Seek & Find

December 19, 2008 at 12:12 am (books, portraits and paintings) (, , )

As much as I l-o-v-e BOOKS.GOOGLE it can also be highly frustrating: how to find entire SETS of books…, sometimes pages are missing or misplaced…, and then there are always missing volumes. But: Seek and ye shall find! Tonight a second look for volumes on Sir Joshua Reynolds unearthed the A-C volume of his works — and therefore the entries for the Cunliffes. Some interesting information indeed…

We already knew (see post) that Sir Joshua painted Lady Cunliffe. Here is her ‘description’:


Wife of Sir Ellis Cunliffe. Died October 7, 1814.
Sat in June, 1761. Paid for, July 1, 1761 Lady Cunliffe, £15 15s. 1761, Lady Cunliffe, £15 15s.

The picture belongs to Sir Charles Smith, Bart., at Suttons, Romford. 
[note: This would be Mary Gosling Smith’s son]


Here for the first time is the ‘description’ of Sir Ellis’s lost portrait – and a tantalizing notice that a copy exists!

CUNLIFFE, Sir Ellis, Bart.

M.P. for Liverpool; was the eldest son of Foster Cunliffe, an opulent [!] merchant, and M.P. for Liverpool; created a baronet in 1759; married, first, [!!] November 6, 1760 Miss Davis (“Gentleman’s Magazine,” 1760), and secondly, Mary, daughter of Henry Bennet [sic], of Moston, Cheshire; died October 16, 1767.
In a morning gown, seated in a chair.
Sat in January, 1762. Paid for, 1762 Sir Ellis Cunliffe, £15 15s. December 29, 1762, Sir Ellis Cunliffe, £15 15s.

Sir Robert A. Cunliffe, Bart., writes, May 31, 1899: “The three pictures by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, his wife, and daughter, were left away from my family. I have a good copy by Allen of that of Sir Ellis.”

The picture belongs to Herbert Gosling, at Botleys Park, Chertsey.


mrs-drummond_theconnoisseur-nov1913The third portrait is of course also described:

CUNLIFFE, Miss Mary, afterwards Mrs. Drummond Smith.

Sat in June, 1786.

The picture belongs to Herbert Gosling, at Botleys Park, Chertsey. See SMITH, page 908. [note: that volume is still MIA.]


Gosh! I never knew Mary Bennett was Ellis Cunliffe’s second wife! Who was and what happened to ‘Miss Davis’?!? But more: Was there really a Miss Davis??? Ellis and Mary married on the 19 December 1760… Will have to hunt up the old GM (nothing online; and not sure UVM’s microform holdings go back that far). This could be incorrect information, or incorrect dating. Stay tuned!

Interesting that Herbert, a son of Robert ‘Robin’ Gosling (Mary’s nephew), and Mary’s own son are considered by a not-too-distant branch of the Cunliffe family to be “away” from the Cunliffes! See the Baronetage and also an informative lawsuit among Sir Ellis’ siblings and widow.

And one wonders: if Herbert owned the portrait of Mrs. Drummond Smith, how on earth did it get to the Comptons (for it is now at Castle Ashby)? The Comptons were of course related to Drummond Smith (he was the uncle of Augusta Smith, Eliza Chute, Maria Marchioness Northampton, and Emma Smith), and I could have sworn that while considered a Romney portrait it was exhibited by Lord Northampton. Must look into that one’s provenance again. (For, if in the hands of the Comptons, that would mean this book’s claimed ownership was incorrect.)


  1. Pam Gardner said,

    I think the note “This would be Mary’s son” regarding sir Charles Smith, Bart., could be wrong. According to Deidre Le Faye’s book ‘Jane Austen, A Family Record, Charles was more likely Mary’s nephew: Mary’s husband died without issue, even after a second marriage.

  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    I have this book and will have to look up the original reference (actually, I am quite surprised that Le Faye would deal with the Smiths; Emma’s family usually gets short-shrifted by Austen scholars).

    Confusion comes via the names – when I mentioned “Mary’s son” above I meant the son of Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), the woman whose diaries I am researching.

    Mary Cunliffe (Mrs Drummond Smith) was indeed Mary Gosling’s maternal aunt. It is a tragic tale of two sisters who died within months of each other – Mrs Gosling in December 1803 and Mrs Drummond Smith in February 1804; Drummond Smith received his baronetcy later that year. That would make Lady Smith’s son Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith, bart., Mrs Drummond Smith’s great-nephew. If we refer to the owner and the picture (Reynold’s portrait of Lady Cunliffe; still in private hands) then the owner at the time of this book’s printing would have to be designated as Lady Cunliffe’s great-grandson. {BTW, Lady Cunliffe was named MARY as well!}

    Thank you, Pam, for your comment (I’ve fixed the notation above).

  3. jim windsor said,

    I would like to discuss with someone the ellis cunliffe painting, pls call me 17578736308 in Virginia, USA

  4. sonya said,

    I have a copy of this painting and it has a seal. would like info please. thanks


    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Sonya. Without seeing a picture of the “seal” I’ve no idea what that could be. Something adhered by a dealer, perhaps?

      As to the picture — the exact one on this website comes from the journal The Conoisseur, from its November 1913 issue. Undoubtedly, this image of Lady Northampton (sister to Mrs Augusta Smith), was exceptionally popular. Strangely, although painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the original of this print was often thought of — and even exhibited as — a George Romney! It has long been in possession of the Northampton’s, and “resides” at Castle Ashby (a private home).

      Mrs Mary Smith, wife of Drummond Smith, died before Drummond received his baronetcy. This was painted, and her sittings are indicated in Sir Joshua’s sitters’ book, about the time of her marriage – 1786. According to a great-niece, who never knew her, this picture was one of four done by Sir Joshua: included were both parents – Lady Cunliffe (which is reproduced on this website) and Sir Ellis Cunliffe, bart; as well as Mary’s younger sister Margaret Elizabeth (later: Eliza Gosling).

      There is a sad history to Mary Smith and Eliza Gosling. Eliza, who seems to have had illness problems, as she visits the likes of Cheltenham, died in December 1803. The Newspapers tell the tale that her sister Mary died of a broken heart — in February 1804. The now childless Lady Cunliffe lived until 1814. Boswell’s Mrs Piozzi mentions the grief of poor Lady Cunliffe, who seems to have lived alternatively with both her daughters. Eliza, of course, left five children; Mary had had no children.

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