Friday 7 February 2014

William Seward and his bust of Alexander Pope.

Edited 30 October 2023.

William Seward (1747 - 99),
 and his Bust of Alexander Pope by Roubiliac 

The Bust was formerly owned by Mrs Martha Vandewall.

Here follows a few notes on William Seward (1747 -1799) and his family -

On the 5 April 1771 - Thomas Neate, aged 31 married Charlotte Seward sister of William Seward of Red Cross St, London.Thomas Neate was the son of Harris Neate and his wife Martha Barrow. He became the stepson of Samuel Vandewall after the death of Harris Neate and remarriage of Martha Neate.

Charlotte Seward was the sister of Elizabeth ……. and Dorothy Kenrick and of the writer William Seward. Their father was a partner in Calvert and Seward of the Peacock Brewery in Red Cross St, London, what was the largest brewers in London in the mid 18th Century.

William Seward, was a Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and member of the Eumelian Club. He was educated at Charterhouse and Oriel College Oxford (1764). He travelled to Italy on the grand tour with his friends Sir Richard Musgrave and Richard Graves. He never had to work having inherited a fortune from his father.

William Seward by Edge Pine.

Courtesy a descendant.

Seward was the only son of William Seward, a partner in the major London brewery Calvert & Seward. He was born in London in January 1747. Having started school near Cripplegate, he moved in 1757 to Harrow School, but also attended Charterhouse School for a while before matriculating at Oriel College, Oxford in 1764.

After university, Seward travelled widely in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. He had considerable wealth, but no taste for business, and sold his interest in the brewery when his father died. However, his cultivation and conversational talents soon gained him a place in London literary circles, notably that of the Thrales in Streatham, also a brewing family. There he met Samuel Johnson. The two became intimate and Seward became a member of the Essex Head Club that Johnson had founded. Johnson also provided him with a recommendation to James Boswell when he visited Edinburgh and the Highlands in 1777. He made a western tour of England in August 1781, indulging his hypochondria liberally by consulting "a doctor, apothecary or chemist" in every town where he stopped, according to Fanny Burney.

Two years later he was in Paris, and then in Flanders studying the pictures of Claude Lorrain. Meanwhile he had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1779.

When Johnson died in 1784, Seward helped the classical scholar Samuel Parr to compose his epitaph.In 1788, Seward was thought to be suffering from mental illness and was confined to a straitjacket for a time.

Four years earlier, Mrs Thrale had recorded being "plagued… with a Visit from Seward, who I think is going out of his Senses by the oddity of his Behaviour. She also recorded a proposal of marriage from him after she was widowed in 1781.

Seward had been responsible in 1776 for introducing the music scholar Charles Burney and his family to the Thrales, which led to an intimacy between Hester Thrale and Fanny Burney that lasted until the former's remarriage in 1784. Fanny Burney's copious letters and diaries contain many affectionate references to Seward. 

In March 1777, for instance, she describes him in a letter to another Burney family friend, Samuel Crisp, as "a very polite, agreeable young man. On 15 January 1782, her 17-year-old sister Charlotte Ann Burney noted that on her arrival at Mrs Thrale's, "Mr Seward came up to me immediately as he commonly does when I meet him to do the honours to me in his odd way;- lugging a chair into the middle of the room for me, and upon my saying I could not sit there by myself, "oh," he cried, "I'll stand by you, and amuse you. In May 1792 he was amusing Fanny: "When I came in... I was accosted by Mr. Seward, & he entered into a gay conversation, upon all sorts of subjects, which detained me, agreeably enough, in a pleasant station by one of the windows."

Other well-known people whom he knew and helped included the classical scholar Richard Porson, the radical Thomas Paine and the poet Anna Seward (no relation).

Fanny Burney also provided in a letter of 2 May 1799 a vivid account of Seward just before he died: "Poor Mr Seward!- I am indeed exceedingly concerned - nay, grieved for his loss to us - to us I trust I may say, for I believe he was so substantially good a Creature, that he has left no fear or regret merely for himself. He fully expected his end was quickly approaching... he spent almost a whole morning with me in chatting of other times, as he called it - for we travelled back to Streatham, Dr Johnson and the Thrales."Seward had become very fat, and died of dropsy at his lodgings in Dean Street, Soho on 24 April 1799. He was buried in the family vault at Finchley on 1 May.

