Category Archives: Letters

The Society of Gentlemen at Exeter

One of Douce’s oldest friends was the writer Isaac D’Israeli (1766-1848), whose correspondence I am reading at the moment. Douce’s networks of antiquaries, artists, and fellow collectors hugely contributed to the formation and development of his collection. D’Israeli was responsible … Continue reading

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A game of cards

Among Douce’s many correspondents, Richard Twiss is probably my favourite -his style is maddening, since he constantly jumps from subject to subject, but his letters are very entertaining. He bombarded Douce with numerous enquiries about all sorts of matters often … Continue reading

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Knavery stalks through the land

Douce’s interest in images of fools and jesters was not limited to his research for the ‘Dissertation on the Clowns and Fools of Shakspeare’, published as part of his Illustrations of Shakespeare and of ancient manners (London, 1807). Plates like … Continue reading

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Modern life is rubbish

The quadrille-craze mentioned in my previous post on William Hawkes Smith’s music-sheet was also one of the subjects depicted by George and Isaac Robert Cruikshank in their illustrations to Pierce Egan’s Life in London (1821). In Egan’s social comedy, the … Continue reading

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Green boughs

As it happens with his creative etymologies, Douce’s explanations of particular details taken from the images that he collected are sometimes as difficult to believe as one of Munchausen’s tales. On 1 February 1801, Douce sent the following note to … Continue reading

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Douce and William Godwin

You may have read the review of Pamela Clemit’s edition of William Godwin’s letters (recently published by OUP) in last month’s LRB. The reviewer, John Barrell, refers to an online resource provided by the Bodleian Library, which I have just … Continue reading

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Baron Munchausen

Reading Francis Douce’s correspondence sometimes feels like playing six degrees of separation. Douce, for instance, knew Twiss, whose friend Alexander Jardine corresponded with Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, one of Goya’s patrons. Twiss’s letters are a particularly rich source of information … Continue reading

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Hungry caterpillars

Since 1788, Francis Douce kept a lively correspondence with the travel writer Richard Twiss (1747-1821). A typical letter from Twiss, as Douce explained to his friend George Cumberland years later, would be like ‘an omnibus on twenty or more subjects’, … Continue reading

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Douce on holiday

Francis Douce was a man of habit. For many years he spent his summer holiday in Box Hill, near Dorking, enjoying what he called ‘the paradise of England’. But in 1795, he was advised to travel to Ramsgate for health … Continue reading

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Health advice

From a letter sent by Douce to George Cumberland on 4 February 1826: I read no book on health -they only hip one. I have lately lost my truly valuable & excellent friend & physician Dr. Fryer who could not … Continue reading

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