Gallery

Gallery: 
Samuel De Wilde, 1751 - 1832
Portrait of the Actor Charles Macklin 1699-1797
Portrait of the Actor Charles Macklin
Oil on Canvas
42 x 33 cm. (16.1/2 x 13 in.)
Price: 
£6500

Notes

Charles Macklin  (1699?–1797), actor and playwright, was probably born in Culdaff, co. Donegal, Ireland, the son of William Melaghlin (or McLaughlin; d. 1704) , a publican, and his wife, Agnes, née Flanagan (c.1660–1759). His origins and early years have been the subject of myth, speculation, and biographical fantasy. Macklin's earliest biographer, Francis Aspry Congreve, records that the actor was born in the barony of Innishoven about 1699 in circumstances which were ‘indigent in the extreme’, and tells the story of a ‘late Irish Judge’ remembering him as ‘a very inferior servant in Trinity College, Dublin’ (Congreve, 10–11). According to James Kirkman, Macklin was descended from landed gentry, his father having lost his estates as a result of misguided loyalty to King James during the events of the revolution of 1688 (in this account, Macklin was born two months before the battle of the Boyne—that is, early in 1690). The Melaghlins moved to Dublin in the early 1700s and William died in 1704; in February 1707 Agnes married another supporter of King James, who had subsequently turned publican, Luke O'Meally.

Education and early career

Charles was sent to board at a school in Islandbridge, a village just west of Dublin, where he was taught by a Scotsman by the name of Nicholson—reportedly ‘a compendium of all those gloomy, brutal passions which constitute the systematic tyrant’ (Kirkman, 1.23), who was to instill into the boy a hatred of the Scots which was to last a lifetime. Macklin's first recorded stage appearance was (surprisingly, in view of his rasping voice, sturdy build, and rugged countenance) in the female role of Monimia in a school production of Thomas Otway's tragedy The Orphan, an event which provided an outlet for his dangerously undisciplined energies, and from which ‘he always dated his first disposition to become an actor’ (Kirkman, 1.25).

About 1708 Macklin left Dublin for England, and he spent the next few years in a series of menial jobs (possibly serving as a waiter or tapster). At some point between then and 1720 he took to the theatre, appearing with a succession of touring companies in Wales, the midlands, and in the Bath and Bristol area. Macklin himself later stated that he ‘came to reside in Westminster in 1720’ and ‘first trod the stage’ three years later (Appleton, 247), although no record of this exists; Congreve alludes to an unsuccessful appearance at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1725 as Alcander in Dryden's and Lee's Oedipus, ‘in which he spoke with so little of the then tragic cadence’ (Congreve, 12) that he was dismissed from the company. Macklin's view was that his ‘familiar’ pattern of delivery was at odds with the ‘hoity-toity tone of the tragedy of that day’ (Cooke, 13)—a perception of the relations between regional and class accent, theatrical diction, and his own version of realism which was to underpin his work as a performer and as a trainer of actors.

For the next three years Macklin was on tour in the west country. In 1733, however, came his first significant opportunity as a result of the actors' revolt, led by Theophilus Cibber, against John Highmore's chaotic management of the Drury Lane theatre. The precipitate departure of the major part of Highmore's company for the Haymarket left the hapless patentee desperate for actors, and Macklin duly stepped forward into an array of substantial roles which he might otherwise have waited for years to acquire, including Brazen in George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer. From the end of October 1733 to March 1734, when the Haymarket rebels returned to Drury Lane, Macklin enjoyed some success at the theatre; between March and May he was seen intermittently at the Haymarket and Lincoln's Inn Fields. During this period he also entered into a permanent relationship with the actress Mrs Ann Grace, and a daughter, Maria, was born in the summer of 1733. Although Ann later adopted Macklin as her surname, it appears that the couple never formally married. Like Charles she was of Irish descent, but her origins, her early years, and even her name are relatively indeterminate. In Kirkman's account she was ‘the widow of a very respectable hosier in Dublin’ (Kirkman, 1.174); according to Cooke, her maiden name was Grace Purvor (Cooke, 76). The family settled in Covent Garden. In Cooke's account, Macklin's early forties saw his conversion from Roman Catholicism to protestantism:

as he was strolling one day through Lincoln's Inn Fields, he saw a little book upon a stall called The Funeral of the Mass … the consequence of which was, that he deserted his mother church, and became a convert to the Protestant religion. (Cooke, 75)

