Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4

Thornbury, Walter
1872-78

May Fair.

May Fair.

 

The morals of May Fair.

 

This spot, which embraces in its somewhat vague and undefined area the present , , and and gardens, took its name, in the days of Edward I., from an annual fair, which that king privileged the hospital of St. James's to keep

on the eve of St. James', the day, and the morrow, and

four

days following,

as has already been stated in our account of . Pepys speaks of it as St. James's Fair, a name which expresses it geographically with sufficient accuracy, at a time when all to the north and west of St. James's Hospital was an open field.

The following amusing notice of

the Fair in St. James's

is quoted from Mackyn's Diary by Mr. Frost, in his

Old Showmen of London,

as the earliest on record :--

The xxv. day of June [

1560

]. Saint James's fayer by

Westminster

was so great that a man could not have a pygg for money; and the bear wiffes had nether meate nor drink before iiij. of cloke in the same day. And the chese went very well away for

1d.

q. the pounde. Besides the great and mighti armie of beggares and bandes that were there.

Beyond the fact that it was postponed for a few weeks or months in , on account of the plague, nothing more is recorded concerning this fair till , in which year, Mr. Frost tells us,

it was suppressed, as considered to tend rather to the advantage of looseness and irregularity, than to the substantial promotion of any good, common and beneficial to the people.

It is to be hoped that the bad character of the fair, as given by the somewhat later, in

p.346

the reign of Queen Anne, is a little exaggerated. The editor writes:--

Oh! the piety of some people about the Queen, who can suffer things of this nature to go undiscovered to her Majesty, and consequently unpunished! Can any rational men imagine that her Majesty would permit so much lewdness as is committed at May Fair, for so many days together, so near to her royal palace, if she knew anything of the matter? I don't believe the patent for that fair allows the patentees the liberty of setting up the devil's shops and exposing his merchandise for sale.

As to the precise nature, however, of this diabolic ware and

merchandise

he does not enlighten us in detail.

According to Mr. Frost, in his work quoted above,

May Fair

did not assume any importance till about the year , when the multiplication of shows of all kinds caused it to enlarge its sphere of attractions.

It was held,

he writes,

on the north side of

Piccadilly

, in

Shepherd's Market

, Shepherd's Court,

White Horse Street

,

Sun Court

, Market Court, and on the open space westwards,

Chapel Street

and

Hertford Street

, as far as Tyburn (now

Park) Lane

. The ground-floor of the Market House, usually occupied by butchers' stalls, was appropriated during the fair to the sale of toys and gingerbread, and the upper portion was converted into a theatre. The open space westwards was covered with the booths of jugglers, fencers, and boxers, the stands of mountebanks, swings, roundabouts, &c.; while the sides of the streets were occupied by sausage-stalls and gambling-tables. The

first

-floor windows were also, in some instances, made to serve as the proscenia of puppet-shows.

I have been able to trace,

he adds,

only

two

shows to this fair in

1702

, namely, Barnes and Finley's, and Miller's, which stood opposite to the former, and presented

an excellent droll called Crispin and Crispianus, or a shoe-maker a prince, with the best machines, singing, and dancing ever yet in the fair.

The fair, on this occasion, drew together a large concourse of persons, and an attempt to exclude some young women of light character resulted in a riot. The young women, arrested for the purpose of being turned out, were rescued by some soldiers; a conflict ensued, other constables came up, and the

rough

element, of course, took part with the accused women. In the end constable was killed and others seriously injured. The man who actually dealt the fatal blow to the unfortunate constable managed to escape; but a butcher who had been active in the affray, was tried for his part in the affair, convicted, and hung at Tyburn. This tragical occurrence helped, no doubt, to bring the fair itself into discredit, especially among the respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood of .

Pennant, who remembered the last

May Fair,

describes the locality as

covered with booths, temporary theatres, and every enticement to low pleasure.

A more minute description of the scene, evidently drawn from the life, is given by an antiquary named Carter, in the for .

A mountebank's stage,

this person tells us,

was erected opposite the

Three Jolly Butchers

public-house, on the eastern side of the market area, now the

King's Arms.

Here Woodward, the inimitable comedian and harlequin, made his

first

appearance as

Merry Andrew;

from these humble boards he soon after made his way to those of

Covent Garden Theatre

. Then there was a

beheading of puppets,

in a coal-shed attached to a grocer's shop (then Mr. Frith's, now Mr. Frampton's).

One

of these mock executions was exposed to the attending crowd. A shutter was fixed horizontally, on the edge of which, after many previous ceremonies, a puppet was made to lay its head, and another puppet instantly chopped it off with an axe. In a circular staircase-window, at the north end of

Sun Court

, a similar performance by another set of puppets took place. In these representations the late punishment of the Scottish chieftain, Lord Lovat, was again brought forward, in order to gratify the feelings of southern loyalty at the expense of that further north.

After the Scottish rebellion of

1745

,

writes Chambers, in his

Book of Days,

the beheading of puppets formed

one

of the most regular and attractive parts of the exhibitions at the

May Fair,

and was continued for several years. The last great proprietor of such puppet-shows was a man named Flockton, whose puppets were in the height of their glory about

1790

, and who retired soon after on a handsome competence.

A puppet-show, we may add, under the name of the Marionettes, was revived at St. James's Hall about the year .

At these annual gatherings in May Fair, too, was to be seen

Tiddy Dol,

the eccentric vendor of gingerbread, whom we have mentioned in our account of the , and who figures in Hogarth's well-known picture of the

Idle Apprentice

at Tyburn, where he, in his ornamental dress, is seen in the crowd holding up a gingerbread cake in his hand and addressing the mob. Here, too, was to be seen a Frenchman, whose name has passed away, who submitted to the curious his wife's powers of physical endurance. Fragile and delicate as she appeared, she would (so it was

p.347

stated) raise from the floor a blacksmith's anvil by the hair of her head, which she twisted round it; and then, lying down, she would have the anvil placed on her bosom, while a horse-shoe was forged upon it with the same heavy blows which may be heard and seen in a blacksmith's shop.

