Monday 10 April 2023

Judge Rochfort exlibris bookplate, ca. 1760

A biblioclast cut this early eighteenth century Judge Rochfort exlibris bookplate from a copy of James Foster, Sermons on the following subjects, viz. …, 3rd ed. (1736) [ESTC: n24146 (recording 15 copies); here]. I know this because, the bookplate was, and still is, fixed to the back of the titlepage, as you can see:

Bookplates are usually attached to front (fixed) endpaper, not to the title leaf; most likely, there was already a bookplate on the front endpaper, when Rochfort went to add his plate, so it was placed on the verso of the title leaf instead (more on this below).

There is a copy of this edition of Foster's Sermons on ECCO, but not freely available online (yet—probably), but there are copies of the first edition of 1733 (here) and the fourth edition of 1745 (here) for anyone interested in Rochfort’s reading or book-buying preferences. Below is the full title page, taken from the University of Cambridge Library copy on ECCO:

Although I have been unable to find a reference to any other Judge Rochfort bookplates in library catalogues online—or on ESTC under “Copy Specific Notes”—there is actually another book from Judge Rochfort’s library available at present on ABE (here):

The title of this book is not well represented in this ABE catalogue listing, but it is a copy of Jeremy Taylor, Eniautos. A course of sermons for all the Sundays of the year, 2nd ed. (1655) [Wing T330; ESTC: r10569 (recording 40 copies); here]. As you can see, this copy of Rochfort’s bookplate is printed in red, which is very unusual I believe.

Although there is no image of it online, this armorial bookplate features in J. H. Slater’s, “Alphabetical List of Noted Book-Plates” in his Book Plates and Their Value (London: Henry Grant, 1898), 203 (online here):

According to Slater, there are actually two Judge Rochfort bookplates, mine being “distinctly ‘Jacobean’ with elaborate mantling”—although he dates is to “about 1760” (long after the Jacobean period)—but both feature the crest and motto: “Probitas est optima politia” [honesty is the best policy].

Slater, who is styled J. Herbert Slater in the books of his I have on my shelves, was particularly well informed, so I am inclined to accept his date for the bookplate. As I noted above, the unusual positioning of the bookplate suggests that Rochfort was not the first owner of his 1736 copy of Foster’s Sermons—any more than he was the first owner of his 1655 copy of Taylor’s Eniautos on ABE.

* * * * *

As for who was Rochfort—like St John Broderick, the other stray Anglo-Irish bookplate I bought in the late 80s (and blogged about here)—he is: Judge Rochfort, of Streamstown, Co. Westmeath, Ireland; High Sheriff of Westmeath in 1736.

Judge Rochfort was related to the much-better-known Rochforts of Gaulstown (Gaulstown is only about 25kms by road from Streamstown), but the link between the two families is somewhat distant, and if the families may even have been at odds.

The Gaulstown Rochforts “were close friends of [Jonathan] Swift’s, and both George and John figure frequently in Swift’s letters and poems. John seems to have been a particular favorite: He was named by Stella one of her executors; and he was selected a member of the Lunacy Commission appointed, in 1742, to in quire into the state of Swift's mind” (Katherine Hornbeak, “Swift’s Letter to a Very Young Lady on Her Marriage,” Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 2 (February 1944): 183).

Swift was a regular visitor to the Rochfort family at Gaulstown House—a very famous estate, which you will find information about here) and here). “It is said that it was when Dean Swift looked across the expanse of Lough Ennell one day and saw the tiny human figures on the opposite shore of the lake that he conceived the idea of the Lilliputians featured in Gulliver’s Travels” (here).

“A number of Rochforts family served in the Irish House of Commons for constituencies in Westmeath” (here); Robert Rochfort (1652–1727), of the Rochforts of Gaulstown, “had a highly distinguished career, being Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. Robert’s grandson, also named Robert, was created 1st Earl of Belvedere in 1756. Their principal residences were Gaulstown House and, later, Belvedere House in Westmeath, of which only the latter still exists.”