Drury Lane, on trial, and Shylock

During the summer of 1734 Macklin was again on tour, possibly in Chester, Wales, and Bristol. His daughter Maria was baptized in Portsmouth on 1 September 1734. On 24 September, at the invitation of Drury Lane's new manager, Charles Fleetwood, he signed articles as a regular member of the company. He took on a wide range of second-rank parts and rapidly made himself indispensable both as an actor and as Fleetwood's associate. On the evening of 10 May 1735 Macklin's short temper led to an incident which might well have curtailed not only his acting career but also his life. On the night before, Macklin had worn a certain property wig in the farce Trick for Trick; however, Hallam attempted to claim it for that evening's performance. Hallam surrendered the wig, but Macklin continued verbally to abuse him. When Hallam eventually retorted, Macklin leapt out of his chair and shoved his stick at his face. The thrust caught Hallam in the eye, and, in the words of the surgeon who was called to his assistance, ‘the flick had passed through the thin bone, that contains the eye, into the brain’ (Kirkman, 1.200). According to his own testimony, Macklin instantly regretted his action (although he also hinted that Hallam had brought his fate upon himself, claiming that ‘his left side was then towards me; but he turned about unluckily’) and threw the stick into the fire. Hallam ordered Thomas Arne's son, who was sitting by, costumed as a girl for the part of Estifania, to ‘Whip up your clothes, you little b-h, and urine in my eye’ (Kirkman, 1.202); when young Arne proved unable to comply with the request, Macklin himself duly obliged. Despite this attempt to provide a natural antiseptic, Hallam died the next morning. Indicted for wilful murder on 13 May, Macklin surrendered himself voluntarily. The case came to trial at the Old Bailey on 12 December. Since he was not entitled to legal representation, Macklin used the intervening period to prepare his own defence, an experience which gave him a taste for litigation that lasted for the rest of his career. Under Macklin's cross-examination a succession of witnesses concurred that the killing was accidental rather than premeditated; moreover, Macklin asserted in his own mitigation that the wig itself was ‘absolutely necessary for my part, as the whole force of thepoet's wit depends on the lean, meagre looks of one that is in want of food’ (Kirkman, 1.201). The jury quickly returned a verdict of manslaughter, and Macklin's sentence was ‘to be branded on the hand and discharged’ (Appleton, 33). By the end of January 1736 Macklin was back at Drury Lane.

The 1740–41 season saw two key events in Macklin's stage career. The first was his appearance on 15 April 1740 in David Garrick's afterpiece Lethe, or, Esop in the Shades, inaugurating a friendship that later turned to bitter rivalry. The second was his sensational début as Shylock, which afforded the first significant demonstration of his systematic, almost forensic, approach to character-building. The Merchant of Venice had rarely been staged since the seventeenth century, and the role of Shylock had been associated withcommedia dell'arte-derived traditions of low comedy. Macklin's conception of the part was informed by rather more detailed research and sympathetic observation than had hitherto been the case, his essential reference points being Josephus' History of the Jews and his daily visits to The Exchange and the adjacent coffee houses, ‘that by a frequent intercourse and conversation with the unforeskinned race he might habituate himself to their air and deportment’ (Appleton, 46). The play opened on 14 February 1741; in Macklin's account, he was ‘in such a cause, to be tried by a special jury’; appropriately enough, the trial scene ‘wound up the fulness of my reputation: here I was well listened to; and here I made a silent yet forcible impression on my audience, that I retired from this great attempt most perfectly satisfied’ (Cooke, 92–3). Despite its commitment to verisimilitude, the characterization was not designed to solicit sympathy. Macklin's Shylock was a monstrous, scornful, coldly malign force, and hugely popular with audiences; he was to continue to play the part for fifty years. Much later, according to legend, he not only afforded George II himself a sleepless night after attending a performance, but also provoked him to urge Sir Robert Walpole to threaten one of his more recalcitrant parliaments by ‘sending them to the theatre to see that Irishman play Shylock’ (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans, BDA, 10). As far as contemporary audiences were concerned, Macklin's rendition was authentically Shakespearian, as it was commemorated in a couplet often attributed to Pope:

This is the Jew
That Shakespeare drew.