In

Malcolm's Anecdotes

(vol. ii.) is preserved an advertisement of this fair from of the London papers of the time :--

In Brookfield market-place, at the east corner of

Hyde Park

, is a fair to be kept for the space of

sixteen

days, beginning with the

1st of May

; the

first

three

days for live cattle and leather, with the same entertainments as at Bartholomew Fair, where there are shops to be let, ready built, for all manner of tradesmen that usually keep fairs, and so to continue yearly at the same place.

May Fair, which had long been falling into disrepute, ceased to be held in the reign of George I. It was

presented by the grand jury of Middlesex for

four

years successively as a public scandal; and the county magistrates then presented an address to the Crown, praying for its suppression by royal proclamation.

Its abolition was brought about mainly through the influence of the Earl of Coventry, to whose house in it was an annual nuisance.

In , as we learn from the of in that year,

the ground upon which the May Fair formerly was held is marked out for a large square, and several fine streets and houses are to be built upon it.

The idea of a

square,

however, was never realised.

In recording the downfall of May Fair and of its doings, the announces that

Mrs. Saraband, so famous for her ingenious puppet-show, has set up a shop in the Exchange, where she sells her little troop under the name of jointed babies.

The fashionable locality now known as May Fair, in the days of George I. and George II., however, enjoyed, on other grounds than that of the annual fair, a celebrity almost unique, and rivalled only by the , of which we have already spoken. Here was a chapel for the celebration of private and secret marriages, which stood within a few yards of the present chapel in . It was presided over by a clergyman, Dr. George Keith, who advertised his business in the daily newspapers, and, in the words of Horace Walpole, made

a very bishopric of revenue.

This worthy parson having contrived for a long time to defy the Bishop of London and the authorities of Church and State, was at length excommunicated for

contempt

of the Church of which he was a minister; but he was impudent enough to turn the tables upon his superior, and to hurl a sentence of excommunication at the head of his bishop, Dr. Gibson, and the judge of the Ecclesiastical Court. Keith was sent to prison, where he remained for several years. His

shop,

however, as he called it, continued to flourish under his curates, who acted as

shopmen;

and the public was kept daily apprised of its situation and its tariff, as witness the following advertisement in the of :

To prevent mistakes, the little new chapel in May Fair, near

Hyde Park corner

, is in the corner house, opposite to the city side of the great chapel, and within

ten

yards of it, and the minister and clerk live in the same corner house where the little chapel is; and the licence on a crown stamp, minister and clerk's fees, together with the certificate, amount to

one

guinea, as heretofore, at any hour till

four

in the afternoon. And that it may be the better known, there is a porch at the door like a country church porch.

But the rank and fashion of May Fair did not care whether the fees demanded were high or low, provided they could get the marriage ceremony performed secretly and expeditiously, yet legally.

Sometimes,

writes Charles Knight, in

Once upon a Time,

a petticoat without a hoop was led by a bag-wig and sword to the May Fair altar, after other solicitations had been tried in vain.

As an instance of the way in which this marriage, not , worked in West-end society, let us take the following sketch from Horace Walpole in his best style :--

Did you know a young fellow that was named

Handsome Tracy?

He was walking in the Park with some of his acquaintance, and overtook

three

girls;

one

was very pretty. They followed them; but the girls ran away; and the company grew tired of pursuing them, all but Tracy. He followed them to

Whitehall

Gate, where he gave a porter a crown to dog them. The porter hunted them, and he the porter. The girls ran all round

Westminster

, and back to the

Haymarket

, where the porter came up with them. He told the pretty

one

that she must go with him, and kept her talking till Tracy arrived, quite out of breath, and exceedingly in love. He insisted on knowing where she lived, which she refused to tell him; and after much disputing, went to the house of

one

of her companions, and Tracy with them. He there made her discover her family, a butter-woman in

Craven Street

, and engaged her to meet him next morning in the Park; but before night he wrote her

four

love-letters, and in the last offered to give

two

hundred pounds

a year and a

hundred

a year to Signora la Madre. Griselda made a confidence to a staymaker's wife, who told her that the swain was certainly in love enough to marry her, if she could determine to be virtuous, and to refuse his offers.

Ay,

says she;

but suppose I should, and should lose him by it?

However, the measures of the cabinet council were decided for virtue; and when she met Tracy next morning in the Park, she was convoyed by her sister and brother-in-law, and stuck close to the letter of her reputation. She would do nothing; she would go nowhere. At last, as an instance of prodigious compliance, she told him that if he would accept such a dinner as a butterman's daughter could give him, he should be welcome. So away they walked to

Craven Street

; the mother borrowed some silver to buy a leg of mutton, and kept the eager lover drinking till

twelve

o'clock at night, when a chosen committee accompanied the faithful pair to the minister of May Fair. The doctor was in bed, and swore he would not get up to marry the king, but added that he had a brother over the way who perhaps would, and who did marry them.

It is to be hoped that the union, thus hastily and thoughtlessly
concocted and cemented, turned out a happy afterwards.

But the butterman's daughter was far from being the only person who found her way through this little chapel into the matrimonial

ship of fools.

Everybody has heard of the Miss Gunnings, whose beauty and attractions set the West-end in a perfect flame in the reign of George II., the eldest of whom was married to the Earl of Coventry. of these young ladies here went through the marriage ceremony, which gave her the coronet of a duchess. Horace Walpole thus records the fact in his gossiping letters, under date :--

The event that has made the most noise since my last is the extempore marriage of the youngest of the Miss Gunnings, who have made so vehement a noise of late. About a fortnight since, at an immense assembly at my Lord Chesterfield's, made to show the house, which is really most magnificent, the Duke of Hamilton made violent love at

one

end of the room while he was playing faro at the other; that is, he saw neither the bank, nor his own cards, which were of

three hundred pounds

each; he soon lost a

thousand

....

Two

nights afterwards he found

himself so impatient, he sent for a parson. The doctor refused to perform the ceremony without license or ring, so the duke swore he would send for the archbishop. At last they were married with a ring off the bed-curtain at half an hour after

twelve

at night, at the May Fair Chapel.

