The Late Lord Henry Seymour

FROM Captain Gronow’s Last Recollections by Captain Rees Howell Gronow

Image by George Tooker

I knew Lord Henry perhaps better than any other Englishman, having lived with him on terms of great intimacy. He was famous for his racing stud and good taste in his carriages and riding horses. It was said, by persons who were little acquainted with him, that he was fond of masquerades, fighting, and was also the terror of pugilists, from his great strength and science in boxing; on the contrary, he was a gentle, retiring, and humane man, and never was known to have been present at a masquerade, or any place of the sort. But it unfortunately happened that a man named Franconi, of the Circus, a low-born and vulgar fellow, resembled him in looks and stature, and having been mistaken for my noble friend, gave himself out as Lord Seymour, in those dens of infamy where the noble lord was unknown.

Lord Henry Seymour was a man of fine taste, and fond of the arts, and, at his death, his paintings, library, and plate fetched a considerable sum at public auction. During his lifetime he patronised young artists: often advancing them money in every possible way. He was the founder of the French Jockey Club, and, in conjunction with the late Duke of Grammont, (better known in England as the Count de Guiche, ) made racing in France what it now is: that is, they placed the turf upon a respectable footing. Lord Henry established a school of arms and gymnasium in his hotel on the Boulevard des Italiens, which became the most celebrated in Europe. He himself was an adept in the art of fencing, and his skill was considered by the professors to be incomparable.

Lord Henry’s kindness of heart and unostentatious generosity were his noblest qualities. One morning, whilst we were breakfasting in his library, a friend entered, and, with a sad countenance, informed him that he had that morning been visiting an old friend of his, a man of good birth, who, with his wife and children, was absolutely starving, and that they were reduced to sleep upon straw. Lord Henry, touched by this painful information, asked where these poor people were to be found, and being told, he said not a word more, but ordered his carriage and went out. The next morning the same gentleman made his appearance, and said, I call to tell you, Seymour, that I am just come from my poor friend, who, I am happy to say, has received relief in the shape of furniture, bedding, linen, and food, from some kind person, who also left a considerable sum of money to purchase wearing apparel for the family.

Seymour never moved a muscle of his face, and we were wondering from whence the relief came, when a fine-looking fellow entered, bowing in the most respectful manner, and addressed his lordship in the following terms: My lord, I am obliged to confess that I have taken some trouble to discover the name of our benefactor, and from all I have been able to learn, it cannot be any other than your lordship; I therefore deem it my duty, on behalf of my wife, children, and self, to return you my heart-felt thanks for this unexampled act of charity towards a perfect stranger. The poor fellow shed tears in thus addressing his lordship, who kindly gave him his hand, and promised to be his friend for the future; which promise he fulfilled, by procuring him a place under the Government, that enabled him to live happily and bring up his family with honour and comfort.

Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 10:12 AM  Leave a Comment  

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