With Shylock it appeared that Macklin had transformed himself from a modest success into the leading light of the London stage. But in October 1741 his triumph was overshadowed by the equally spectacular reclamation of one of Shakespeare's tragic protagonists, in Garrick's début performance as Richard III. Macklin initially celebrated his friend's success, and they performed together at Drury Lane through the 1742–3 season. During this period Garrick and the actress Peg Woffington moved into the Macklins' house in Bow Street, Covent Garden—an arrangement which has given rise to speculation about a possible ménage à trois. Towards the end of the season, however, events at Drury Lane led to a break between Macklin and Garrick which was never fully healed. Even with Garrick, Macklin, Woffington, Kitty Clive, and Hannah Pritchard in the company, Fleetwood was mired in debt and unable to pay his actors' salaries. In May 1743, under Garrick's leadership, the company staged a walkout, while petitioning the lord chamberlain to allow them to form a new company. Given the terms of the 1737 Licensing Act, the attempted coup was doomed from the outset, and the rebels were forced to go back to Fleetwood to negotiate for re-engagement. The manager agreed to reinstate the entire company—apart from Macklin, whom he regarded as the most treacherous and ungrateful of all. To no effect, Garrick pleaded Macklin's case, volunteering cuts in his own salary to secure his fellow actor's engagement; he then attempted to persuade Macklin by offering to pay him himself. Macklin refused the offer. As Garrick returned to the Drury Lane stage in December (under significantly better terms than before), Macklin's supporters took up the cudgels. A pamphlet was issued denouncing Garrick (who replied in kind), and Macklin's friends pelted the actor off stage. Although the row subsided, and a year later the two actors were publicly reconciled, Macklin harboured a grudge towards Garrick for the rest of his life.

Banished from Drury Lane, Macklin set up a short-lived experiment at the Haymarket wherein he recruited a scratch company of amateurs, whom he intended, without significant success, to school in his new art of plain, ‘natural’ acting. By the summer of 1744 he was on the Kentish circuit. He was accompanied by Mrs Macklin and their daughter, Maria, who had made her own stage début two years previously. Maria Macklin (1733–1781) was one of her father's pupils who went on to enjoy some success as an actress. Her first appearance was as the young Duke of York in Richard III at Drury Lane on 20 December 1742; for the next thirty years she played at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, mostly in middle-ranking roles. She was fortunate enough to enjoy the continued support of Garrick despite her father's continued animosity towards the actor, and her talents were generally recognized by contemporaries, but her personal and professional relationship with her father was complex and, as time went on, increasingly distant. She was unusually pious for a member of the theatrical profession at that time, and remained unmarried. She died on 3 July 1781, outlived by her father, her brother, and her stepmother.

In 1744, in fairly desperate financial circumstances, Macklin sent begging letters to Fleetwood. Fortunately, Fleetwood's own financial difficulties were also catching up with him, and before the end of the year he retired to France, leaving the Drury Lane patent to pass to James Lacy. Macklin triumphantly returned to the stage on 19 December 1744, as Shylock. The performance included a conciliatory prologue in which Macklin somewhat optimistically promised to:

take no part; no private jarrs foment
But hasten from disputes I can't prevent.

He also undertook to ‘meddle not with State affairs’ (Kirkman, 1.297), but the events of the Jacobite rising of 1745 prompted a response from him which belied this oath of self-censorship as well as inaugurating a second element in his theatrical activities: playwriting. On 18 January 1746 Drury Lane attempted to exploit the current mood of anti-Catholic patriotism with the première of Macklin's cod-Shakespearian tragedy Henry VII, or, The Popish Imposter. Although the play's loyal stance ensured that it was not hissed from the stage, it was taken off after three unsuccessful performances. Disappointed by his play's failure, Macklin none the less persisted with his authorial efforts and wrote a two-act farce, A Will and No Will, which was produced on 23 April 1746.