At last even the people of rank and

quality,

the inhabitants of May Fair, grew frightened at their own practices; and, as a consequence, an Act was passed forbidding clandestine marriages. On the day previous to its coming into operation no less than marriages were registered here. The Act itself was passed in the previous year, though its operation was delayed till Lady-day, . During this period of suspense, Walpole writes to Montague:--

The Duchess of Argyll harangues against the marriage bill not taking place (i.e., effect) immediately, and is persuaded that all the girls will go off before next Ladyday.

Among the registers of , , are dingy volumes, marked

A,

B,

and

C,

respectively, containing such records as exist of about marriages which were performed by the Rev. Mr. Keith and other clergymen
in the little chapel here. The entries in these volumes extend over nearly years; and there is a duplicate set in the Bishop of London's registry covering, probably, a somewhat larger period.

Dr. Keith himself was a clergyman from the north of the Tweed, but he had been driven from Scotland on account of his attachment to Episcopacy. He had set up a marriage office in the , but had been forced to abandon it. He found, however, a better opening here, and a richer class of customers. It is said that, in morning during the Whitsun holidays, he tied up in the silken bonds of matrimony a greater number of loving couples than had been married at any churches within the

bills of mortality.

But this surely must have been an exaggeration.

While in prison, Keith seems to have had a keen eye to business. During his incarceration his wife died, and he kept her corpse embalmed and unburied for many months, and by that means ingeniously contrived to turn the circumstance into an advertisement of his trade. At all events, here is a record of his proceedings taken from the of :--

We are in

formed that Mrs. Keith's corpse was removed from her husband's house in May Fair the middle of October last, to an apothecary's in

South Audley Street

, where she lies in a room hung with mourning, and is to continue there till Mr. Keith can attend the funeral. The way to Mr. Keith's chapel is through

Piccadilly

, by the end of

St. James's Street

, and down

Clarges Street

, and turn on the left hand.

Then follows the announcement that the marriages are still carried on as usual by

another regular clergyman,

as quoted above.

In the for , are the following witty and satirical remarks of the then recent Act for preventing clandestine marriages, and its effects on Keith's chapel:--

I received a scheme from my good friend Mr. Keith, whose chapel the late Marriage Act has rendered useless on its original principles. The reverend gentleman, seeing that all husbands and wives are henceforth to be put up on sale, proposes shortly to open his chapel on a new and more fashionable plan. As the ingenious Messrs. Henson and Bever have lately opened, in different quarters of the town, repositories for all horses to be sold by auction, Mr. Keith intends setting up a repository for all young males and females to be disposed of in marriage. From these studs (as the Doctor himself expresses it) a lady of beauty may be coupled to a man of fortune, and an old gentleman who has a colt's tooth remaining may match himself with a tight young filly. The doctor makes no doubt but his chapel will turn out even more to his advantage on this new plan than on its

first

institution, provided he can secure his scheme to himself, and reap the benefits of it without interlopers from the

fleet (sic

). To prevent his design being pirated, he intends petitioning the Parliament that, as he has been so great a sufferer by the new Marriage Act, the sole right of opening a repository of this sort may be vested in him, and this, his place of residence in May Fair, may still continue the grant for marriages.

Here follows a

Catalogue of Males and Females to be disposed of in Marriage to the best bidder, at Mr. Keith's Repository, in May Fair:

The concluding announcement in the article is as follows:

The following extracts, taken at random from the register-books at , above mentioned, will serve to show that the private marriages celebrated in Dr. Keith's little chapel were not confined to the lower or rougher element, but were often taken advantage of by the

upper

ten thousand

:

--

1748

,

March 23

.- Hon. George Carpenter and Frances Clifton.

1749

,

September 14

.-William, Earl of Kensington, and Rachel Hill, Hempstead.

1751

,

May 25

.-Henry Trelawney, Esq., and Mary Dormer,

St. Margaret's

.

1751

,

July 21

.-Edward Wortley Montagu and Elizabeth Ashe,

St. Martin's

Fields.

1752

,

June 30

.-Bysshe Shelley and Mary Catherine Michell, Horsham.

1751

,

May 25

.-Hon. Sewallis Shirley and Margaret, Countess of Oxford.

1753

,

March 15

.-James Stewart Stewart, Esq., and Catherine Holoway, of

St. Matthew's

,

Friday Street

.

1752

,

February 14

.-James, Duke of Hamilton, and Elizabeth Gunning.

Of the lady whose name is contained in the lastmentioned entry we have already spoken. We may add, however, that she was the of fair sisters, of Irish extraction, without fortune, but closely related to the baronet of the same name. Miss Elizabeth Gunning was not content with a single dukedom, for, after the death of the Duke of Hamilton, she married John, Duke of Argyll, and was eventually created a peeress of Great Britain in her own right, as Baroness Sundridge and Hamilton. The last time she appeared at any public assembly was at a pic-nic ball at Marseilles, during a months' sojourn of the family in France in . With reference to that event, a writer of that period observes:

I had the honour of dining with them that day, and the duchess, as soon as possible, retired from the company to dress. She came down to coffee in all her splendour; every

one

was struck with astonishment; and I could not refrain from saying that I thought her Grace really looked as well as when I

first

saw her in the courtroom in England as Duchess of Hamilton. The

duke, with a smile, replied,

Less aided then, perhaps, than now, sir.

Her Grace could not but be apprised of the wonder that was excited, and the Lieutenant of Police, rather too loudly, exclaimed,

I have never seen any one so completely beautiful before.

Her elder sister, Maria, was the wife of George William, Earl of Coventry, and lived close by, in .

The marriages at May Fair Chapel, if not quite so loosely conducted as they were at the Fleet, were at least attended with the same evils, and afforded the same facilities for the accomplishment of forced and fraudulent unions. For instance, marriages could be antedated without limit, on payment of a fee, or not entered at all. Parties could be married without declaring their names. It was a common practice for women to hire temporary husbands at the Fleet, in order that they might be able to plead coverture to an action for debt, or to produce a certificate in case of their being . These hired husbands were provided by the parson for each; sometimes they were women. It appears that, for half-a-guinea, a marriage might be registered and certified that never took place. The marriage of the Hon. H. Fox, son of the Lord Holland, to the daughter of the Duke of Richmond, at the Fleet, in , and the increase of these irregular practices, led to the introduction of the Marriage Act. The interval between the passing of the bill and its coming into operation, as we have stated, afforded a rich harvest to the parsons of the Fleet and May Fair. In registerbook there are entered marriages which took place at the Fleet on the , the day previous to the Act coming into force. Clandestine marriages continued at the Savoy till , when a minister and his curate being transported, an effectual stop was put to them.

