BEAUMONT, Sir George Howland, 7th Bt. (1753-1827), of Coleorton, Leics. and Great Dunmow, Essex.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 6 Nov. 1753, o.s. of Sir George Beaumont, 6th Bt., of Coleorton and Great Dunmow by Rachel, da. of Michael Howland of Stonehall, Great Dunmow. educ. Eton 1764-9; New Coll. Oxf. 1772; Grand Tour 1781-4. m. 6 May 1778, Margaret, da. of John Willes† of Astrop, Northants., s.p. suc. fa. as 7th Bt. 4 Feb. 1762; uncle George Howland of Haverhill, Essex 1798.
Beaumont’s love of painting, developed at an early age, was the ruling passion of his life. He was a talented amateur landscape artist, but his gift lay less in the execution than in the encouragement of art and he is chiefly remembered as a generous private patron of painters and poets.
His parliamentary career was insignificant. Active participation in politics proved uncongenial to a man of his restrained and gentle disposition, as he reflected in 1821: ‘I always hated the turbulence of contention, and I always persuaded myself there would be enough who loved the bustle of the world and would do the business far better from inclination, than I should after torturing my mind’.1 Returned in 1790 by the Earl of Beverley for his pocket borough, presumably as a paying guest, he supported government, his natural prejudices having been reinforced by an unpleasant encounter with mob violence during a visit to Paris shortly after his election. He is not known to have spoken in the House, but he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, and some of his political opinions were recorded by his friend Joseph Farington. In January 1794 he was ‘in great apprehension about the times’ and a year later expressed a wish that William Windham, a personal friend, had remained out of office to lead the country gentlemen by example. In November 1795 he confessed that ‘attendance on the debates becomes tedious’, was shocked by the acrimonious exchanges over the seditious meetings bill, a ‘strong’ but ‘necessary’ measure, and seemed to Farington ‘not to wish to be in another Parliament’. He found Pitt personally ‘dry and rejecting’ and was more at ease with Fox in private.2
Beaumont did retire from Parliament in 1796, although he had evidently been prepared to come in again on the right terms. He appeared on a ministerial list of ‘persons wanting seats’ and was said to be negotiating for one at Malmesbury, but he eventually told Farington that
he intended to make his congé to Parliament, being not disposed to give the price which seats sell for. An offer was made him of a ministerial seat, which he would only accept on condition that he should not be bound to support all measures or be precluded from exercising his judgement. This was allowed to be a very reasonable condition, but when principals were referred to the proposal was not renewed. Colchester was thought of for him, and the probable expense not more than 5 or £600, but it being in the neighbourhood of Dedham made an objection.
In 1806 he was mentioned as a possible candidate for Leicestershire, but he did not stand.3
In 1798 Beaumont brought a successful Chancery suit against the son and successor of his late steward, who had been systematically swindling him during his management of the Coleorton coal mines, on lease from Sir George. He subsequently made Coleorton, which was rebuilt by his friend Dance, his principal residence and devoted the rest of his life to painting and the extension of his artistic patronage. Among his personal friends and beneficiaries were Reynolds, Davy, Scott, Haydon, Wilkie, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Constable. He was chiefly responsible for the foundation of the National Gallery and gave his own valuable collection of paintings to the nation. Dorothy Wordsworth described Beaumont and his wife as ‘people whom it does one good to know’ and Scott recalled him as ‘by far the most sensible and pleasing man I ever knew, kind, too, in his nature, and generous’.4 He died 7 Feb. 1827.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
See Margaret Greaves, Regency Patron (1966).