Belvedere House is about 10kms from Gaulstown, but still only 25kms from Judge Rochfort in Streamstown—assuming that Judge Rochfort actually resided in Streamstown, which is by no means certain. The population of Streamstown is tiny, even today, although it is rapidly rising (increasing from 378 in 2016 to 519 in 2022; see here), and, as Arthur Sherbo notes, various members of the Rochfort family that Swift numbered among his friends were “resident in Dublin” at the time (Arthur Sherbo, “From the Westminster Magazine: Swift, Goldsmith, Garrick, et al.” Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 41 (1988), 276; here).

* * * * *

Returning to Judge Rochfort: Judge (here) was the son of Charles, son and heir of Charles Rochfort Esq. of Streamstown (ca. 1636–92; here and here), eldest son and heir of Lt.-Col. “Prime Iron” James Rochfort (ca. 1600–1652), who was court martialed and executed for killing his Major (in a duel) in Cromwell’s Army (here and here)—Lodge’s The Peerage of Ireland, vol. 3 (Dublin, 1754), 374–76 (here) provides the connections between all the otherwise disconnected references provided above.

Judge married Jane Donnellan (here), and had three daughters: Jane (here), Rebecca, who married (on 17 November 1779) Thomas Edwards, Esq. “an eminent surgeon” (here), and an un-named third daughter mentioned here.

Judge’s daughter Jane Rochfort married Rowland Rochfort (here)—a distant cousin—and had two daughters (only Harriet mentioned here, but two daughters mentioned here).

Rowland was the great, great, grandson of Lt.-Col. “Prime Iron” James Rochfort, and great grandson of Robert Rochfort (1652–1727; here; Prime Iron’s youngest son)—and wife Lady Hannah Hancock (d. 1733; here)—the friend of Swift.

Judge and his immediate family—indeed, most of the Streamstown Rochforts—have “no dates”—that I can find anyway—Robert, his ancestors, and descendants (i.e., the Gaulstown Rochforts), do. Lt.-Col. James Rochfort (d. 1652) was the father of Robert Rochfort (1652–1727), who was the father of the Rt. Hon. George Rochfort (1682–1730), who was the father of Arthur Moore Rochfort (1711–1774), M.P. for Westmeath, who was the father of Rowland Rochfort. Rowland’s father, Arthur, was the brother of Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvidere (1708–1774), aka “the wicked earl” (more on him below).

Meanwhile, the nearest dates that I can find for Judge’s immediate family are his grandfather (Charles, born ca. 1636), and the weddings of his daughters: Rebecca’s in 1779 and Jane’s (no date), but to Rowland, the brother of Lt.-Gen. George Rochfort (ca. 1739–1821).

* * * * *

I will end this ridiculously long post with a brief account of “the wicked earl” (based on the sources linked above, esp. here, here and here).

Apparently, Robert Rochfort, the 1st Earl of Belvidere, heard rumours that his young wife (Mary) had often visited—and had been having an “intrigue” with—his brother Arthur, the father of Rowland (Judge's son-in-law). According to a contemporary source: “[Arthur was] very well-bred and very well in his person and manner …[while] she is extremely handsome and has many personal accomplishments.”

As punishment, Robert had his wife locked up in the family house at Gaulstown, alone apart from her children and servants, for 31yrs. He also sued Arthur for “criminal conversation” for £2,000—a huge sum at the time; unable to pay, Arthur was thrown in a debtor’s prison where he eventually died.

Meanwhile, Mary was left so severely damaged by her long imprisonment “that she took to wandering the house and talking to portraits as if they were real people. When she was finally released after Robert’s death in 1774, Mary had become a deranged hag incapable of recognizing her own sons.”

George, the 2nd Earl of Belvedere, who freed his mother from imprisonment, demolished the Gaulstown House (where she had been imprisoned) and built a smaller house in the grounds for her. But Mary refused to stay; instead, she set sail for France, where she became a nun and lived the rest of her life as a hermit.

Given Robert’s character, if Judge allowed his daughter to marry Rowland, during the life of the wicked earl it seems very unlikely that he was at all close to Robert or the Gaulstown Rochforts—but perhaps this occurred after Robert bled to death, alone (and probably unrepentant), with his head caved in, on the grounds of his estate.