Many articles, including a series of ‘Reminiscentia,’ were supplied by Seward to the Whitehall Evening Post, and he contributed anecdotes and literary discoveries to Thomas Cadell's Repository and the European Magazine. His papers of ‘Drossiana’ in the European Magazine from October 1789 formed the basis of his anonymous Anecdotes of some Distinguished Persons (1795–7), 5 vols (a fifth edition in four volumes in 1804). This was followed in 1799 by two volumes of Biographiana, for which the Gentleman's Magazine praised him for "felicity... in hitting off the leading features of his subject."[10] Thomas James Mathias in his long poem The Pursuits of Literature [11] speaks of Seward as a "publick bagman for scraps", but describes the volumes as entertaining and their author as the best compiler of anecdotes after Horace Walpole.

Information edited from Wikipedia.

There are portraits of him by Robert Edge Pyne (pre 1784 before Pine left for America) which are still in the possession of the family, by George Dance and a portrait engraving by Gell.

He is mentioned many times in the Diaries of Hester Thrale and “The Early Journals and Letters” of Fanny Burney

He died of an “asthmatic heart condition” and dropsy at his lodgings in Dean St, Soho, London and buried in the family vault at Finchley

In his will he mentions leaving his marble bust of Alexander Pope given to him by Mrs Vandewall to the banker William Morland of Pall Mall. This would have been prior to 1788, when an engraving of the bust was published stating on it ,that it was in his possession.

The possession of this bust of Pope illustrates the artistic tastes of the Vandewall and Neate families. Whilst only conjecture  - it is  likely that this bust was purchased from the artist and collector Thomas Hudson who purchased objects from the sculptor Roubiliac’s sale in 1762. There were two marble busts of Pope in this sale. Hudson painted the portrait of Samuel Vandewall in about 1744

We do not know when the Neate / Vandewall family began to lease the property at Binfield (the former home of Alexander Pope) possibly quite soon after the death of Samuel Vandewall in 1760 and the move from Lincolns Inn Fields in 1762. Certainly their occupying the Pope family house explains the ownership of this bust.

He was a patron and supporter of the romantic painter Henry Fuseli in his scheme for setting up of his Milton Gallery in Pall Mall along with Thomas Coutts of the banking family, the critic William Lock of Norbury Park, William Roscoe – banker of Liverpool, G Steevens the Shakespeare Scholar, and publisher Joseph Johnson.-, which opened in 1799. This gallery was to consist of works by Fuseli illustrating the life and works of the poet Milton, unfortunately this enterprise had limited financial and critical success.

In 1794 Fuseli painted the Conspiracy of Cataline for him, Seward published a poem in the Whitehall Magazine and the European Magazine praising him.

See - The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli ...  By Henry Fuseli, John Knowles 1831.

Seward was instrumental in the writing of the epitaph of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

His father William Seward was twice master of the Brewers Company. Felix Calvert was his partner in the Peacock Brewery in Whitecross St, London. In the 1750’s this was the largest brewery in London. Calvert's also owned the Cross Keys brewery in Upper Thames Street, the fourth largest brewery.

WILL OF WILLIAM SEWARD Senior, 1777 father of William Seward and Charlotte Seward Wife of Thomas Neate and partner in Calvert and Seward of Whitecross St, London brewers.