Dublin, London, and retirement

For the 1746–7 season Garrick was engaged by John Rich for Covent Garden, and his place was taken by the young Irish player Spranger Barry, who became one of Macklin's close friends. During 1747 Garrick entered into partnership with James Lacy as joint owner and manager of the Drury Lane theatre. After the cool reception of his adaptation of John Ford'sLove's Melancholy and his own farce The Fortune Hunters, Macklin accepted Thomas Sheridan's offer of two seasons at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. However, the mutual competitiveness of the two actors rapidly turned to rancour, and by the end of March 1750 the Macklins were dismissed. At some point between 1748 and 1750 Macklin's son, John, was born. Between 1750 and 1752 he enjoyed steady success as part of John Rich's company at Covent Garden. He was, however, growing tired of the theatre: his range of roles was narrowing, and his authorial efforts failed to impress. In 1753, after an unhappy appearance in Samuel Foote's The Englishman in Paris, and with his daughter, Maria, now firmly established as an actress in her own right, Macklin announced his retirement. Taking advantage of the current vogue for debating societies and coffee-house rhetoric, he drew upon his training and teaching experience to establish in Covent Garden's north piazza what he called ‘a Magnificent Coffee-Room and a School of Oratory … the great desideratum of our Country’ (Appleton, 98), which was to be graced by a series of public lectures by himself. Macklin's ambitious plans for a forum for enlightened political, religious, legal, and literary debate were thwarted as the initially buoyant custom of ‘The British Inquisition’ rapidly diminished, his debts mounted, and his staff took to dipping into the takings; his own lectures merely provided the opportunity for mockery and the trading of drunken insults. In January 1755 he was listed as bankrupt.

Macklin now negotiated with Spranger Barry over plans to establish a new theatre in Dublin, on the site of the Crow Street Music Hall. Thomas Sheridan was sufficiently provoked by this potential challenge to the Smock Alley monopoly to start to issue pamphlets denouncing his old rival, to which Macklin was characteristically quick to respond. Macklin's participation in the project foundered amid acrimony between himself and Barry, and when the Crow Street Theatre opened in October 1758 he was back in London. In the meantime Mrs Macklin had fallen ill, leading to her death on 28 December 1758. Macklin established a relationship with one of his servants, Elizabeth Jones (d. 1806), who was the same age as his daughter; they were later married. During this period Macklin wrote his most successful stage play, the satirical comedy Love à-la-Mode, which he managed to persuade a reluctant Garrick to produce. On 12 December 1759 his brief retirement ended with a reappearance at Drury Lane as Shylock, and as Sir Archy Macsarcasm in his own play, presented as the afterpiece. It was an immediate hit, and remained popular with actors and audiences for the next fifty years, providing numerous opportunities for Macklin to indulge in his taste for litigation, in actions against unauthorized performances or publication.

After the failure of his The Married Libertine in January 1761, Macklin took up Barry's invitation of a season at Crow Street, but once again became embroiled in legal wrangling with its proprietors over payment. In late spring 1762 he tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Garrick to enter into an arrangement whereby he would divide his time between Drury Lane and Dublin. From 1762 to 1767 he appeared at Crow Street in the winter, with occasional excursions to London. Macklin's playwriting efforts finally won critical and commercial acclaim with the comedy The Man of the World, first performed (under the title The True Born Scotchman) at Smock Alley on 10 July 1764. He joined Colman's company at Covent Garden in the autumn of 1767. A dispute had arisen between the Covent Garden managers over Colman's arrogation of authority, and Macklin naturally became involved, ‘with as much seeming spirit and alacrity, as if he had been the solicitor instead of the client’ (Cooke, 271); the conflict came to an abrupt end in July 1769 when one of the parties suddenly died of a chill on a cricket field. For the best part of the next decade Macklin acted in Dublin, London, and on tour in England, while also inculcating young performers in his ‘science’ of acting. His protégés included Henrietta Leeson, to whom he was strongly (and hopelessly) attracted.

Macbeth and later career

At the end of 1773 Macklin returned to Covent Garden, which was still under Colman's management, to make what would be his last substantial theatrical innovation. After months of careful planning and research, Macklin's production of Macbeth opened on 23 October. It marked the beginnings of a major shift in the theory and practice of Shakespearian staging in Britain. Costumed in ‘the old Caledonian habit’, Macklin's Macbeth broke with the custom of playing Shakespeare in contemporary costume by introducing a sense of place and period; instead of the ‘suit of scarlet and gold, a tail wig etc’ of the ‘modern military officer’, Macklin appeared in ‘tartan stockings … wearing a Balmoral bonnet’ (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans, BDA, 19). His experiment was largely judged a success, and it subsequently proved to foreshadow the Shakespearian staging methods of the nineteenth century. In the short term, however, the performance provided the occasion for yet another damaging squabble. Macklin's first entry was greeted with isolated hissing; seated in the audience, Mrs Macklin confronted the alleged perpetrators, James Sparks and the actor Samuel Reddish (an antagonist from Macklin's time in Dublin). Macklin pursued the allegation in the press, and subsequent performances were marred by violent demonstrations in and around the auditorium by pro- and anti-Macklin factions. On 18 November matters came to a head during The Merchant of Venice. At Sparks's instigation, the performance was halted amid calls for Macklin to be dismissed. With the rioters tearing up the seats and smashing chandeliers, Colman acceded to the demand, and announced that Macklin was discharged forthwith.