To return once more to Dr. Keith, we may add that, in spite of being a person of loose morals, and frequently performing the marriage service in a state of intoxication, he published at least religious treatise-

The Guide; or, the Christian Pathway to Everlasting Life.

He lived to be nearly , and died in .

was so named from the ground landlord, George Augustus Curzon, Viscount Howe, ancestor of the present Earl Howe. In this street, in , died at No. , at the age of , Miss Mary Berry, of the Misses Berry who enjoyed for so many years the friendship of Horace Walpole; and, indeed, the lady to whom, when late in life he succeeded to the earldom of Orford, he made an offer of his hand and his coronet. She and her younger sister, Agnes, were the daughters of a Yorkshire gentleman, Mr. Robert Berry, who lived in , as already stated in our last chapter. Walpole met them when on a visit at Wentworth Castle, in Yorkshire, and the friendship there made proved a lasting .

The young ladies,

says Mr. Robert Chambers, in his

Book of Days,

afterwards took up their abode at Twickenham, in the immediate neighbourhood of Strawberry Hill, with whose master a constant interchange of visits and other friendly offices was maintained. Horace Walpole used playfully to call them his

two wives,

corresponded with them frequently, told them many stories of his early life, and what he had seen and heard, and was induced by these friends, who used to take notes of his communications, to give to the world his

Reminiscences of the Courts of George I. and II.

On Walpole's death, the Misses Berry were left his literary executors, with the charge of collecting and publishing his writings. This task was accomplished by Mr. Berry, under whose superintendence an edition of Walpole's works was published, in

five

quarto volumes. He died, a very old man, in

1817

; and his daughters, for nearly

forty

years afterwards, continued to assemble around them all the literary and fashionable celebrities of London. Agnes, the younger sister, pre-deceased Miss Berry by about a year and a half. Miss Berry was an authoress, and published a collection of

Miscellanies

in

1844

. She also edited about

sixty

letters, addressed to herself and her sister by Horace Walpole, and came chivalrously forward to vindicate his character against the sarcasm and aspersions of Lord Macaulay in the

Edinburgh Review

.

The following epigram on the Misses Berry was written by Horace Walpole, on their paying a visit to his printing-press at Strawberry Hill, soon after their return from a visit to Italy and a stay at Rome:--

To Mary's lips has ancient Rome Her purest language taught; And from the modern city home Agnes its pencil brought.

Rome's ancient Horace sweetly shouts, Such maids with lyric fire; Albion's old Horace sings nor paints- He only can admire.

Still would his griefs their fame record, So amiable the pair is; But ah! how vain to think his word Can add a straw to Berry's.

[extra_illustrations.4.352.1] , the Court physician, during his long reign of successful practice, lived for many years in this street, as also did the Princess Sophia

p.352

Matilda of Gloucester.. The name of Madame Vestris also appears as the occupier of No. , in the year . Here, too, Tobias Smollett was living, in -rate lodgings, when he heard the news of the victory of Culloden.

Mr. Peter Cunningham enumerates, as residents of this street, Pope's Lord Marchmont, and Richard Stonehewer, the friend and correspondent of the poet Gray, at No. . In , Francis Chantrey was living in this street, before his marriage, while beginning to make his name famous as a sculptor. Whilst here, he received his great order, from Mr. Alexander, the architect. It was for colossal busts of Howe, St. Vincent, Duncan, and Nelson, for the Trinity House, with duplicates for the Royal Naval Asylum at Greenwich. He had already occupied rooms in , close by, where we find him in , when he sent his work for exhibition to the Royal Academy, of which he afterwards became so leading a member.

In the large house on the north side of the street, enclosed in its own grounds, and embowered in a grove of plane-trees, nearly opposite Curzon Chapel, lived Lord Wharncliffe, the great-grandson of Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, and editor of her works. The house is still the property of his descendants. Curzon Chapel--a chapel of easeis a large, dull, brick building, on the south side; and it stands within a few yards of the spot whereon Dr. Keith's unlicensed chapel formerly flourished.

Hertford Street--a somewhat dull and heavy thoroughfare, running parallel with on its south side, and crossing the top of , which it connects with Park Lane--has long been of the most fashionable thoroughfares in this aristocratic neighbourhood, and is often mentioned as typical of the height of fashion in the days of William IV. and the early part of the reign of Queen Victoria.

In No. lived Dr. Jenner, for a few years, from , a man sadly in advance of his age, as may be inferred from the fact that, in spite of his wonderful discovery of vaccination, which arrested the ravages of the small-pox, he was unable to make a good professional connection at the West-end, and returned to Gloucestershire in disgust. His merits have been somewhat tardily acknowledged by the erection of a statue. The Earl of Liverpool, father of the prime minister, died here in . At No. lived, in the last century, Lord Sandwich, famous for his musical parties: the house was afterwards inhabited by General John Burgoyne, the unsuccessful hero of the American War; and subsequently, for a short time, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. At No. was living, in , Mr. H. B. Trelawny, Lord Byron's companion in his last expedition to Greece, and in whose arms the poet breathed his last. In this street resided the late Sir Charles Locock, Bart., the eminent physician-accoucheur to Her Majesty, who died in ; and that consummate lawyer and accomplished scholar, Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice of England.

But is rich also in its past memories of quite another kind. As nearly as possible on its site there stood, a couple of centuries ago, a public-house, with gardens attached, called

The Dog and Duck,

from the diversion of duckhunting by spaniels which was carried on there. The fun was to watch the duck dive in order to escape from the dog's jaws; and it was quite a fashionable sport in the suburbs of London till the early part of the present century, when it was superseded by pigeon-shooting. Mr. Larwood, in his

History of Sign-boards,

describes it as an oldfashioned wooden house, extensively patronised by the butchers, and other rough characters, during the

May Fair

time. The pond in which the sport took place was situated behind the house, and, for the benefit of the spectators, was boarded round to the height of the knee, in order to preserve the over-excited spectators from involuntary immersions. The pond, he adds,

was surrounded by a gravel walk, shaded by willow-trees.