I, William Seward of Red Cross Street in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate, London, brewer, give
  • To my son William Seward £15,000.
  • To my daughter Dorothy wife of the Reverend Jarvis Kenrick £2000
  • To my daughter Charlotte Neate wife of Thomas Neate Esquire £2000
  • To my brother the Reverend Mr Edward Seward £25
  • To my sister Margaret Squire widow £30
  • To her son James Squire £50
  • To my niece Sarah Seward daughter of my brother John Seward £30
  • To my nephew Edward Squire and to his sisters Margaret Rufford and Sarah Ballard and to my nephew John Seward and to Mr Monkhouse Davison and to my friends Peter Calvert Esquire the elder and John Calvert Esquire and to Mr Alexander Whitchurch £20 each
  • To Mr Edward Willis £25
  • To my nephew Edward Squire, Alderman of Worcester, son of James Squire £25
  • To the poor of the parish of Lower Sapey in Worcestershire £20
  • To my servant Mary Crossing who had lived in my service many years 10 guineas and an annuity of £30 a year during her life payable quarterly
  • To such of my servants who have lived with me two years £10 each and to each of them that shall have lived with me one year £5
  • All the rest and residue of any exchequer annuities goods plate effects and personal estate I give to my son William Seward

Made: 3rd October 1776

Executors: My son William Seward and my son-in-law Thomas Neate and Mr Joseph Dickenson of Colson Lane, brewer, and to the said Thomas Neate and Joseph Dickenson £50 each for their trouble

Signed: William Seward

Witnesses: Edward Willis, Harold Answorth

Proved: At London, 28th January 1777
A few notes on the brewers Calvert and Seward of the Peacock Brewery, Whitecross Street -

The Calverts were a large family of London brewers who dominated the trade in London in the 18th century.

1431 The Hour Glass Brewery at 89 Thames Street was founded

Felix Calvert I started in the brewing business. His three sons Felix II (d. 1699- 1756), Thomas (d. 1668) and Peter (d. 1676) were concerned in brewing.
Felix Calvert II's son John (1726-1804) became an MP and inherited a share in the brewery.

Felix Calvert III, grandson of Felix I, took over his father’s interest in the Peacock brewery in White Cross Street. Also became MP for Reading (1713-1716).

His uncle Felix Calvert IV also had interests in brewing, in Thames Street. His cousin, also Felix V (son of his uncle Peter), was another brewer.

1736 Felix Calvert III died on 29 December at his house in White Cross Street, leaving the bulk of his property to his eldest son, Felix Calvert VI.

1759 The Calverts acquired the Hour Glass Brewery.

1760 London's foremost brewer

On the death of the eminent London brewer, William Seward, his only son, William (1747–1799), sold the interest he inherited in the brewery[1]

1791 Felix Calvert, Robert Ladbroke, William Whitmore, Robert Calvert and Charles Calvert were brewers in Upper Thames Street[2]

1780-95 Felix Calvert & Co,

Dr Johnson - “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
Quote from William Seward Biographia ((1799) p. 260.

Dr Johnson - “Difficult do you call it, Sir? I wish it were impossible.On the performance of a celebrated violinist, in William Seward Supplement to the Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons (1797) p. 267.

William Seward was the author of the 118 instalments of the series "Drossiana" that ran in the European Magazine from October 1789 until his death in 1799.

The black chalk drawing of Henry Purcell by Closterman (NPG 4994) was once in the collection of William Seward. An inscription in the hand of Seward formerly on the back (now detached) identified it as being presented by Seward to his friend Dr Charles Burney in 1791. The inscription reads:

'Purcell the musician/dra(wn) some have suppo(sed) by Sir Godfrey/Kneller';
and dedicatory letter 'Carolus Burney/Artis Musicae Doctori/Viro/Orphei
Britannica nil exemplum/Arte sua praestanantissimo necnon bonis literis
excultissimo/Moribus ingenuis/Ac orationis lepore, ac gratia
ornatissimi/Hanc Purcelli Imaginem/ dd/ Illuius Amantissimus/ W.S./1791'.
Information from National Portrait Gallery
The Conspiracy of Catiline, was a coloured drawing, executed by Fuseli in 1793, for which Seward paid thirty guineas. It depicts the three conspirators, "standing amid the darkness of a tomb, with a lamp suspended over their heads, their daggers held aloft and meeting at the points, pledging themselves to secrecy in a bowl of wine mingled with blood."
Apart from the three frontispieces he designed for the Anecdotes of Some Distinguished Persons (1795), Fuseli also contributed observations on Durer,
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to the work. Seward's verses, "To Henry Fuseli, Esq., R.A.", that appeared in the January 1795 issue of the European Magazine, not only praised the "magic colours, and ... varying line" of Fuseli's drawing but constituted one of the very first public announcements of his Milton Gallery (John Knowles, Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli, R.A. 1831 [reprint ed.
1982], 186-188).
There is also a reference to Seward in Mary Balmanno's Pen and Pencil
(1858), p. 207,
Information from David Weinglass.