Thursday 30 March 2023

St John Broderick of the Middle Temple, 1703

This “Early Armorial” Restoration exlibris bookplate (Ginn, slide 14; see below) was created for St John Broderick of the Middle Temple, later The Honourable St John Brodrick (ca. 1685–1728), son of Alan, Baron Brodrick (ca. 1655–1728)—who outlived his son by only six months (Wikipedia pages here and here).

The short Wikipedia entry on St John Broderick characterises him as “an Anglo-Irish politician who sat in the Irish House of Commons from 1709 to 1728 and in the British House of Commons from 1721 to 1727”; since he was a parliamentarian, a few more details appear in Romney Sedgwick’s The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754 (1970; online here).

Combining details from Wikipedia, Sedgwick and C. M. Tenison’s “Cork M.P’s, 1559–1800,” Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol. 1, 2nd ser. (1895): 177 (here), the details of his life can be summarized as follows:

St. John Brodrick of Ballyanane, alias Midleton, was the eldest son, by his first wife, of Alan Brodrick, M.P., who was afterwards created Viscount Midleton. He was educated at Eton, 1698, and King’s College Cambridge, 1700, and was admitted to the Middle Temple, 1700; barrister-at-law, Ireland; Recorder of Cork, in succession to his father, 1708.

Brodrick was M.P. Castlemartyr, 1709–13 (then “of Cork”); Cork City, 1713–14 (then “of the Middle Temple”); Cork County, 1715–27; and 1727 (then Right Hon. St. John Brodrick) till his death in 1728. Brodrick was M.P. also for Beeralstown, county Devon, 1721–27; a Privy Councillor, 1724.

He married Anne, daughter of Michael Hill, of Hillsborough. She died 1752, leaving five daughters, of whom Anne married James Jeffreys, and Mary married Sir J. R. Freke, M.P. (q.v.). He died s.p. and s.p.m., 21st February, 1728.

A “Sketch Pedigree exemplifying the Brodrick M.P’s” is in Tenison here and a “Pedigree of Broderick” (that includes St. John and his daughters) can be found here

* * * * *

I found only a few references to this 1703 bookplate. It seems that Broderick owned a copy of Donne's Poems (London, 1633), now at Texas Tech University, Lubbock (here, but no photograph).

There appear to be no modern photograph or scan of St John Broderick’s bookplate online, but Egerton Castle reproduced a copy of this bookplate in his English Book-plates: Ancient and Modern (1893), 60 (above; text here); and this image was used by both Linda K. Ginn, for her 2017 lecture on “Digital Bookplates: Old Technology and New Applications” [University Libraries Workshops and Presentations, 6 (pdf online here]) and Paul Magrath in his 2021 post for the ICLR [Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales] on “(L)ex Libris — the art of the legal bookplate” (here).

Regarding the Brodrick family motto: “a cuspide corona” can be translated as “from a spear, a crown” (i.e., one receives honour [a crown] for military exploits [a spear]). This motto can also be seen on the 1754 engraving above, taken from John Lodge, The Peerage of Ireland, vol. 3 (Dublin, 1754), pl. 29 (here).

* * * * *

I have no record, and no clear memory of when I acquired this bookplate—but I think I have had it and a one other anglo-Irish bookplate (which I blogged about here) for decades, probably since the late 80s. I have a pretty strong aversion to supporting “breakers”—biblioclasts who disassemble books for engravings, or sammelbands and nonce-volumes for individual works, especially plays—so I can only assume that I bought the collection of bookplates [1] not from the beaker themselves (to avoid encouraging this sort of thing) and [2] out of a desire to protect bookplates themselves.

As you can see, I have managed to protect this one so far. But it occurred to me recently, when I was going through my ephemera, that it might be even better to post images and information about some of my ephemera here. Destruction is only a bushfire away after all and the bookplates are both very attractive—as the appearance of this one in Egerton Castle’s English Book-plates suggests.

Friday 24 March 2023

Eighteenth-Century Books in Australian Libraries, revisited

Almost twelve years ago now, I did a post on “Collecting Eighteenth Century Literature” (here). In that post, I mentioned that the “ESTC code-finder” (now here)—maintained by the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research at the University of California—“provides a count of ESTC records as well as providing ESTC codes.”

