described it as charming and relaxing, Walpole was not among them. On 2 October of 1766, he traveled there and wrote to the British Field Marshall and statesman who was his cousin, Henry Seymour Conway, about his distaste for the place: Continue reading

A Regency Era Female Husband – James Allen

James Allen, Public Domain
James Allen, Public Domain

The idea that a woman would pretend to be a male was considered shocking in the Regency Era. One woman who perpetrated such a hoax was commonly known as James Allen. Allen’s situation came to light when Allen, who was 42 years old and a sawyer, was fatally struck in the head by a piece of timber while in a saw pit. Allen had been married for twenty-one years and the marriage had been solemnized at Camberwell Church on 13 December 1808. According to Allen’s wife, Abigail Mary (whose maiden name was Naylor), she had no idea Allen was female until the astonishing fact was discovered at St. Thomas’s Hospital when doctors undressed Allen.

According to Abigail Mary, more commonly known as Mary, their courtship began while they were in the service of a Mr. Ward of Camberwell Terrace and Mary was working as a housemaid and Allen as a groom. Allen, who was a native of Yarmouth and described as “reserved, sober, and industrious,” began to pay attention to Mary near the end of his service with Ward. The attention paid off and they married. It was then reported after “the matrimonial alliance took place … they retired together to the Bull, in Grey-in-lane.”[1] Continue reading

Colonel Edward Marcus Despard’s Funeral

Colonel Despard. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Colonel Edward Marcus Despard’s was arrested in 1803 for treason in what became known as the Despard Plot. His trial began on 7 February, and the public was so enthralled that newspapers could hardly provide enough coverage. Ultimately, Despard and his co-conspirators were found guilty and sentenced to death on 21 February. A crowd of 20,000 came to watch the execution, and it was one of the largest attended spectacles until the funeral of the famous naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson.

After Despard’s death, preparations for his funeral began, and his body was released to his friends. Almost immediately, the famous wax modeler, Madame Tussaud, contacted Despard’s friends. She wanted to make arrangements to make a death mask of Despard’s while his body was at the undertaker. This would be her first death mask in England since her arrival in 1802. She expected that by obtaining Despard’s death mask, the popularity of her exhibition, known as “Curtius’s Grand Cabinet of Curiosities,” would be greatly increased.

Continue reading

Maid of Buttermere or the Buttermere Beauty: Mary Robinson

Maid of Buttermere. Courtesy of British Museum.

On a verdant isthmus in Cumberland existed the small village of Buttermere. Buttermere was surrounded by rugged mountains and innumerable babbling streams. The village also consisted of a few scattered cottages, a white-washed parsonage, and a public house that stood alone by a rapid flowing brook and offered refreshments and relaxation to weary travelers. The public house was also clean, neat, and humble with two spare bedrooms available for anglers who wanted to enjoy the fine trout fishing in the area.

At the public house, in this pristine village, also lived a young woman named Mary Robinson but called the “Maid of Buttermere” or the “Buttermere Beauty.” Mary was a paragon of loveliness and first noticed by Joseph Palmer, who stayed at the inn in 1797-1798. Palmer later wrote “A Fortnight’s Ramble to the Lakes in Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland” that was published in 1810. In the book Palmer described Mary as follows: Continue reading

Daring Escape of Jacobite Woman Lady Margaret Ogilvy

Margaret Ogilvy. Public Domain.

Jacobite woman Lady Margaret (Johnstone)* Ogilvy joined with her husband, David Ogilvy, 6th Earl of Airlie, in supporting the Jacobite movement that culminated in the rising of 1745 (the forty-five). She was the daughter of Sir James Johnston of Westerhall and Barbara Murray. Ogilvy was taken prisoner at the Battle of Culloden, along with several other women who supported Prince Charles Edward Stuart, afterwards known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Having been captured, Ogilvy was “committed to the [Edinburgh] Castle on the 15th of June.”[1] She was tried and condemned to death as a traitor, and thereafter she sat imprisoned at the castle awaiting her execution daily. However, Ogilvy seems to have had more freedom than many other prisoners and frequently had guests. Among her frequent guests was Miss Katherine Hepburn of Keith, Ogilvy’s brother, and Ogilvy’s sister, Bonnie Barbara Johnston, later known as Lady Kinnaird. Continue reading

Count d’Artois at the Scottish Palace of Holyrood

Engraving of Count d’Artois. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

After the Bastille was stormed in July of 1789, Louis XVI’s youngest brother, the Count d’Artois, fled France with his family. They lived briefly in Italy and Germany before finally settling in Great Britain in 1792. There the Count became a leader of the French émigrés and was welcomed by King George III, who also gave him a generous allowance.

Although the Count d’Artois was welcomed in Great Britain, he wanted the Bourbon monarchy to rule in France. So, he outfitted an army on borrowed money around 1795 and became involved in a royalist uprising against revolutionaries in La Vendée. Things did not go as planned. He was beaten and returned to Great Britain defeated. However, before he landed in Great Britain, he was “advised that should he step ashore he would be liable to imprisonment for debt under British law if he did not meet the sum due.”[1] Continue reading