Cecilia Margaretta Thrale was born on 8 February 1777. Her Godparents were Miss Owen, Mrs Hester D’Avenant [1748-1822 daughter of Sir Lynch, S Cotton, later Lady Corbet and William Seward
Isaac Disreali (Father of Benjamin Disreali.) in Curiosities of Literature writing in 1839 describes him as one of his earliest literary friends.

Cunningham mentions Seward living in Gt Portland St
JAMES BOSWELL.' [371] William Seward, Esq., F.R.S., editor of Anecdotes of some distinguished persons, etc., in four volumes, 8vo., well known to a numerous and valuable acquaintance for his literature, love of the fine arts, and social virtues. I am indebted to him for several communications concerning Johnson.
BOSWELL. Miss Burney frequently mentions him as visiting the Thrales. 'Few people do him justice,' said Mrs. Thrale to her, 'because as Dr. Johnson calls him, he is an abrupt young man; but he has excellent qualities, and an excellent understanding.' Mme. D'Arblay's  Diary, i. 141. Miss Burney, in one of her letters, says:--'Mr. Seward, who seems to be quite at home among them, appears to be a penetrating, polite, and agreeable young man. Mrs. Thrale says of him, that he does good to everybody, but speaks well of nobody.' Memoirs of Dr. Burney, ii. 89.
From The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, (Fanny Burney), November 1778.

You don’t know much of Mr Seward, Miss Burney said Mrs Thrale
I could have told her I wished he had not known much of me but her maid was in my way and I only said “no”.
but I hope you will know more of him” said she “for I want you to take to him. He is a charming man tho not without oddities. Few people do him justice because, as Dr Johnson calls him, he is an abrupt young man; but he has excellent qualities and an excellent understanding. He has the misfortune to be an hypochondriac, so he runs about the world to borrow spirits, and to forget himself. But afterall if his disorders are merely imaginary, the imagination is disorder sufficient and I therefore am sorry for him”.
The day passed very agreeably but I have no time for particulars. I fight very shy with Mr Seward and as he has a great share of sense and penetration, and not a little one of pride and reserve he takes the hint and believe he would as son bite of his own nose as mention Evelina again. And indeed now that the propriety of his after conduct has softened me in his favour I begin to think of him very much in the same way Mrs Thrale does. For he is very sensible, very intelligent and very well bred”.
Seward attended a party at The Thrales 3 days later.
Mon 16th Dec At the Thrales
Sun Dec 22. 1782, Seward at the Burney house with Barry and Pacchiarotti
Fri 4th Jan 1783 Party at the Burneys, Dr Johnson comes but is ill

Fri 10th Jan. 1783 Seward sends Fanny a proof plate on silver paper, a “mezzotinto” by Doughty of Reynolds portrait of Dr Johnson
Wed July 16, 1788 Seward meets and walks with the King and Royal party at Fauconberg Hall, Cheltenham
Sat Aug 10th 1788 met Seward at Cheltenham
May 25, 1792, Met Seward at the feather room at a public breakfast at Mrs Montegu’s, he was with Lord Falmouth
The Death of William Seward in 1799.


Letter from Madame D’Arblay ( Fanny Burney) to Mrs Lock Westhamble. May 2nd, 1799.