This count of ESTC items—books printed in English or in English-speaking countries before 1801—can be used as a crude yardstick to compare the rare book holdings in various libraries in Australia.

Although more than a decade has passed, there is remarkably little change to the figures I provided in my 2011 post—with one notable exception. Can you pick it?

The top ten libraries remain the same, and in the same order of size:

1. University of Sydney Library (NU) 7529 (up 18)
2. National Library of Australia (ANL) 7455 (up 3)
3. Monash University (VMoU) 4842 (up 5)
4. State Library of Victoria (VSL) 4656 (up 596)
5. State Library of SA (SSL) 2876 (up 3)
6. University of Adelaide (SUA) 2595 (up 2)
7. University of Melbourne (VU) 2294 (up 22)
8. State Library of NSW, Rare Books (NSL-RB) 1199 (no change)
9. Private collection, SA (PC-S) 1175 (up 4)
10. State Library of NSW (NSL) 1009 (up 1)

It is still the case that roughly one third of the 304 (was 303) Australian ESTC codes are recorded as holding nothing (101 libraries), a further one third have five or fewer listings (200 libraries), only eleven percent (34 of 304) have one hundred or more works.

I know for a fact that Monash has added a lot more than five ESTC items to its collection in the last decade—I have personally seen to that!—but I also know that they have been slack with informing ESTC of these new holdings. The State Library of Victoria count has, by comparison, increased by almost six hundred items, which is likely much more in line with their actual acquisitions. (On this, they seem to be particularly active in the area of early women writers; as a recent article explains here.)

It is unclear how many institutions might have stopped updating ESTC (like Monash), rather than stopped making acquisitions (State Library of NSW?), but I suspect that Monash’s cataloguing backlog is the norm, and that VSL’s professionalism is the exception. This suggests, in turn, that the specific figures recorded here for each institution are less important that the proportions between institutions etc.

* * * * *

Looking at the 2023 data, with this in mind, a few more things strike me.

The total count for all ESTC items in all Australian libraries is 47289—95% of these are held by the thirty largest libraries, so I looked at these thirty in particular. Breaking down the figures by State and Territory:

13800 items, or 29.2%, are held in VIC
12138 items, or 25.7%, are held in NSW
8162 items, or 17.3%, are held in ACT
7579 items, or 16.0%, are held in SA
1999 items, or 4.2%, are held in QLD
567 items, or 1.2%, are held in TAS
469 items, or 1.0%, are held in WA
0 items, or 0.0% are held in NT

Since NSW is Australia’s most populous State, I wondered about the relative proportions of ESTC holdings per State and Territory. On a per capita basis (actually ESTC items per 1000 people), the leagues table is as follows:

ACT is 17.8 per 1000 people
SA is 4.1 per 1000 people
VIC is 2.1 per 1000 people
NSW is 1.5 per 1000 people
TAS is 1.0 per 1000 people
QLD is 0.4 per 1000 people
WA is 0.2 per 1000 people
NT is 0.0 per 1000 people

ACT is an anomaly here, since the National Library of Australia (in Canberra) is not really an ACT institution—but the ACT itself is an anomaly, and the National Library is physically situated in Canberra, so perhaps this does not matter. The National average is 1.7 per 1000 people, so NSW is below the National average, but the ACT is in NSW, so—again with the ACT anomaly.

As for the type of institutions holding almost all of Australia’s ESTC items:

22081 items, or 46.7%, are held by twelve Universities
17720 items, or 37.5%, are held by six National and State Libraries
1751 items, or 3.7%, are held by five Religious institutions
1175 items, or 2.5%, are held by one Private individual
961 items, or 2.0%, are held by three Courts
668 items, or 1.4%, are held by one Parliament
385 items, or 0.8%, are held by two Medical Colleges

The number of ESTC items in Religious institutions, Courts and Parliamentary libraries surprised me a little.

* * * * *

A final thought, as a collector of 18C books—most institutions in Australia are doing a woeful job. In terms of new acquisitions, the only library in Australia that is doing it right—on the evidence of the ESTC code-finder—is the State Library of Victoria. But in absolute terms, no one is.

