Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Auto-biography of John Britton

John Britton by Charles Edward Wagstaff, after John Wood
NPG D20053 - mezzotint, 1845

Re John Braham

The name and fame of JOHN BRAHAM are familiar to all lovers of vocal music and the drama; as he has been upon the public stage of England and Europe more than half a century. When a boy he first attracted admiration in the Synagogue, Duke's Place, and at the Royalty Theatre, Well-Close Square; and, as an aged man, he displayed his amazing powers of voice and musical science in the public during the year 1849.
For many years he was my neighbour and friend, having resided at No.3, Tavistock Square, during my sojourn at No. 10 Tavistock Place. At his house I have spent many hours of high excitement and delight, in the company of some of the most eminent performers and literati of the age.
It is well known to the world that Signora Storace* lived there with him, and that one son, who was their issue, is now a Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral [William Spencer Harris Braham born 03 May 1802]. After the decease of that lady, Braham wedded Miss Bolton, of Liverpool a very pretty and amiable young woman, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. [John Braham married Frances Elizabeth Bolton of Ardwick, Manchester, Lancashire on 18 Nov 1816]
At the birth of the eldest of those sons I spent the evening with him, and wrote him a congratulatory letter on the following morning. Many amusing anecdotes might be related of my friend, for he lived in the great, the gay, the public world: and his society was coveted by princes, titled lords, and ladies , as well as many of the sharpers and harpies of society. He was long noted for prudence and caution in pecuniary affairs, and boasted, before a Committee of the House of Commons, of never embarking in theatrical property. Yet he as afterwards seduced into speculations of not only hazardous but ruinous extent, in the Argyle Rooms, Regent Street, the Colosseum, in the Regent's Park and the St. James's Theatre. All of these failed, his property suffered, and he was thence compelled to make a professional voyage to America. On his return to England he again appeared upon the stage and in the concert-room; with his two sons, John [John Hamilton Braham born 01 Jan 1819, christened 28 Apr 1819 Old Church, Saint Pancras, London] and Charles [born c. 1817, London], travelled over the greater part of the island, giving vocal entertainments in most of the principal towns.
His eldest daughter [Frances Elizabeth Anne Braham born 4 Jan 1821 at Tavistock Square, St. Pancras, London] married John James Henry Waldegrave, Esq., son, before marriage, of the sixth Earl of Waldegrave. [marriage 25 Jun 1839 at Kensington] This gentleman died in 1840, in less than twelve months after their union; and in the same year his widow married the seventh Earl of Waldegrave, who was the younger, legitimate, brother of her first husband. [She married George Edward Waldegrave (born 8 Feb 1816) on 28 Sep 1840 in Edinburgh, Scotland.] This nobleman had succeeded to the peerage in his nineteenth year; and, both at Cambridge and in the metropolis, had acquired a most unenviable notoriety by riotous conduct in the public streets, beating policemen and other peaceable individuals, by feats of dangerous driving, and similar freaks of recklessness. The wild excesses of his lordship and his associates often appeared in the records of the London Police courts, and made his name as notorious a that of his disreputable companions and prototype, the Marquess of Waterford. The pecuniary difficulties in which he became involve, led to the disposal of his celebrated Villa or Strawberry Hill, with the whole of its valuable and interesting contents, which were sold by auction in 1842. That property had descended to him from Maria, Countess Dowager of Waldegrave and Duchess of Gloucester, daughter of Sir Edward Walpole, K.C.B. After exactly six years of married life, the Earl of Waldegrave died on the 29th of September, 1846, in the thirtieth year of his age.
Left with a handsome fortune, youth, and engaging manners, Lady Waldegrave married again, in September 1847, her third and present husband, George Granville Harcourt Esq., M.P., [born 17 Aug 1785 and died 19 Dec 1861] eldest son of the late Archbishop of York [Edward Vernon Harcourt born 10 Oct 1757 & died 5 Nov 1847] .
* Signora Storace was a noted character in the annals of the drama, and of gallantry, for many years. She was an accomplished singer and musician, as well as a very popular comic actress. Though she retained her maiden name, of Storace, till death, she was married, when in her teens, to Dr. Fischer , a famous German violinist, form whom she soon parted, and attached herself to Mr. Attwood, a composer; afterwards to Mr. Brian Barrett, a wax-chandler, who committed suicide; and, subsequently, she formed a more familiar and lengthened connection with Mr. Braham, with whom she lived for many hears. Early in their career they travelled to Italy, and to various other cites of the Continent performing at some of the most eminent theatres with unparalleled success. Older that her friend, she latterly became slovenly in habits, ordinary in person, and vulgar in manners, whence "the gallant, gay Lothario' was tempted to neglect her, and visit a Mrs. Wright, who lived in the vicinity of Tavistock Square, and whose personal attractions eclipsed those of the actress. These visits were so frequent that they become the topic of common remark and commentary. Mrs Wright had a husband, who deemed it advisable speculation to institute an action for crim. con. against Braham. There was but little difficulty to substantiate the case, and the jury pronounced a verdict for the plaintiff, with a large sum for damages. On this occasion, one of my witty friends (the late Edward Du Bois) penned the following Epigram, which was circulated extensively through the pages of contemporary periodicals:
"A Jew d'Esprit, -- in crim. con. see,
Lo! Braham's fate is such,
This Child of Song is only wrong
In loving Wright too much."

Title: The Auto-biography of John Britton
Publisher: Printed for the author, as presents to subscribers to "The Britton Testimonial"
Author(s): John Britton, T. E. Jones
Publication Date: 1850
pp. 177 - 179

John Britton - 1771–1857, English antiquary and topographer. The long list of his writings includes biographies, critical works on art and literature, and the descriptions of landscapes and buildings for which he is famous. The Beauties of Wiltshire (3 vol., 1801–25) was written with E. W. Brayley. The two friends wrote part of Beauties of England and Wales (18 vol., in 25, 1801–15), but because of difficulties with the publishers, they did not complete the series. Britton was influential in the movement to preserve ancient monuments. Source: anwers.com

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