In June the following year, incensed by his (unproven) suspicion that Garrick had been behind the disturbances, Macklin pressed charges of riot and conspiracy against five known participants. He pursued the action himself with his usual enthusiasm, and the trial commenced on 24 February 1775. The case against the defendants was unanswerable, and guilty verdicts on the charge of riot were promptly returned. It was then that Macklin executed another bold stroke that fully redeemed his reputation in the eyes of a fiercely attentive public. Instead of insisting upon full settlement of damages (to which he was entitled) he exercised leniency, urging that the guilty men should do no more than meet his legal costs and pay £300 towards his own and Maria Macklin's benefit. Praising Macklin for this display of magnanimity, the presiding judge, Lord Mansfield, said ‘You have met with great applause today. You never acted better’ (Kirkman, 2.256).

It was Macklin's last major legal and histrionic triumph, although he continued to pursue lawsuits and to act at Covent Garden, on tour, and in Dublin until the middle of the following decade. These were not the happiest of times: he was increasingly afflicted by deafness and absent-mindedness, and he became alienated from Maria, who had never really emerged from her father's shadow and who died at the age of forty-eight in July 1781; he was also disappointed by his son John's persistent failure to secure lasting or settled employment. Some comfort came from the fact that in 1781 Macklin finally persuaded the lord chamberlain to allow The Man of the World on to the English stage. Having judiciously toned down the ferocious anti-Scots polemic and biting topicality, Macklin found success for a play which would remain popular well into the next century. In 1777 he and Elizabeth Jones had moved to lodgings at 6 Tavistock Row, Covent Garden. The couple married on 13 February 1778. Macklin occupied himself with acting tuition and periodic forays into the theatre. His final appearance was on 7 May 1789 in The Merchant of Venice. After stumbling through two or three speeches he informed the audience that ‘he was unable to proceed in the part’, an apology received ‘with a mixed applause of indulgence and commiseration’ (Cooke, 317). He spent the years after this abrupt retirement in poor health and in financial difficulties. Macklin died at his home in Tavistock Row on 11 July 1797, and was buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden, five days later. He was survived by Elizabeth Macklin, who struggled on under the burden of her husband's bankruptcy at his death. She died in April 1806.

If Macklin's bitter legacy to his second spouse is a sad reflection of his personal decline in his final years, posterity has been somewhat kinder to the actor himself. The complexities of his personality, which were not unrelated to his ambivalent status as a socially mobile Irishman of mysterious origins, afforded material for several contemporary biographies of varying reliability, by Congreve in 1798, Kirkman in 1799, and Cooke in 1804, although only one major account of his life (Appleton's Charles Macklin: an Actor's Life, 1961) has appeared since. Macklin continues to be associated with Garrick as one of the key innovators in eighteenth-century English theatre; those inclined to see its history in terms of a natural progression from the artifice of the post-Restoration period to the realism of the Victorians tend to credit Macklin with the reforms that made the latter possible. But Macklin's pursuit of a ‘natural’ style as a performer and teacher, and his attempts to apply the principles of the Enlightenment to the science of acting, might also be placed in the context of his incessant, troubled shuttling between the theatres of London and Dublin, the centre and the periphery of eighteenth-century English culture. It is also worth reflecting upon the fact that Macklin's most celebrated achievement was in the part of a maligned outsider who none the less wields enormous power at the very heart of the society that both vilifies and depends upon him. Like Shylock, Macklin spent much of his career in and on trials of various kinds. Whatever extremes of admiration and loathing he inspired in his own lifetime, the verdict of history on the scale and significance of his accomplishments has been largely favourable.

Robert Shaughnessy  DNB

Artist biography

Samuel De Wilde, (bap. 1751, d. 1832), portrait painter, was baptized at the Dutch church of Austin Friars, London, on 28 July 1751, the eldest of the two sons of a Dutch woodcarver, also Samuel De Wilde (d. 1753), who had settled in England by 1748 when he married De Wilde's mother, Frances Havart, at St James's Church, Westminster, London. On 19 November 1765 De Wilde was apprenticed for seven years to his godfather, Samuel Haworth, a woodcarver in Denmark Street, Soho. However, he soon showed a talent for painting, broke his apprenticeship, and entered the newly formed Royal Academy Schools on 9 November 1769. At the Royal Academy he would have encountered artists such as Johann Zoffany, whose theatrical portraiture later became a major influence.