Below are—selected more or less at random, and ignoring most of the most obvious first-tier institutions in the States—ten points of reference for Australian rare book librarians:

Newberry Library 38087
Library Company of Philadelphia 31053
University of Chicago 25093
Boston Public 21233
Cornell University 18189
Columbia University 16426
Boston Athenaeum 12816
Rice University 8529
Free Library of Philadelphia 6109
Haverford College Library 5583

The entire ESTC book stock of Australia is weak when compared to the Newberry alone—which probably has fewer duplicates, and a wider coverage than Australia as a whole. The “Friends Historical Society of Swarthmore College”—which I have never heard of—has 2573 ESTC items! This is more than either the State Library of NSW or the University of Melbourne; indeed, more than all of Queensland and Tasmania combined.

It would also seem that even I now have more ESTC items than 292 of 304 Australian libraries—more than the whole of Tasmania (or Western Australia)—despite the fact that my budget is certainly a lot smaller than that of University of NSW, the University of Western Australia, State Library of Queensland and so forth. I do not know what they are spending their money on, but it isn’t (it seems) books printed before 1801.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

An Ode written by Mr. Hatchett, 1750

The following Ode is addressed to Lord Robert Spencer (1747–1831; above ætat 22), youngest son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706–58), on the occasion of his third birthday (8 May 1750). The Ode was written by “Mr. Hatchett”—probably William Hatchett. More on this possibility below, but first the Ode:

An ODE to the Hon. Master SPENCER, on his Birth-Day. By Mr. Hatchett.

HAPLY, my young Mæcenas, your third Lustre’s past,
  When the bright Seeds of Knowledge ripen fast:
  Life’s vernal Season this, whose genial Heat
The new Idea shoots from the Soul’s fertile Seat:
  So Sol in Aries swells the pregnant Earth,
  Which brings unnumber’d Beings into Birth.

While now the blooming Mind, thrice lov’d, important Heir,
  Under the sapient Eye of Guardian Care,
  Is forming unto all that’s Great and Good,
The long inherent Virtues of your lineal Blood;
  So to the Rose succeeds another Rose,
  Which with its native Beauty sweetly blows:

While your learn’d Mentor wins you to the polish’d Arts,
  Each moral, generous Sentiment imparts,
  With anxious Labour teaches to controul
The growing, fierce, contending Passions of the Soul,
  And fires your Heart with God-like Patriot Zeal,
  To shine the Darling of the Common-Weal:

While oft he sets before you this illustrious Plan,
  That Virtue only can ennoble Man;
  Can make those Gifts, which Fortune may have giv’n,
Be, as they ought, possess’d, approv’d by Earth and Heav’n,
  Be’t mine to sing the glad returning Morn,
  When a Delight and Blessing you were born.

Thrice welcome Task! the tuneful Tribute let me pay,
  Blythe as the Lark that chants the new-born Day;
  In liveliest Strains proclaim the happy Birth,
And with the jocund Muse let all devote to Mirth:
  On pain of Dulness, hear the Muses say,
  Let nought but Wit, and Mirth, be seen to Day.

Worthy the Subject, me, the fav’rite Nine, inspire!
  Give me to touch for once the Thracian Lyre!
  Let all Creation feel the sprightly Song;
To its gay Force let even lifeless Matter throng:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.

Sacred this Day to Jollity, hence Care and Strife!
  Thou Friend of Health, thou sparkling Zest of Life!
  Come, laughing Joy, exhilarate the Blood,
And cause quick Circulation like a rolling Flood:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.


Thy chearful Influence shed round from Morn to Night,
  Brighten each Eye, each Stoick Heart make light;
  To Beauty give the dimpling graceful Smile,
In warbling Note, and Attick Step, the Hours beguile:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.


Nor fail to send your warmest Wishes to the Sky,
  Oft as you charge the circling Goblet high;
  A healthful Round of Natal Days the Toast,
To the dear, lovely Youth, Mankind and Nature’s Boast:
  Dull be for ever the unsocial Soul,
  That in gay Chorus join not with the Bowl.

