A Few More Lear Family Portraits

[I prepared this post together with the one on the portrait of nine-year-old Edward Lear by his sister Ann over three years ago, but then inexplicably forgot to post it; like the previous one it is mostly based on material from the New Zealand collection that was brought to my attention by Charles Lewsen and photographed by Stephen A’Court. I was recently reminded of it when I received further information clarifying the Lear family-Frederick Harding connection unearthed by Steve Uglow: I am enclosing his findings at the end of the post.]

The New Zealand collection includes a second portrait, which Lily Bowen – the Lear family descendant who provided information to Lear’s first biographer, Angus Ddavidson – identified as Edward Lear; but, as Vivien Noakes demonstrated , Lily Bowen’s family history was not always reliable, and pride in the connection with Edward Lear,  as well perhaps as failing eyesight, may have encouraged  her to  suppose that he  was the young child depicted in this portrait:

The label on the back reads:

Edward Lear, painted by his sister, Anne Lear. ?F. Harding.
Edward Lear Gillies New-Zealand, from L.B.

The picture itself, however, has an “FH 1830” signature inside the right arm of the chair, which rules out the attribution to Ann as well as the possibility that this is a portrait of Edward, who in 1830 would have been 18.

As the picture was passed among the descendants of Sarah Street – Edward Lear’s sister who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1853 – it seems possible that it depicts her son Charles Henry Street who was born on 28 March 1824, and would therefore have been 6 in 1830.

The signature ‘FH’ – as well as the back label – suggests that it may be the work of Frederick Harding who, according to Vivien Noakes (2004 edition, p. 218), being his mother’s sister’s child, was Edward’s cousin. Harding, a miniaturist, obtained prizes from the Society of Arts in 1814 and 1815. He exhibited in London at the Royal Academy and at the Society of British Artists from 1825 to 1857. He practised in London and, towards the end of his life, in Totnes.

Here is an example, among the many aailable on the web, of Harding’s work from ArtPrice (also): all those I found are watercolours on ivory, with signatures which do not at all look like the one on the above portrait, though perhaps this is to be expected, given the different medium, and the fact that Charles Street’s portrait may have been done quickly as a favour to relatives:

On Easter Monday, 8 April 1822, after Frederick had been “bought out of his regiment and was staying at Bowman’s Lodge” (Noakes, p. 218, who gives no source) something happened which Edward would never forget; on hearing of his cousin’s death in 1871, he wrote in his diary:

[…] 2 letters, & Times
Mary Ann North of the 14th & 15th ― sending post stamps, & pleased with the sketches I sent
Ellen Newsom. Her Leatherhead Minister is dead, & so, on June 7th Frederick Harding.
It is just 50 years since he did me the greatest evil done to me in life, excepting that done by C.: ― & which must last now to the end ― spite of all reason & effort.
Afterwards, looked over a lot of things lately turned up, Turners rivers &c. &c. & ― & likenesses of Cordelia, Florence, Sarah, & “Mother.”
Bed ― nearly 10[.]
(Diary 19 June 1871.)

He marked the date in the diary entry for 8 April 1882, drawing a box around the passage:

The 8th of April 1822 was the wretched Easter Monday, at the old Highgate House; ― when I was nearly 10 years old, & F. was, I fancy ― 19.

Four years later he was still looking for confirmation of the date:

Wrote a letter to Frank Lushington, from whom a card comes at this moment, ― “Easter Monday fell on April 8 ― in 1822 which was much as I thought.
(Diary 17 April 1886.)

Whatever happened in 1822, it had no consequences on the relationship between the Lears and Frederick Harding: in June 1825 (the date is given in the caption to the reproduction in Noakes’s biography) he was painting Jeremiah’s miniature portrait, which is also part of the New Zealand collection:

It is not surprising that Lear did not find Harding’s miniatures attractive when he examined them in 1866 – apparently there were others, and perhaps not all by Harding:

At 10 ― walked to Waterloo Stn. & so to Letherhead [sic] by 12. ― A very fine, but cold day. Dined with Ellen ― who ages very much & is sadly deaf ― so that I lose my voice in 2 or 3 hours of talk. After dinner, sat in that delightful Bay-window north room ― so quiet: & looked at miniatures & photographs. (Mary was married in 1821 ― Sarah in 1822 ― & Ellen in 1823;) The miniatures by F.H. are not marked by any talent ― only the color is fresh & delicate: the portrait of my father is good but less agreable in face than he was.
(Diary 10 October 1866.)