We know little of De Wilde's early work: etchings signed P. Paul and mezzotints inscribed S. Paul produced in the 1770s have been attributed to him, but with no real justification. He first exhibited his small portraits at the Society of Artists in 1776 and continued showing there until 1778. From that date onwards he exhibited at the Royal Academy, broadening his œuvre from 1782 onwards with scenes of banditti and fancy pictures. However, he became best-known for his theatrical portraits, which were exhibited almost every year at the academy from 1792 until 1821. He also sent three paintings to the British Institution in 1812.

De Wilde's career in theatrical portraiture began with the start of the publication by John Bell (1745–1831) of the second issue of the British Theatre in January 1791. Before this the only painting by De Wilde with a theatrical connection seems to have been William Shuttlewood, the Actor, Aged 21 (1788; Yale U. CBA), but this represents an actor in everyday dress. Each number of the British Theatre consisted of a play accompanied by a vignette and a full-length portrait of a leading actor or actress of the day as one of the characters. Bell chose De Wilde as the portraitist and puffed him in his newspaper, The Oracle, on 8 April 1791 with the statement: ‘Zoffany has hitherto been considered as the most celebrated Painter of small whole lengths, but comparison now gives DE WILDE a place as his superior’ (Mayes, ‘John Bell’, 101). He provided his protégé with a studio in the British Library, his bookshop on the Strand, and invited potential subscribers to visit the artist at work. De Wilde was extremely productive, painting no fewer than thirty-six character portraits in 1791 and thirty-three in 1792. These paintings show actors and actresses in costume with props, set against a theatrical backdrop. Thomas Blanchard as Ralph in ‘The Maid of the Mill’(engraved 1791; Garrick Club, London) is a good example of the series, inspired by Zoffany's theatrical portraits of the 1760s. In total De Wilde provided ninety-three pictures for the series before Bell ran into financial problems and both employer and employee were evicted from the British Library by George Cawthorn, a rival bookseller. The last number of theBritish Theatre to bear Bell's imprint was published in August 1795. Only two of De Wilde's plates appeared under Cawthorn's regime and it is likely that these were found in the British Library after the seizure.

By this date, however, De Wilde's career was established. In 1804 business was thriving to the extent that, despite having a studio at his home in Leicester Square, he began to rent additional rooms from the duke of Bedford at 9 Tavistock Row, Covent Garden. Many actors and actresses came from the nearby Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres to sit to him there and his theatrical portraits adorned numerous publications, including the Monthly Mirror, John Cawthorn's Minor British Theatre, and William Oxberry's New English Drama.Sarah Harlowe as Beatrice in ‘The Anatomist’ (1805; Royal Collection) is typical, representing a single figure against a plain background. These portraits were also published independently as prints and highly sought after by collectors such as Charles Mathews, whose collection now forms the basis of that of the Garrick Club. As well as painting in oil, De Wilde came to specialize in soft pencil or crayon with light washes of watercolour. His usual fee in 1810 and 1811, as noted in his diary, was £2 12s. 6d. for a watercolour drawing while oil paintings varied upwards in price from a few guineas.

De Wilde's success was clearly wavering by 1810, however, as the diary also records financial loans from friends and he stopped exhibiting at the Royal Academy almost a decade before his death. Some suggest this was due to failing eyesight while others ascribe it to old age and a sense of lack of recognition, particularly as he was never a candidate for election to the Royal Academy (Mayes, De Wildes).

Samuel De Wilde died on 19 January 1832 and was buried in the burial-ground adjoining Whitefield's Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road, London. All that is known about his wife is that she was called Eleanor and that they had two children, Louisa Harriet (b. 1801) and George James De Wilde (1804–1871). George was born in London on 19 January 1804 and was originally intended for an artistic career. However, he soon showed a predilection for writing and, following a temporary post at the Colonial Office, began working for theNorthampton Mercury c.1830. He became editor for the paper and a major figure in Northampton society, serving as governor to the local infirmary and helping to found the Northampton Central Art Gallery. In 1825 he married Mary Caroline Butterworth, with whom he had five children; after her death he married, in 1845, Louisa Packer, with whom he had a further two children. He died in the Mercury offices on 16 September 1871.

Kate Retford  DNB