* * * * *

The two earliest appearances of this poem in print (that I can find) are both from December 1750. It seems likely that the poem first appeared in Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer (11 December 1750): 1a, so this is the printing that I have used as my copy text. This printing is more careful with incidentals, such as the use of italics, capitalisation, indentation of lines and so forth, than the (reprints) in The London Magazine, vol. 19 (December 1750): 601a–b (here), and in The Royal Magazine; Or, Quarterly Bee, vol. 2 (March 1751): 445b–446a (here).

Although Hatchett was a relatively uncommon name in the mid-eighteenth century, I am aware of a number of men by that name, so it is by no means certain that the author of this poem was Haywood’s Hatchett. However, William Hatchett is the only one that I know of who capable of this sort of versification, so the odds are certainly in his favour; circumstantial evidence also points to William Hatchett.

It is not clear what personal connection William Hatchett (if it is his work) might have had that would prompt him write this sort of celebratory poem, except in the hope of being well paid for his flattery—as was conventional—by Charles Spencer, the 3rd Duke. In 1750, Spencer was “Lord Steward of the Household”—an office of considerable political importance and carried Cabinet rank at the time—and, apparently, “he had no concept of economy, and was a heavy spender,” which would make him a prime mark.

A more personal connection exists via Eliza Haywood, who dedicated Adventures of Eovaai to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, in 1736 (even though she had previously satirised Churchill as “Marama” in the second volume of Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjacent to the Kingdom of Utopia in 1725). Churchill was prominent for her opposition to Walpole—so, on the same side of politics as Haywood and Hatchett—but she had died in 1744 (having outlived her daughter, mother of the 3rd Duke). It may be that Hatchett tried appealing to the 3rd Duke with this poem, in the hope that he would carry on the support previously offered by his grandmother.

Regarding the Whitehall Evening Post, Kathryn R. King (A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood (2012), 115) considers this newspaper as “authoritative with regard to [Haywood’s] late-career publishing activities”—noting that the proprietor was Charles Corbett, a Fleet Street bookseller who had, in 1749 (when questioned by the authorities about Haywood’s A Letter from H[enry] G[orin]g) “testified that he had known her ‘many years’ and acknowledged having ‘sold several things Wrote & Published by’ her” and that, later, he has published her obituary notice in Whitehall Evening Post, which is the primary source of information supporting many Haywood attributions.

While King also mentions that Corbett published Hatchett’s The Chinese Orphan in 1741, she does not mention that he had published his Rival Father a decade earlier (in 1730) and in the same 12 December 1749 deposition she references in relation to Haywood, he explains that “Mr. Hatchett (who the Examt. has known many years) came to [his] Shop & asked him” about the copies of Haywood’s Henry Goring pamphlet, which had been left “by a porter from a person whose Name the Examt. did not know.”

The appearance of a poem by a “Mr. Hatchett” in a newspaper associated, in this way, with both Haywood and Hatchett, offers considerable support to the attribution of this poem, so I am inclined to treat William as the author.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Did James Annesley have a son in Pennsylvania?

Haywood’s Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman, Return’d from a Thirteen Years Slavery in America where he had been sent by the Wicked Contrivances of his Cruel Uncle (1743) is based on the “extraordinary and improbable” (MYN, 1.29) adventures of James Annesley (1715–60).

Haywood wasn’t the only writer attracted to Annesley’s story—Tobias Smollett gives a lengthy description of the case in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751); Walter Scott used the story as a plot device in Guy Mannering (1815) as did William Godwin in Cloudesley: A Tale (1830); it was used more transparently by Charles Reade in The Wandering Heir (1872) and, most famously, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (1886).

As Wikipedia explains:

In 2010 [six years after I established Haywood’s authorship of MYN] A. Roger Ekirch published Birthright: The True Story That Inspired Kidnapped, a biography of James Annesley. Ekirch wrote that, while historians had long dismissed many details of Annesley's story as fiction, he had found a trove of legal documents that show that the story as traditionally told was mostly true.