In the immediate neighbourhood of Curzon and Hertford Streets are a number of small and dingy streets and lanes, the names of which help to perpetuate the market formerly held here, such as , [extra_illustrations.4.352.2] , and Shepherd's Street. But this market, rural as the name may sound, is not so called from any pastoral associations, but from a certain Mr. Shepherd, or Sheppard, to whom once belonged the ground on which the

May Fair

was held. We fear, therefore, that all poetical thoughts of shepherds and shepherdesses going there a-Maying must be dismissed as baseless fictions. In , an insignificant thoroughfare between and , there was a riding-school; and in this street lived the noted

Kitty Fisher.

Seamore Place is the name of a .row of handsome but somewhat old-fashioned mansions, which occupy a sort of at the western end of . They are only in number, and their chief fronts look westward over . In of them, [extra_illustrations.4.353.1] , with her daughter and her son-in-law, Count D'Orsay, re. sided during a part of her widowhood, from about

p.353

to , surrounded by all the fashionable butterflies of the world of , whose admiration she so much courted. Whilst living here, too, she followed her bent by penning and sending some of her best known contributions to the literature of the day. We shall have to speak of her career hereafter, when we come to Gore House, between and Kensington. Here, too, at time, resided Lord Normanton.

, which runs out of northwards to , was so called out of compliment to the great, or rather the polite, Lord Chesterfield, whose grounds it bounded on the east. In this street lived

Beau

Brummell for some years, after his retirement from the army, and while he still basked in the sunshine of royal favour among the circle of the Prince of Wales at Carlton House. Here, consequently, the Prince would frequently come of a morning in order to see the

Beau

make his toilette, and to learn the art of tying his neckerchief. And here the Prince would continue to sit so late into the evening that he would send his horses home from the door, and insist on taking a quiet chop or steak with his host, but with no intention of returning home till he was half-seas over, and the streaks of early morning were appearing in the sky.

Here, too, was living, in , the gallant admiral, the Earl of Dundonald, formerly known as Lord Cochrane, when his name was formally restored to his rank in the navy and to the roll of the Knights of the Order of the Bath, by an order of the Queen in Council; and from this street he dated his letter of thanks to Mr. Douglas Jerrold for having advertised that tardy act of justice in the public press.

At No. in this street lived that amiable, talented, and eccentric personage, Mr. J. W. Ward, afterwards Mr. Canning's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and eventually known as Lord Dudley; and No. was for many years the residence of Sir Robert Adair, the distinguished diplomatist. He died here in . In this street, too, at No. , has lived, for upwards of years, the Hon. Mrs. Norton, the poetess. By birth a Miss Caroline Sheridan, of beautiful grand-daughters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, in early life she married the Hon. George C. Norton, a brother of the late Lord Grantley. She contributed to the annuals from a date prior to her marriage, and is known to the world as the authoress of several poems, which have taken a high stand in English literature, among which should be mentioned

The Undying

One

,

based on the legend of the Wandering Jew,

The Child of the Islands,

The Dream,

and the

Lady of La Garaye.

The next turning on the east of is , where the ever youthful widow of the last Viscount Saye and Sele died in , at the age of , a lady about as celebrated as Queen Elizabeth for her fondness for dancing, in which she indulged almost to the last week of her long life. She was supposed to be the original of the Viscountess delineated in Hogarth's print of the

Five

Orders of Periwigs, Coronets, &c.

It may be added that here, too, Lord John Russell was living in , whilst M.P, for South Devon and for Stroud.

, to which we now turn, stands at the junction of South Audley and Curzon Streets, and was built on ground belonging to Curzon, Earl Howe, by Isaac Ware, the same who edited

Palladio

for Philip, Earl of Chesterfield. From of Lord Chesterfield's

Letters to his Son,

dated

March 31

, O.S.,

1749

, Hotel Chesterfield,

and from a quotation in No. of the , we get a fair account of the house when newly built. In the former his lordship writes:

I have yet finished nothing but my

boudoir

and my library; the former is the gayest and most cheerful room in England; the latter the best. My garden is now turfed, planted, and sown, and will, in

two

months more, make a scene of verdure and flowers not common in London.

The writer in the says:

In the magnificent mansion which the earl erected in

Audley Street

you may still see his favourite apartments, furnished and decorated as he left them-among the rest, what he boasted of as

the finest room in London,

and, perhaps, even now it remains unsurpassed, his spacious and beautiful library looking on the finest private garden in London. The walls are covered half-way up with rich and classical stores of literature; above the cases are in close series the portraits of eminent authors, French and English, with most of whom he had conversed; over these, and immediately under the massive cornice, extend all round, in foot-long capitals, the Horatian lines-

Nunc. veterum . libris. nunc. somno. et. inertibus. horis :. ducere. solicitae . jvcunda. oblivia. vitae.

On the mantelpieces and cabinets stand busts of old orators, interspersed with voluptuous vases and bronzes, antique or Italian, and airy statuettes, in marble or alabaster, of nude or semi-nude opera nymphs.

The columns of the screen facing the court-yard, and also the spacious marble staircase,

p.354

were brought from Canons, near Edgware, the mansion of the

princely

Duke of Chandos, which was pulled down in the year , and the costly materials dispersed by auction. Among the historic relics which found a place here was a lantern of copper gilt, for eighteen candles, which was bought at the sale at Houghton, Sir Robert Walpole's seat. An amusing story is told with reference to the portraits of Lord Chesterfield's ancestors, which hung upon the walls of the library. As a piece of satire on the boast of ancestry so common at that time in great families, his lordship, it is said, placed among these portraits old heads, which he inscribed

Adam de Stanhope

and

Eve de Stanhope.

Surely no could beat that.

