Regency Brothers – The Soldier

Richard, the second oldest brother, was a military man for most of his adult life.

“Well, to own the truth, I’ve never cared for military life above half,” confided Endymion. “But the thing is, Cousin Alverstoke will very likely cut off my allowance, if I sell out, and then, you know, we shall find ourselves obliged to bite on the bridle. Should you object to being a trifle cucumberish? Though I daresay if I took up farming, or breeding horses, or something of that nature, we should find ourselves full of juice.”

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

I?” she exclaimed. “Oh, no, indeed! Why, I’ve been cucumberish, as you call it, all my life! But for you it is a different matter! You must not ruin yourself for my sake.”

“It won’t be as bad as that,” he assured her. “My fortune ain’t handsome, but I wasn’t born without a shirt. And if I was to sell out, my cousin couldn’t have me sent abroad.”

“But could he do so now?” she asked anxiously. “Harry says the Life Guards never go abroad, except in time of war.”

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Endymion was the cousin and heir to the Marquis of Alverstoke, the elegant peer who amused us earlier with his sally about a Baluchistan hound in Regency Dogs. His heir is a young man who feels he is ill-used, despite having a commission in the army purchased for him.

Richard Martin’s family could never hope to have the money to purchase a commission for him. Moreover, he was not well-placed to become a member of the romantic Life Guards Heyer wrote much about:

With white crests and horses’ manes flying, the Life Guards came up at full gallop and crashed upon the cuirassiers in flank. The earth seemed to shudder beneath the shock. The Hyde Park soldiers never drew rein, but swept the cuirassiers from the bank, and across the hollow road in the irresistible impetus of their charge.

An Infamous Army: A Novel of Love, War, Wellington and Waterloo by Georgette Heyer

Richard settled in the enlisted ranks of the First Foot Guards. His regiment was not as prestigious as the Life, but it performed with the greatest distinction in the Peninsular War, as reported in the Grenadier Guards website:

Sir John Moore - "you know I always wished to die this way."

Sir John Moore – “you know I always wished to die this way.”

In the autumn and winter of 1808 they took part in Sir John Moore’s classic march and counter-march against Napoleon in Northern Spain and, when under the terrible hardships encountered on the retreat across the wild Galician mountains the tattered, footsore troops, tested almost beyond endurance, showed signs of collapse, the 1st Foot Guards, with their splendid marching discipline, lost fewer men by sickness and desertion than any other unit in the Army.

Subsequently they took part in the battle of Corunna and when Sir John Moore fell mortally wounded in the hour of victory it was men of the 1st Foot Guards who bore him, dying, from the field.

The Grenadiers got their name when they defeated the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, the best and brightest of Napoleon’s troops, flung as a last-ditch effort into the fray at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Back in England, Richard retired and published a volume of poetry and some pamphlets. His only daughter made what was considered a brilliant marriage, bringing the Keeper of Printed Books of the British Museum up to scratch.

We don’t know much beyond that, besides John’s bitter account that Richard was always applying to him for money.

This must have come as a severe disappointment. When he was in the army, Richard had risen through the ranks to become Quartermaster Sargeant, a non-commissioned officer. It was largely a ceremonious position, but John was confounded as to why his brother had been appointed to watch over the Government’s assets when he could scarcely keep track of his own.

Regency Brothers – the Painter

Like his other Regency brothers, John Martin (1789 – 1854) strove to break away from his lower-class background and achieve the notice of the ton.

It seemed he had done so when his drawings became much admired by the Princess Charlotte and the Earl of Warwick. However, the former was not known for her taste in art. Despite having taken out a patent for soap, which the Royal Navy found useful as it would not curdle in sea water, his lordship lived in “penury, mortification and wretchedness.”

John was already supporting his older brother William, another tinker of limited success.

