John Thomas Smith was the curator of drawings at the British Museum in the early years of the 19th century. In his youth he was a friend of the sculptor Nollekens, and he wrote a whimsical book which is theoretically a biography of the artist. In reality, it is a collection of anecdotes about life in London during the last decades of the 18th century, many of which have little or nothing to do with Nollekens. Frank Rawdon appears, as does Mary Robinson (among the great moments of his life, Smith lists "I received a kiss when a boy from the beautiful Mrs. Robinson"). And about the "eccentric Lord Coleraine," he provides this cute progression of stream-of-consciousness memories:
No man was more gazed at than the late Lord Coleraine. That eccentric and remarkable character, who lived near the New Queen's Head and Artichoke, in Marylebone-fields, never met Nollekens without saluting him with, "Well, Nolly, my old boy! how goes it? you never sent me the bust of the Prince:" to which Nollekens replied, "You know you said you would call for it one of these days, and give me the money, and take it away in a hackney-coach."
I remember seeing his Lordship, after he had purchased a book, entitled "The American Buccaneers," sit down close by the shop from which he had bought it, in the open street in St. Giles's, to read it.
I also once heard Lord Coleraine, as I was passing the wall at the end of Portland-road, when an old apple-woman, with whom his Lordship held frequent conversations, was packing up her fruit, ask her the following question:
"What are you about, mother?
"Why, my Lord, I am going home to my tea; if your Lordship wants any information, I shall come again presently."
"Oh! don't baulk trade. Leave your things on the table as they are; I will mind shop till you come back;"
So saying, he seated himself in the old woman's wooden chair, in which he had often sat before whilst chatting with her. Being determined to witness the result, after strolling about till the return of the old lady, I heard his Lordship declare the amount of his receipts by saying, "Well, mother, I have taken three-pence half-penny for you: did your daughter Nancy drink tea with you?"
[Source: The text is from John Thomas Smith, Nollekens and His Times. Comprehending a Life of that Celebrated Sculptor; And Memoirs of Several Contemporary Artists, from the Time of Roubiliac, Hogarth, and Reynolds, to that of Fuseli, Flaxman, and Blake, ed. and annotated Wilfred Whitten. (2 vols. London: John Lane, 1920), 1:204. The image is from John Timbs, English Eccentrics and Eccentricities, (London: Chatto & Windus, 1875), p320.
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