 

In this splendid mansion was-or, rather, so it was reported-doomed to be abolished; but it was purchased by a City merchant, Mr. Charles Magniac. Although it is no longer inhabited by the family of the noble earl whose name it bears, its walls still remain, and doubtless its interior is but little altered in its general appearance from what it was in the above year, when the following description was written :--

The house itself has many fine points, and in others, it must be owned, it is slightly disappointing. Passing from the porter's lodge across a noble court paved with stones, and entering the hall, the visitor cannot fail to be struck by the grand marble staircase, up and down which the great Chandos must have walked when it stood beneath his own palatial roof at Canons. And, apart from historical traditions, it is really a staircase for ideas to mount, especially when one is met on its first landing, not only by busts of Pitt and Fox, but by a lofty clock, apparently of antique French construction, and which looks as though it had, at some time or other, chimed out the hours at Versailles, long ere gay courtiers there perceived the shadow of the scaffold cast by the coming event of the Great Revolution.

Entering the music-room by means of this same staircase, we confess to some sense of disappointment. Not, of course, that we had expected to be greeted by any harmony of sweet sounds, any music from the spheres, but that the symbolism of decoration on the walls, on the ceiling, and the mantelpiece, might, on the whole, have been more graceful and more appropriate than it is, considering that The Earl Of Chesterfield. the two fiddles in bas-relief, gilt and crossed one over the other, are scarcely to be compared in appearance with harps, lyres, &c., the usual metaphorical tributes to the Muse of Melody, the Muse of Apollo, to Orpheus, and to Sappho; and that one is more reminded of the violinists who played prominent parts at the Court of France in the reign of Louis XIV., and at the beginning of that of Louis XV., than of the divine origin of music itself, which such a room ought to suggest. More pleasingly reminded, however, of that same Court is the visitor on descending to the receptionrooms on the lower floor, and entering the drawingroom, which is especially called the French room. There not only do the panelling of the walls, and the construction of the various pieces of furniture transport one back to the glories of the ancient regime of the time when Chesterfield enjoyed its society, but the looking-glasses, one over the fireplace and another facing it, appear as though they had mirrored that society, and not only mirrored but multiplied it; for these looking-glasses, being severally formed of various panels, fit, mosaic-like, one into another, and the divisions of these panels being ornamented by wreaths of painted flowers, &c., the beholder is reproduced again and again, and, in many a fantastic multiform, may judge of himself under various, not to say versatile, aspects.

In one of the apartments-another drawingroom, to which this French salon leads-hangs a large chandelier, formed of pendent crystal, which once belonged to Napoleon I. Historically, this chandelier is so luminous in interest that it requires a narrative to itself; but the effect of it is somewhat heavy, owing to the large size of the crystal drops.

The mantel-shelf in this room is classically beautiful; and amongst the pictures on the walls is a fine copy of Titian's Venus, the original of which--if we remember aright-hangs in the Uffizii Gallery at Florence. But, perhaps, the most interesting apartment in the whole house is the library. There, where Lord Chesterfield used to sit and write, still stand the books which it is only fair to suppose that he read-books of wide-world and enduring interest, and which stand in goodly array, one row above another, by hundreds. In another room, not far from the library, one seems to gain an idea of the noble letter-writer's daily life, for we can still see its ante-chamber, in which the aspirants for his lordship's favour were sometimes kept waitingThe room is immortalised in Mr. E. M. Ward's picture, Dr. Johnson in the Ante-room of Lord Chesterfield. In this picture the Canons staircase is well shown in the back-ground.-aspirants to favour who afterwards, in various ways, achieved fame for transcending that of their then patron. On the garden-front outside is a stone or marble terrace, overlooking the large lawn, stretching out in lawn and flower-beds behind the house. Upon this terrace Chesterfield, doubtless, often walked, snuff-box in hand, and in company with some choice friends-let us say from France --friends with whom he might gossip on matters connected with the courts, and camps, and cabinets of his day.

The old earl, it would seem, was fond of the repose which his garden and court-yard afforded; for the late Earl of Essex, who died in , the husband of Kitty Stephens, used to say that he remembered, as a boy, seeing the courtly old earl sitting on a rustic seat in front of his mansion, and basking in the sun.

is of the few private houses in London which M. Grossley, in his

Tour to London,

allows to be equal to the hotels of the nobility in Paris. After it was sold to Mr. Magniac, as above stated, that gentleman considerably curtailed the grounds in the rear, and erected a row of handsome buildings overlooking , to which has been given the name of .

Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, was the son of Philip, Earl, and of Lady Elizabeth Savile, daughter of the Marchioness of Halifax. His grandmother superintended his education till his eighteenth year, when he went to Cambridge. After his university career he spent a few years in foreign travel, mixing freely with the best society of the chief Continental towns, and at the Hague, adding to his many accomplishments the pernicious vice of gaming. While at Paris he received his final polish under the tuition of the beauties of that place, and, no doubt, gained much of the experience which forms the ground-work of the advice, which he afterwards transcribed in his

Letters

for the very questionable benefit of his son.

Before the death of his father, he sat in the as representative of Cornish boroughs, St. Germains and Lostwithiel, and became a distinguished speaker; and after his accession to the title, in , and his consequent removal to the Upper House, he soon obtained some slight celebrity as an orator. His Court favour varied greatly. During the life of George I., he was appointed Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the Prince of Wales; but on that prince's accession as George II., he was greatly disappointed by the absence of that royal favour which he conceived he had a right to expect. He was, however, in the following year appointed Ambassador to Holland, where he greatly distinguished himself by his diplomatic talent; and it was at the expiration of his years of service there that, on his return to England, he was appointed Lord Steward of the Household; but having joined a strong opposition against Walpole, and incurring the decided enmity of the king, he was dismissed from this situation with marks of strong resentment. There are various stories as to the radical cause of the king's dislike to the brilliant statesman, but probably any of them would have been sufficient to create, at the least, a decided coldness. Archdeacon Coxe's version of it is confirmed by Walpole, who was concerned in it, in his memoir of George II.; but there is a discrepancy as to dates, and a tone of improbability about some of the details, which throw more than a shadow of