[What follows has been written by Steve Uglow, researching “Lear’s cousins” for the upcoming biography from his wife Jenny:]

Anne Clark Skerritt (or Skerrett) [Edward Lear’s mother] was born around 1769 – when she died at Dover on 26th May 1844, she was in her 75th year, the relict of Jeremiah and, like Jeremiah, late of Milton, Gravesend, Kent. She married Jeremiah on 24th August 1788.

Ann was the daughter of Edward John Skerritt and Florence Usher who had moved to London from Durham. Ann had 3 siblings

  1. William Clark was baptised on 4th September 1769 at  St Mary’s, Whitechapel – he must have been close in age to Ann, if not her twin. There’s no baptismal record for Ann
  2. Sarah was baptised on 10th April 1771, also at St Mary’s
  3. Charlotte was baptised on 17th February 1773 again at St Mary’s – ?Charlotte Carleton m. James Chidgey 10/7/1806, St Bartholomew The Great – children baptised St Dunstans, Stepney

It’s Sarah, Edward Lear’s aunt, who provides the link to Frederick Harding. On 4th July 1789, she marries George Harding at St John’s, Hackney – one of the witnesses is Ann Skerritt – although by now she is married to Jeremiah. George  Harding was born around 1763 and died on 30th August 1818 in Whitechapel.  The baptismal records of their children include:

  1. Elizabeth on 11th April 1790 at St Mary’s Whitechapel
  2. George on 13th January 1797 at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch
  3. Frederick on 25th June 1799 at St John’s, Hackney
  4. Catherine on 2nd March 1800 at St Mary’s Whitechapel

After George’s death, the census evidence from 1841-1861 suggests that Sarah remarries to a Mr Knight. In all three census years, Sarah is living with Frederick and in 1851 and 1861 is referred to as ‘mother’. When Lear talks of ‘Aunt Knight’ (and perhaps Aunt Kitty?), it is Sarah to whom he is referring.

Frederick went into the army but after George’s death he was bought out in 1822. He became a miniaturist – the websites of some auction houses say “active 1814-1857”.

There was a Harding dynasty of miniaturists and paints – Silvester Harding (1745-1809) from Staffordshire and his son George Perfect Harding (1780 Malling, Kent -1853 Newington, London). Possibly Frederick was a pupil of George Perfect, although clearly not his son. George Perfect married Mary Thornton in 1804 and they had a son, Frederick John, baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 23rd November 1815. It is not clear what the link was between George Harding, Frederick’s father, and George Perfect.

What is clear from the census record is that Frederick was an artist and miniaturist. In 1841, he was living in Chingford, Essex, occupation was artist and he was aged 40. Also in the house is Sarah Knight, independent means. Frederick marries quite late in life – in the 3rd quarter 1849 to Martha Steele Perkins in Exeter. The couple, with Sarah Knight, were in Woodford Green, Essex in 1851. Frederick is described as a portrait artist and born 1801 in Hackney. Martha S. was born 1825 in Exeter.

By 1861, they have moved to south west London, to York Lodge, Richmond Rd, Twickenham. Again Frederick is described as a miniature painter and this is repeated in 1871. Frederick dies in the second quarter 1871 and his death is registered in Brentford. In 1881, Martha is living at Blenheim Place, Marylebone .

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2 Responses to A Few More Lear Family Portraits

  1. Pingback: Edward Lear’s Canadian Cousins | A Blog of Bosh

  2. Pingback: “Twentieth of Twenty-one”: Edward Lear and his Siblings (1) | A Blog of Bosh

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