John Henley’s review (in the Guardian; here) provides some details from Ekirch’s groundbreaking study:

The principal source of information on Annesley was a fanciful if much-reprinted volume from 1743, Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman …. The events related in the book appear so far-fetched, however, that most of those who have read it, says Ekirch, ‘have tended to dismiss it as merely a sentimental fiction, written during an age when overblown stories of impossible adventures were a popular literary genre’. But … after seven years spent with trial transcripts, family documents, newspaper reports, House of Lords records and a treasure trove of nearly 400 legal depositions unearthed in Dublin and at the National Archives in Kew, it is now clear to Ekirch that those Memoirs are, essentially, true. ‘Annesley wasn’t the author, but he was the source of the information,’ he says. ‘You don't have to dig far to substantiate it’.”

It is a shame that Ekirch’s research did not lead him to my Bibliography, and that I was not able to benefit from any of his research before publishing my own account of Annesley and Haywood’s Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman, but others can connect our “dots,” so that a more complete account is now possible.

* * * * *

One aspect of the Annesley story that has always interested me is the question of Annesley’s children. Although he won an improbably legal victory over his Cruel Uncle, said Cruel Uncle spent fifteen years pursuing used every legal method possible to avoid restoring Annesley’s inheritance. Sadly, these delaying tactics paid off: he outlived his nephew by one year, and in the following year Annesley’s only son died.

Annesley’s son is usually only mentioned in passing, as above, to add pathos to his father’s failure to (re)gain his inheritance. A few details of Annesley’s two marriages and five children appeared in 1778, and were reprinted verbatim until Ekirch’s Birthright expanded on them in 2010.

In a note to account of the Annesley trial, Francis Hargrave (here) noted that James:

was twice married; first, to a Daughter of Mr. Chester, at Staines-Bridge in Middlesex by whom he had one Son and two Daughters. The Son, James Annesley, Esq. died November 1763, S. P. and the eldest Daughter is married to Charles Wheeler, Esq. Son of the late Captain Wheeler in the Guinea Trade: Secondly, to a Daughter of Sir Thomas J’Anson of Bounds near Tunbridge in Kent, Gentleman-Porter of the Tower, by whom he had a Daughter and a Son, who are both dead; the Son, aged about seven Years, died about the Beginning of 1764; and the Daughter, aged about Twelve, died in May 1765.”**

Regarding the second marriage, an “A. M. T.” of Dublin added here (The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 78 (November 1795): 906a):

Sir Thomas J’Anson … was gentleman-porter at the Tower, and resided near Tunbridge, in Kent. He died several years since without male issue (as I believe), but had two daughters; one, a most amiable young lady, married to Mr. James Annesley, who {unsuccessfully at least} contended in the year 1743, and afterwards, for the honours and estates of the late Earl of Anglesey. Whether the other young lady was married or not, I cannot say.

* * * * *

Ekirch adds a lot more details concerning these relationships, but does not mention (as far as I can tell) the—admittedly weak—claim of yet another child, a son born in America. The claim for James’s liaison and child appeared in 1890. Not only is the evidence weak, it is likely impossible to corroborate, but intriguing nevertheless.

In an essay about the library of an anonymous “Philadelphia Antiquarian,” E. Powell Buckley notes that

The library has a large collection of ‘secret memoirs,’ … [including] a complete set of the celebrated Annesley case, or the Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman, returned from Thirteen years Slavery in America, 1742, the first volume of which is frequently met with, and is supposed to end the story; but, including the trial account, comprises three volumes. Connected with these are divers pamphlets on the subject.

There was a few years ago, in possession of a physician in Lancaster county, [Pennsylvania] a portion of a woman’s skull, the daughter of an early settler, who, but for the untimely death of her lover, would have been the wife of this same “young nobleman.” She was the mother of his child, and on his departure from Philadelphia to establish his claim as Lord Altham, he promised an early return to marry her. He died suddenly in London, and the sad event unbalanced the girl’s mind, and three years later she also died, a hopeless maniac. The boy grew up and was killed in a frontier Indian battle.

It is not certain that “the daughter of an early settler” is Maria, “a very amiable creature of about fourteen or fifteen” (MYN, 1.90; here), daughter of his second master, who “possest a Passion for him more violent that is ordinarily found in Persons of tender Age” (MYN, 1.91), but this seems very likely.