p.357

doubt over the whole. Briefly, it runs to the following effect: that Chesterfield had ardently desired the post of Secretary of State, and an arrangement had been made in his favour; upon which he had an audience of the Queen, to which he was introduced by Walpole, and immediately after paid a longer visit to Lady Suffolk, then reigning favourite, than was approved of by the Queen, who thereupon procured that his appointment should not take place. Here it may be remarked that Chesterfield had been intimately acquainted with Mrs. Howard long before she had attracted the notice of Queen Caroline or George II.; and further, that, having been created Countess of Suffolk in , and thus set at her ease as to money matters, she was well disposed to leave the Court, but did not do so till , years after the dismissal of Chesterfield, to which Archdeacon Coxe represents her retirement as the ominous preliminary! Walpole relates a similar parallel indiscretion of Chesterfield's; and it appears that it was not till years before the earl's death that he was informed, by Horace Walpole himself, that the cause of his disgrace was his having offended the Queen by paying court to Lady Suffolk. Be this as it may, there was another and more probable cause for the royal dislike, which lay in his marriage with the daughter of George I. and the Duchess of Kendal, Melosina de Schulenburg, created, in her own right, Countess of Walsingham, and considered, as long as her father lived, of the wealthiest heiresses in the kingdom. George I. opposed the inclinations of his tall, dark-haired, and graceful daughter, in consequence of Chesterfield's notorious addiction to gambling; but, a very few months after Chesterfield's dismissal from court, Lady Walsingham became Lady Chesterfield. Her husband's house in was next door to the Duchess of Kendal's, whose society he much frequented; and it was she who- suggested legal measures respecting a will of the late king, which George II. was said to have suppressed and destroyed, and by which, as the duchess alleged, a splendid provision had been made for Lady Walsingham; and at last, rather than submit to a judicial examination of the affair, George II. compromised the suit by a payment of to the Earl and Countess of Chesterfield. These things were not likely to smooth the way for the ex-Lord Steward's return to St. James's; nor was it facilitated by his inveterate habit of ridiculing and disparaging the Electorate and all its concerns, which he continued to his dying day.

His marriage took place in ; years after, in , he commenced building the

rather fine house,

as he described it, in May Fair. When the famous boudoir of blue damask and gold, of which much has been said, and more hinted, was finished, and to which Madame de Monconseil contributed the magnificent to be placed on each side of the costly mantelpiece, the lordly owner took possession of the house, a year before the other rooms were finished, their slow progress greatly vexing him. In his lordship was admitted a member of the Cabinet, and in the next year appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. years later we find the earl retiring from the office of principal Secretary of State, to which the king had been constrained, by his undoubted talent, to appoint him; and thus at the early age of , he resigned finally the cares of official life. He was, nevertheless, still an active member of the Upper House, and among the measures with which his name is identified are some of historical importance. In spite of much opposition, within and without of the House, he carried the Bill for the Reform of the Calendar, and gave us the

new style,

which set our calculation of the year in harmony with that of the rest of Western Europe.

Dr. King, in

Anecdotes of his Own Times

(), says that the earl resigned his employment of Secretary of State because

he would not submit to be a cipher in his office, and work under a man who had not a hundredth part of his knowledge and understanding, and resolved to meddle no more in public affairs. However,

he adds,

he was lately so much disgusted with our bad measures, that he could not help animadverting on them, though in his usual calm and polite manner.. His petition to the king is an excellent satire, and hath discovered to the whole nation how, at a time when we are oppressed with taxes, and the common people everywhere grown mutinous for want of bread, the public money is squandered away in pensions, generally bestowed upon the most worthless men.

It was during Lord Chesterfield's last brief tenure of the seals of office that Dr. Johnson's eagerly-sought introduction to him took place. The then unknown author, whose dictionary, now a great fact, was then merely an idea floating in the brain of an apparently ordinary mortal, waited in the ante-room of the Secretary of State, and when, having seen Colley Cibber preferred before him, he was admitted, he received, besides approval of his plan, a donation of guineas! Not many months before he had received guineas for

The Vanity of Human Wishes.

And many years after,

p.358

he remarked to Boswell:

Sir,

ten pounds

were to me at that time a great sum.

The world has been for many years,

writes Boswell, in his

Life of Johnson,

amused with a story, confidently told, and as confidently repeated, with additional circumstances, that a sudden disgust was taken by Johnson upon occasion of his having been one day kept long in waiting in Lord Chesterfield's ante-chamber, for which the reason assigned was, that he had company with him; and that, at last, when the door opened, out walked Colley Gibber; and that Johnson was so violently provoked when he found for whom he had been so long excluded, that he went away in a passion, and never would return. I remember having mentioned this story to George, Lord Lyttleton, who told me he was very intimate with Lord Chesterfield; and holding it as a well-known truth, defended Lord Chesterfield by saying, that Cibber, who had been introduced familiarly by the backstairs, had probably not been there above ten minutes. It may seem strange even to entertain a doubt concerning a story so long and so widely current, and thus implicitly adopted, if not sanctioned, by the authority which I have mentioned; but Johnson himself assured me that there was not the least foundation for it. He told me that there never was any particular incident which produced a quarrel between Lord Chesterfield and him; but that his lordship's continued neglect was the reason why he resolved to have no connection with him.

When the dictionary was upon the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, it is said, had flattered himself with expectations that Johnson would dedicate the work to him, attempted, in a courtly manner, to soothe and insinuate himself with the sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the cold indifference with which he had treated its learned author; and further attempted to conciliate him, by writing two papers in The World, in recommendation of the work; and it must be confessed that they contain some studied compliments, so finely turned, that if there had been no previous offence, it is probable that Johnson would have been highly delighted. Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; but by praise from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments he was peculiarly gratified.

This courtly device,

continues Boswell,

failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that

all was false and hollow,

despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine that he could be the dupe of such an artifice.

His expression to Boswell concerning Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, was:

Sir, after making great professions, he had for many years taken no notice of me; but when my dictionary was coming out, he fell a-scribbling in

The World

about it. Upon which I wrote him a letter, expressed in civil terms, but such as might show him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him.

Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circulation of this letter; for Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, informed Boswell that, having many years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the Lord Hardwicke, who was very desirous to hear it (promising at the same time that no copy of it should be taken), Johnson seemed much pleased that it attracted the attention of a nobleman of such a respectable character; but, after pausing some time, declined to comply with the request, saying, with a smile,

No, sir, I have hurt the dog too much already,

or words to this purpose.

Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested that his not being admitted when he called on him, to which Johnson had alluded in his letter, was probably not to be imputed to [extra_illustrations.4.358.1] ; for his lordship had declared to Dodsley that

he would have turned off the best servant he ever had if he had known that he denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome.

And in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men.

Sir, that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing.

:

No, there is

one

person, at least, as proud; I think, by your own account, you are the prouder man of the

two

.

:

But mine was

defensive

pride.

This, as Dr. Adams well observed, was of those happy turns for which Johnson was so remarkably ready.

Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of Lord Chesterfield, did not refrain from expressing himself concerning that nobleman with pointed freedom.

This man,

said he,

I thought had been a lord among wits, but I find he is only a wit among lords!

Johnson's remark on Lord Chesterfield's

Letters to his Son

--a natural son, of course, for the title passed at his death to a cousin--is well known to most readers of modern literature:

Take out the immorality, and the book should be put into the hands of every young gentleman.

Of Lord Chesterfield we are told by the Hon. G. Agar-Ellis, afterwards Lord Dover, in the that

the love of literature, and, still more, any

Martin Van Butchell

talent for it, was so rare an attribute in a

man of quality,

that his lordship, in his day, stood almost alone as a noble author, and as the Maecenas of all others.

But the of these assertions is surely an:exaggeration; and as to the latter character, Lord Chesterfield's treatment of Dr. Johnson, in his own courtly mansion, was not very much like that of the courteous and kindly Maecenas to the poet Horace.

A good story is told by Mr. Frost, in his

Old Showmen,

respecting Lord Chesterfield. His lordship once made a wager with Heidigger, a Swiss by birth, and by office Master of the Revels, and who had the reputation of being

as ugly as sin,

that he could find an uglier person in the course of a week. The days elapsed, and Lord Chesterfield lost his wager.

of his lordship's most familiar acquaintances was the elder brother of the Lord Rokeby, called

Long

Sir Thomas Robinson

on account of his height, and to distinguish him from Sir Thomas Robinson, Lord Grantham. Hawkins relates how that Lord Chesterfield

employed him as a mediator with Johnson, who, on his

first

visit, treated him very indignantly.

It was on his request for an epigram that Lord Chesterfield made the distich:--

Unlike my subject will I make my song:

It shall be witty, and it shan't be long;

and it was he to whom he said in his last illness,

Ah, Sir Thomas, it will be sooner over with me than it would be with you, for I am

dying by inches

.

Lord Chesterfield was very short. Sir Thomas did not long survive his witty friend, and died in .

Lord Chesterfield had but child--the illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope, to whom his famous

Letters

were addressed; and he, after disappointing Chesterfield's expectations, was carried oft in the prime of life. The aged peer survived him some years, and died in , almost an octogenarian.

Lord Chesterfield's wit did not die with him, for even his will contained a grim satire on the Dean and Chapter of , some of whose lands, adjoining , were taken by the earl, after a hard bargain, for the purpose of forming . The substance of the clause in the will referred to is to the effect that, if his

godson,

as he calls him, Philip Stanhope, should at any time indulge in horse-racing, or the keeping of race-horses or hounds; or if he should reside for night at Newmarket during the time of the races there, or should lose in any day the sum of by gambling, then he should forfeit and pay out of his estate the sum of ,

to and for the use of the Dean and Chapter of

Westminster

.

As his death took place before that of the earl, the Dean and Chapter could have no claim upon the estate of the

godson,

as the contingent interest never accrued in their favour.

 
 
Footnotes:

[] See p. 100, ante.

[] See Vol. II., pp. 411-413.

[extra_illustrations.4.352.1] Sir Henry Halford

[extra_illustrations.4.352.2] Shepherd's Market

[extra_illustrations.4.353.1] Lady Blessington

[] See Gentleman's Magazine. vol. lxi., p. 394.

[extra_illustrations.4.358.1] Lord Chesterfield

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 Title Page
 Chapter I: Westminster: A Survey of the City: Millbank, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter II: Westminster.-Tothill Fields and Neighbourhood
 Chapter III: Westminster.-King Street, Great George Street, and the Broad Sanctuary
 Chapter IV: Modern Westminster
 Chapter V: St. James's Park
 Chapter VI: Buckingham Palace
 Chapter VII: The Mall and Spring Gardens
 Chapter VIII: Carlton House
 Chapter IX: St. James's Palace
 Chapter X: St. James's Palace (continued)
 Chapter XI: Pall Mall
 Chapter XII: Pall-Mall.-Club-Land
 Chapter XIII: St. James's Street.-Club-Land (continued)
 Chapter XIV: St. James's Street and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XV: St. James's Square and its Distinguished Residents
 Chapter XVI: The Neighbourhood of St. James's Square
 Chapter XVII: Waterloo Place and Her Majesty's Theatre
 Chapter XVIII: The Haymarket
 Chapter XIX: Pall Mall East, Suffolk Street, &c.
 Chapter XX: Golden Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXI: Regent Street and Piccadilly
 Chapter XXII: Piccadilly.-Burlington House
 Chapter XXIII: Noble Mansions in Piccadilly
 Chapter XXIV: Piccadilly: Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXV: Hanover Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVI: Berkeley Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVII: Grosvenor Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVIII: May Fair
 Chapter XXIX: Apsley House and Park Lane
 Chapter XXX: Hyde Park
 Chapter XXXI: Hyde Park (continued)
 Chapter XXXII: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXIII: Oxford Street.-Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXIV: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXV: Oxford Street East.-Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXVI: Oxford Street: Northern Tributaries.-Tottenham Court Road
 Chapter XXXVII: Bloomsbury.-General Remarks
 Chapter XXXVIII: The British Museum
 Chapter XXXIX: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XL: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XLI: Bloomsbury Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLII: Red Lion Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLIII: Queen Square, Great Ormond Street, &c.
 Chapter XLIV: Russell and Bedford Squares, &c.
 Chapter XLV: Gordon and Tavistock Squares, &c.
This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Description and Travel
London --England
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/14824
ID: tufts:UA069.005.DO.00063
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