IMAGINE my utter surprise to see the following turn up in a December 2012 Newsletter for the El Paso Museum of Art:
They’ve purchased my William Ellis Gosling’s portait!!
(by Sir William Beechey)
Designated the “Members Choice 2012 Winner”, it has been at Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, having once hung (but been ‘deaccessioned’ in 2000) in West Bend, Wisconsin. Ah, little does anyone know what they had, and El Paso now has.
William Ellis Gosling, the eldest child of banker William Gosling and his (first) wife Margaret Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Cunliffe, was born in the summer of 1794. The painting, exhibited in 1800, is surely of a child younger than age 6. Mention is made of “Master Gosling” (p. 72) and the family sittings (p. 244) in the 1907 book Sir William Beechey, R.A. (I don’t know why you can’t search the “read online” copy and find Gosling anymore…)
I will finish this post – with some information about dear William Ellis – later. Off to the library at present! (pouring rain…)
6.49 pm – have returned; and it’s STILL pouring out.
William Ellis Gosling was the eldest of seven children. Mary’s earliest diary, from 1814, is a door-to-door travel memoir of her trip from London to Oxford — to see her brothers who were at the university. For the 29th of June, Mary wrote,
“Tuesday [sic: Wednesday] morning having been invited by William to breakfast in his room accompanied by Robert we walked to Brazennose where there was a very sumptuous Collation prepared for us, Dr and Miss Burton partook of it, afterwards Papa, Mrs Sandoz my Sister my two brothers and myself went in a four oared boat to Nuneham William and Robert rowed us and as they could not get any other young men to row us they got two fishermen and Miss Burton’s butler steered us. Mama Dr. and Miss Burton were in the open carriage”.
A few years later, in September 1818, William is mentioned as having been at trial over a pick-pocket; the young man, Thomas Gardner – only 21-year-old) – was found guilty and sentenced to transportation. The short transcript of the Old Bailey proceedings says, in part,
“THOMAS GARDNER was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of June, from the person of William Ellis Gosling, one pocket-book, value 3s; one half-sovereign, and one 1 [pound] bank note his property.
WILLIAM ELLIS GOSLING, ESQ. I am a banker, and live in the Strand. On the 25th of June I was in Bear-street, Leicester-fields, at the time of the election, about half-past four o’clock, looking at the state of the poll, which was up in a shop-window, and felt somebody touching my right-hand coat-pocket. I turned round, and saw the prisoner with my pocket-book in his hand. I charged him with taking it, which he denied. I took him into a shop, and sent for a constable.”
Groan! a red morocco “pocket book”! So perhaps William kept a diary, like his sister, if this was something like The Daily Journal…
Between 1823 and 1828 William commissioned (one presumes) two portraits by Sir Edwin Landseer… of his dogs: Bob (a terrier) and Neptune (a Newfoundland). Both works went on to be engraved by Landseer’s brother Thomas. (full color of each dog: Bob; Neptune) Mary’s husband Charles notes in his diary for January 3, 1829: “Went with W:m Gosling to see Landseer’s pictures he is a most admirable artist”.
Spotting William in Mary’s diaries is easy; he is frequently mentioned, coming for visits (and going), dining; when not in company with one of his brothers, he accompanies Spencer Smith, Charles’ younger brother. After Charles’ death, William often is her man of business, coming when the rents were due. William is also mentioned in this capacity in the diaries of Susannah Smith (Charles’ great-aunt, the widowed Mrs Thomas Smith).
Dreadful news comes in Mary’s entry for the 30th of December, 1833: “Received an account from my Mother to inform us that William had got the Scarletina, but was going on well.” And on the following day, “Went to town, and saw my Father who was much the same. Made many inquiries about William but I could not learn many particulars. he dined at Richard Gosling’s on the 29th and complained before dinner of having a sore throat, during dinner it became so much worse that he was obliged to return home… on Monday morning Mr Tupper pronounced it to be Scarletina… he expressed it as his opinion that none of the family should go up to him, as he considered it an infectious complaint.”
The next FIVE years of Mary’s diaries are missing…
While I can chart – somewhat – the last illness of Mr Gosling (the father), in the diary for 1834 kept by the Rev. Richard Seymour (some sections of the diary have been cut out, probably removing sections about Richard’s distress about the family of his brother John), nothing is said of the death of this young man, which occurred on the 3rd of January, 1834. Richard records that Mrs Smith (“Mamma”) asked him to visit Mr Gosling on Sunday, January 12th; he calls the next three days. One more visit is recorded (what missing might once have existed is of course unknown) before notice of his death: “Heard from Lady Smith of the death of her poor Father Mr. G – wrote her a note of comfort – & by her request went to them at 4.” (27 Jan 1834)