John Martin - from A Memoir

John Martin – from A Memoir

What he needed was a well-heeled patron. Drawings and sepia painting on teacups was only a scrambling sort of business.In order to attract such attention, he would have to break out of the current mold of Romantic painters. Constable and others were producing pastoral landscape themes which characterized a good deal of painting during the Regency. John decided to incorporate his father’s thundering Old Testament discourse, and took the “Picturesque” movement in a whole new direction.

Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion was submitted to the Royal Academy in 1812 for display at Somerset House. When the painting arrived, there was some confusion as to which end of the canvas was the top of the painting. For all the initial difficult it posed in the hanging, Sadak was completely ignored. Dejected, John took it away–one has to believe he carried it upside down. Once in his modest lodgings, he saw a calling card had been left in the dingy foyer. It was from a well-connected Governor of the Bank of England, William Manning, and he wanted to purchase the canvas.

As an amusing aside, John’s new patron was also the MP for Plympton Erle. His seat had been previously occupied by the unpopular Earl of Carhampton. This Irish peer had the indignity of reading his own death notice in the paper. Incensed, he demanded it be withdrawn. The paper complied, under the prominent headline, Public Disappointment.

Manning not only replaced an unpopular peer–his purchase encouraged John to continue his theme of vast, wild nature. In these works, appropriately titled Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon and Fall of Babylon, humans were rendered insignificant beneath glowering clouds. It was called Sublime.

Critics called it bombastic, the worst sort of populist art.

However, the Regency period was experiencing not just a sea change in the style of its arts, but in the nature of the audience. By the time John’s Belshazzar’s Feast was to be exhibited at the British Institution, he had aroused not only the interest of Whig politicians and the Duke of Buckingham, his work was now commanding the attention of the masses. Feast could not be displayed in intimate, hushed surroundings, to be admired only by the wealthy and privileged. A railing had to be erected, to protect the massive painting from the crowds that came to view it.

Even now John Martin’s paintings command astonishment and awe. Just watch this clip from the Tate Britain’s Museum. It had recently exhibited John’s work, entitled Apocalypse.

Does his work seem familiar? Rock bands use his work for their album covers. Movie makers incorporate his vision in theirs.

Bombastic, perhaps. But altogether unforgettable.

John Martin's Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion (1812)

John Martin’s Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion (1812)

Regency Brothers – Tinker, Painter, Soldier and–Arsonist

We love the Regency era novels of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for the same reasons we like the Edwardian era dramas of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey. These are stories that take place in stratified societies with rules the plot must heed like lodestones. If they stray too far they will offend the reader.

It sounds like a recipe for boredom and might well be–but for the persons that threaten to upset one’s beautiful world. Characters like George Wickham, Mrs. Clay, Mr. Parks and Tom Branson.

This post is an introduction to four brothers of the Regency, whose contributions, some dubious, enriched and horrified the Beau Monde.

Syon Park's conservatory to hold beautiful plants for the Duke of Northumberland (taken by Phill Brown - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Syon Park’s conservatory to hold beautiful plants for the Duke of Northumberland (taken by Phill Brown – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

The Martin boys were among twelve children born to William Fenwick Martin and his wife Isabella in Northumberland. The family was decidedly lower class, the father being somewhat peripatetic in both lodging and trade. He had at one time been a fencing master but also built coaches, tanned hides and kept taverns.

Such an unstable environment was perhaps unsuitable for raising children and they were sent to live at various times with relatives before both parents died in 1813.

The sons were as follows:

The Tinker:  William– the oldest. An inventor and philosopher who “tinkered” with machines and ideas.

The Painter:  John — the youngest. An artist and historical painter to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

The Soldier:  Richard — the second oldest. A quartermaster in the Guards, serving in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo.

The Arsonist:  Jonathan – the third oldest. Arguably the most famous of all.

They entertained the ton, existing in the beautiful world that was all around them, but forever out of reach.

Perhaps their stories will entertain you as well.

Northumberland cottage (photographed by Brian Norman and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Northumberland cottage (photographed by Brian Norman and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)