Richard Cosway

Posted on March 8th, 2011 by

Richard Cosway –

Richard Cosway, a well known dandy, who appeared (at the opera) ‘full-dressed in this sword and bag with a small three cornered hat on the top of his powdered toupee and a mulberry silk coat profusely embroidered with scarlet strawberries.’

 In 1770 the Oxford Magazine reported:

 “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up among us.  It is called a Macaroni.  It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.”

 The most detested of the ‘Macaronis’  would later prove to be the miniaturist, Richard Cosway, husband of Thomas Jefferson’s, muse Maria (née Hadfield). He, it was darkly rumoured, had debauched his patron, the Prince of Wales. Cosway to his credit was responsible for the most exquisite portrait of the young prince, painted in 1780 – 2, now in the collection of the National Portrait Galley. The Prince ran some of the most lively musical salons at his ‘Pavilion’. There, the Regent’s ‘band’, played in the lavishly decorated Music Room. More refined music making took place in the  more restrained atmosphere of  the Music Room Gallery, next door. The Prince’s boisterous approach to music might not have been quite to everyone’s taste.  “The Regent sat in the Musick [sic]… room for hours beating his thighs the proper time for the band, and singing out loud…”

 The Comtesse de Boigne reported that the Prince “usually sat between two Ambassador’s wives, and at an evening party he was usually seated on a sofa with Lady Hertford on one side and an Ambassador’s wife on the other.”

 Haydn reported that the Prince was somewhat more sensitive to music, than the impression given by the Comtesse:

  “The Prince of Wales is the most handsome man on God’s earth.  He has an extraordinary love of music and a lot of feeling but not much money…he played with us on his violoncello quite tolerably.”

 Visiting an artist’s studio was a fashionable activity. Fanny Burney recalled visited Cosway’s studio with her friend Mrs Fitzgerald, ‘to see her little girl’s picture. I saw also some sweet things there, especially a miniature of the Duchess of Rutland that is Beauty itself.’

 Richard Cosway was buried on 12th July 1821: ‘The Body, in a hearse drawn by six beautiful horses, was followed by five coaches and four.’ ‘Soane, Westmacott and Ward, all R.A.s attended. Lawrence sent his carriage.’ ‘Samuel Wesley played the Dead March in Saul’. Maria commissioned Richard Westmacott to sculpt a memorial for the North Wall of Hardwicke’s new St Marylebone Church, which had only been completed four years earlier.

 The community which Richard Cosway elected to join in death was a cosmopolitan one. Marylebone was where the émigrés of bon ton (‘better sort’) were drawn, where they socialised at the Rose of Normandy. The poorer sort was reduced to the grime of Southwark. Naturally, the French community sited itself as far as possible from the Huguenots of Spitalfields and the East End, divided from them by status, and more importantly, by religion.  They were buried in their thousands, alongside the Wesley family and Stephen Storace, in the cemetery just south of the church of St Marylebone. These would include, in 1824, Marie Antoinette’s violinist, Giovanni Battista Viotti.

 Many of the French sent their children to Kensington House, a Jesuit School where, as Richard Lalor Sheil an Irish Catholic playwright noted, “I did not hear a word of English, and at once perceived that I was as much among Frenchmen as if I had been suddenly transferred to a Parisian College.”

Dress in 18th Century Europe, Aileen Ribero, Yale, P.181

Oxford Magazine, June 1770, Quoted in: Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Foreman, Harper Collins, London 1998, P.57

 Letter: Thos.   Jefferson to Maria Cosway, New York, June 23rd, 1790.   Quoted in “Jefferson in Love”, Ed.   John P. Kaminski, Madison House, Madison , 1999, P.11

P.   158, Denise Yi,.   T.   Creevey (1970), The Creevey Papers, ed.   J Gore, Folio Society, London P.   89

Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne , ed.   Anka Muhlstein, Helen Marx, New York 2003, Vol.   II, P.10

Music and the Monarchy, R.   Mackwoth – Young.   , Quoted in  On Wings of Song,  Wilfred Blunt, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1974, P.223

Richard and Maria Cosway-a biography, Gerald Barnett, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge 95, P.63

 Richard and Maria Cosway-a biography, Gerald Barnett, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge 1995, P.191

That Sweet Enemy, Robert and Isabelle Tombs, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, P213