Maria’s violent passion is briefly described in an account of “The True History of James Annesley,” which appeared in an 1873 review-essay in Harper’s Weekly. (Here; the essay was prompted by the first US publication of Reade’s Wandering Heir, in 1873). The anonymous essayist writes that

James ran away from his master [Duncan Drummond, at New Castle on the Delaware River, who] … recovered him, and kept him three years longer, and then sold him to another planter, who was rather more humane. Here he became unintentionally the object of affection of two women—his master’s daughter, Maria, and a young Indian girl. They persecuted him with addresses which were distasteful to him, and the Indian, in a rage at his obduracy, drowned herself in an adjacent river. The parents of Maria discovered the infatuation of their daughter by the stratagem related in the novel [eavesdropping], and James was transferred to a planter in Sussex County, who dying, he was again sold to a neighbor of | his late master.

It was while in the service of the latter that, being convalescent from a wound received from the vengeful brothers of his Indian admirer, he was lying under a hedge, and overheard his master’s wife (not daughter) arranging with a slave (who appears to have been a white, not a mulatto) to rob her husband and fly from the country. He had the courage to remonstrate with her, and thus incurred her hatred, though for the time she dissembled, and pretended to transfer her regard to him. But after she had made an attempt to kill him with poison he resolved to escape, and accordingly did so in the most expeditious manner at hand. He found a ship on the coast, which took him to the island of Jamaica, and there he enlisted on board of Admiral Vernon’s vessel as a common sailor.

Ekirch largely passes over the period that James spent with his second master; in Ch. 4 he mentions “the evidence [of his mistreatment by his first master] was strong enough to prompt his sale to a new master [not named], though conditions remained harsh during the succeeding three years. Then with just twelve months remaining, Annesley, now twenty-one, boarded a ship … only to be apprehended and punished with four additional years of servitude” (Ekirch, p. 90; here)

Ekirch dismissed the “Several dramatic incidents described” in MYN as “at best implausible” (Ekirch, p. 90)—saying of the one (concerning Maria and an Iroquois girl named Turquois), that events “were likely less titillating” than MYN suggest; and that another (concerning the unfaithful wife, neighbor to his second master) was “almost certainly … inspired by” a sensational (but unrelated) murder that occurred at the time (Ekirch, p. 91).

Haywood claims that Maria “had made all the Advances Modesty would permit” (MYN, 1.96; here), but that Annesley “had not the least Spark of Inclination” for her (MYN, 1.97). However, as Ekirch says, James was Haywood’s “source of the information” (Ekirch, p. 70; here)—and he had very good reason to conceal this relationship (abandoning a pregnant teenager in the Colonies would have, at the very least, not have helped him build the support he needed to prosecute his case). One later writer suggested that Maria “show[ed] her affection in a manner which could not be mistaken” [Celebrated Claimants (London, 1874), 76–77; here]—an ambiguous statement, which could support either Haywood’s or Buckley’s account.

* * * * *

Buckley refers to James’ death as “sudden” and “untimely,” suggesting that he died young, soon after he reached London, but James died at the age of forty-five, which is certainly young), but it was still twenty years after regaining his freedom. If Maria died, “a hopeless maniac” only three years after James (1763)—then she had been holding out the hope of reuniting with him for a long time, longer than Buckley seems to be implying. However, these details are not so far from the known facts as to flatly contradict them.

It is possible that further research might either corroborate one or more facts in Buckley’s account, or locate a parallel that might have inspired the story—just as Ekirch was able to locate a parallel story of the “attempt to kill [James] with poison” (Ekirch, p. 91). Certainly, according to Ekirch, James’s widow, Margaret Annesley (née I’Anson) “spent her last years in a madhouse”—perhaps, as a “hopeless maniac.” However, the chances that a portion of Margaret’s skull ended up in the possession of “a physician in Lancaster county” seems very remote indeed, so it is unclear how all the elements in this story can be accounted for.

Whatever the truth may be, the fact that even this putative (eldest) son of James “was killed in a frontier Indian battle”—thus missing out on the inheritance his mother hoped for him, via James—would be, sadly, quite fitting.

PS: for my post on the various versions of the above portrait of James Annesley, see here.