Poor Mr Seward! I am indeed exceedingly concerned – nay grieved - for his loss to us: to us I trust I may say: for I believe he was so substantially good a creature that he has left no fear or regret merely for himself. He fully expected his end was quickly approaching. I saw him at my fathers at Chelsea and he spent almost a whole morning with me in chatting of other times as he called it: for we travelled back to Streatham Dr Johnson and the Thrales. But he told me he knew his disease incurable. Indeed he had passed a quarter of an hour in recovering breath, in a room with the servants before he had let me know he had mounted the college stairs. My father was not at home. He had thought himself immediately dying, he said for days before by certain sensations that he believed to be fatal, but he mentioned it with cheerfulness, and although active in all means to lengthen life, he declared himself perfectly calm in suspecting they would fail. To give me a proof he said he had been anxious to serve Mr Wesley, the Methodist musician, and he had recommended him to the patronage of the Hammersleys, and begged my father to meet him there at dinner; but as this was arranged, he was seized himself with a dangerous attack which he believed to be mortal. And during this belief, “willing to have the business go on” said he laughing “and not miss me, I wrote a letter to a young lady to tell her all I wished to be done on the occasion, to serve Wesley and to show him to advantage. I gave every direction I should have given in person, in a complete persuasion that I should never hold a pen in my hand again”

This letter, I found was to Miss Hammersley.

I had afterwards the pleasure of introducing M. D’Arblay to him and it seemed a gratification to him to make the acquaintance. I knew he had been “curious” to see him. And he wrote my father afterwards he had been much pleased.

My father says he had sat with him for an hour the Saturday before he died; and though he thought him very ill he was so little aware his end was rapidly approaching, that, like me dearest friend he laments his loss as if by sudden death.

The Will of William Seward.

Jany. 30. 1799. 

         William Seward Esquire I leave to Mary Crossing Twenty pounds a Year to be paid to her quarterly with the Thirty pounds  year left to her by my Father. I leave to Richard Strantham Twenty pounds a year to be paid half  yearly.

 I give to Elizabeth Kenrick as much money as will purchase at my decease four thousand pounds Stock in the three per Cents to be paid her upon the day of Marriage or when she comes of age and desire Mr. Morland, Mr. Neate and Mr. Kenrick to be her Trustees. The remainder of what I die possess’d of I leave to be equally divided between my two sisters Dorothy Kenrick and Charlotte Neate.  

I leave the Rev. Jarvis Kenrick and Thomas Neate Esqr. and William Morland, Esqr. Fifty Guineas each and  appoint them Executors to my will. 

I leave Mr. Morland my Bust of pope given to me by Mrs.  Vandewall 

I leave & bequeath my Library to my  Nephews William Kenrick, Jarvis Kenrick & Thomas  Neate and Le Fever Neate to be equally divided amongst them. Wm. Seward January 30.1799.

I Desire that my Executors will present Dr. Carmichael Smith with One hundred pounds at my decease & that my old & true Friend Sir George Baker will accept of my Fourth Translation of Pliny in twelve Volumes Quarto & my Edition of Swift Octavo.

W. Seward, 10 February 1799.


Note 1, Sir George Baker M.D. F.R.C.P. (1722 -1809) of St Pauls Churchyard was Physician to George III and the Queen, he owned the terra cotta bust of Hogarth by Louis Francois Roubiliac now in the national Portrait Gallery, London, (engraved by Cooke in 1810 as frontispiece to Vol II of Nichols and Stevens Hogarth ) now at N.P.G. see Esdaile p. 50.

William Morland (1739 - 1815) - Banker of Pall Mall. see

Thomas Neate was the boy in the Reynolds Portrait now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.



  1. Hi, sorry to mention this but the pages on William Seward are corrupted. Quite a lot of the text is now invisible. On a personal note, white text on a thoroughly black background is regarded as tiring to the eyes. However, I truly enjoyed what you have written.

    1. Thanks for the warning and kind words. This post was written a long time ago and it is impossible to monitor the content of all my posts - Blogger is not a great platform and text in the posts frequently get corrupted and photographs go missing.
      Unfortunately it is difficult for me to change platforms at this point although it is something I will have to review if I want to keep a permanent record.

    2. When I review the blog now my posts seem quite amateurish but one has to start somewhere - as the blog progressed I think I got better at it - if you use the search box on the top left hand side of the post it will take you to further and more up to date posts on the subject. Currently I am stuck with this format