The Beast. The Thing. What was inhabiting No. 50 Berkeley Square?
Very bad ton, I daresay.
The stories varied, but a dandy had a dashed good notion to test the on-dit that No. 50 harbored a ghost. Full of blue ruin and holding a pistol, he spent the night in one of its rooms only to confront a “jet black shape” that leaped at him. Discharging his pistol, he was found dead with his eyes bulging, expired in the grip of apoplexy. Others say he managed to escape to endure another horrible fate–this Bond Street beau was the Lord Lyttleton who committed suicide by throwing himself down the stairs of Hagley Hall.
Later, two sailors were offered lodging in the house. They too, offered fire against the apparition which appeared to them in the shape of a large man, and one died for his pains. This gave rise to the rumor the house was uninhabitable.
Neighbors in adjacent streets would peer out of their windows, astonished to see others peering back at them from the windows of the uninhabited house:
“He wore a periwig and had a drawn, morose ashen face. The two women thought he
had been to some New Year fancy dress party, because his clothes were centuries
out of date. The man moved away from the window, and Mrs Balfour and her maid
were later shocked to learn from a doctor that they had sighted one of the
ghosts of number 50 Berkeley Square. The doctor told them that number 50 was
Who was the man in the periwig?
Joan Scott’s father was Major General John Scott, a man wealthy from card play. He instructed his daughters to never marry men with titles. His eldest disobeyed him and became Duchess of Portland. His youngest followed suit, and became Countess of Moray. Of all three, Joan (a viscountess in her own right!) was the only one to follow his wishes and married a politician.
Her husband was George Canning (1770-1827), the Prime Minister of the shortest tenure. He was the son of an actress and as one man famously said, never follow a man who is born of an actress. But this did not deter him. As a member of Pitt’s government, this hard-boiled Tory challenged Lord Castlereagh to a duel and got shot in the thigh for his pains.
He lived at No. 50 Berkeley Square.
He was the most divisive man in government. The Regent refused to meet him in person because he was rumored to have had an affair with the consort Princess Caroline. He reduced his boss Lord Liverpool to tears and managed to force the poor man to apologize for it.
In the end he was reduced to begging prominent Whigs to join his Tory government, including Lord Lansdowne. But he died before he could realize his life’s ambition, in the very same room where the most radical of Whigs had expired, Charles James Fox.
They call him a lost leader. Perhaps he’s been found, in the rage of unfulfilled ambition.
The location is appropriate. It’s now a bookstore.