GULSTON, Joseph (?1744-86), of Ealing Grove, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



30 May 1765 - 1768
1780 - 1784

Family and Education

b. ?1744, 1st s. of Joseph Gulston. educ. Worcester 1750-6; Eton 1756-9; Ch. Ch. Oxf. Feb. 1763, aged 18. m. 24 June 1767, Bridgetta, da. of Sir Thomas Stepney, 6th Bt., sis of Sir John Stepney, 7th Bt., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 16 Aug. 1766.

Offices Held


Gulston, a sickly child, was ‘spoiled intolerably’ by his Portuguese mother; when he was six, his father ‘very wisely’ sent him to school at Worcester; and next to Eton.1 There he ‘was indolent in the extreme’, and showed no application, while his younger brother John ‘found it no trouble to learn.’ Their father meant to make John his heir, and ‘sent his eldest son to Hamburg to learn business; but ... business was the only thing he did not learn’. He took to music and gave concerts to the town. The statement that on John’s dying at Eton their father recalled Joseph from Hamburg and sent him to Oxford is hardly correct: John died in 1764, and Joseph matriculated at Oxford in February 1763.

In May 1765 old Gulston vacated his seat at Poole in his son’s favour, and by a considerable effort carried his election. When in July 1765 Rockingham compiled his parliamentary list, Gulston had not yet taken his seat but had already applied for a tidesman’s place at Poole: evidence that he was a well-wisher to Government; which he remained also under their successors: at the end of 1766 Rockingham classed him, with a query, as ‘Swiss’ (prepared to support every Administration), Townshend in January 1767 as ‘Government’, but Newcastle, 2 Mar. 1767, as ‘friend’. There is no vote or speech of his on record during those years. In 1768 he stood for Poole on a joint interest with Thomas Calcraft but was defeated; petitioned against Joshua Mauger’s return, which was declared void, 10 Feb. 1769; but the petition itself did not ask for Gulston to be seated in his place. Both stood at the ensuing by-election, but Gulston withdrew the night before the poll. Calcraft’s friends who had supported him called his behaviour shameful, base, and dastardly:2 they feared the consequences in case the counter-petition against Thomas Calcraft’s return succeeded, especially as many voters who had expected money from Gulston were disappointed. Was there some underhand agreement between Gulston and Mauger? ‘I have been misinformed if he did not see Mauger before he declined the poll’, wrote Mrs. Pike. And Thomas Hyde: ‘Mauger’s party ... at times ... talk of bringing down Gulston [as candidate if Calcraft was unseated], but I can’t think that any persuasion would tempt him to that.’ The most probable explanation is that he despaired of success and cut his losses—even those who condemned his action credited him with only 43 votes against 44 for Mauger.

Gulston now settled at Ealing Grove; converted it into an Italian villa at a cost of £30,000 (‘more taste could not be displayed than he exhibited on the lovely spot’); and his wife being equally artistic and extravagant in her tastes, the study of the day of the giddy pair ‘seemed to be who should spend the money the fastest’. ‘He began in 1768 the magnificent collection of books and prints which he lived to complete unrivalled, and also just lived long enough to see them dispersed ... Mr. Granger was always at Ealing, there compiled his work.’ William Cole, in a letter to Horace Walpole, 20 Nov. 1772, describes a visit from Gulston, whom he had only just met:

On a very slight offer of accommodating him with such prints or heads as he had not, he absolutely has taken 187 of my favourite and most valuable heads, such as he had not, and most of which he had never seen, and all this with as much ease and familiarity as if we had been old acquaintance. I must do him the justice to say that I really did offer him ... to take such as he had not, but this I thought would not have exceeded a dozen or thereabouts. He has absolutely gutted and garbled my collection.

Walpole replied, 15 Dec., lamenting the plunder ‘by that Algerine hog’:

The beast has no sort of taste neither—and in a twelvemonth will sell them again ... This Muley Moloch used to buy books, and now sells them. He has hurt his fortune, and ruined himself to have a collection, without any choice of what it should be composed.

And on 11 Apr. 1775: Gulston has sold Ealing Grove to the Duke of Marlborough (for £12,000). ‘I suppose he will not keep his prints long.’ He moved to Smedmore, near Wareham, and next to a cottage at Corfe Mullen, six miles from Poole.

When in 1780 he stood once more for Poole, on a joint interest with W. M. Pitt, Robinson, who expected his return, described him as ‘a warm friend’. Gulston wrote to his mother, 7 Sept.: ‘My election, which will be next Saturday, is perfectly safe; but we have a petition against us, which will be very expensive, so the whole will cost near £700; but it is all for the good of my son, so must do the best I can.’ Gulston was returned, and the petition was rejected. During the critical months before the fall of North, Gulston seems to have attended the House regularly; never spoke; but appears in each of the six division lists, December 1781-March 1782, always with the Government. The very night North resigned, ‘he sent Mr. Gulston the place of collector of the customs in Newfoundland for Mr. Bouth, an American loyalist, who had lost £4,000 a year in America, and was at that time clerk to a merchant at Poole, at £50 a year’. From the divisions in 1783 and early in 1784, Gulston was absent, apparently owing to ill-health, but was reckoned a follower of the Fox-North Coalition, and as such stood in 1784, when he was defeated. This the biographical sketch ascribes foremost to ‘his ill-judged generosity’ in having helped in 1780 Pitt, an opponent of his in local affairs.

Notwithstanding his near residence to the town, which exposed his irregularities too much to the view of the burgesses, and this imprudent measure of bringing in adverse interest, so much was he really loved, that he lost his election by only five votes, and they were a Quaker family; and ... he lost these because he would not get out of his bed till after the good people had dined, and take the trouble of asking for their votes; the name of this family was White.

Gulston was ruined financially; in June 1784 sold his books; and his prints and portraits in 38 nights, 16 Jan.-13 Mar. 1786, besides more than 20 volumes of works of great masters, 18,000 foreign and 23,500 English portraits, 11,000 English caricatures and political prints, and 14,500 topographical prints. But all the sale produced was £7,000.

Many years of Mr. Gulston’s life were spent in the compilation of a Biographical Dictionary of all the foreigners who had ever been in England, forming a Supplement to Granger. At his death the voluminous manuscript was sold for little.

Gulston died 4 July 1786, aged 41.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Quotations and statements, unless otherwise stated, are taken from the biographical sketch of Joseph Gulston jun. in Nichols. Lit. Illustrations, v. 1-60.
  • 2. Letters to John Calcraft from Mrs. O. Pike, 20, 23, and 27 Feb., from John Oliver 20 Feb., and from Thomas Hyde 25 Feb. 1769, Calcraft mss at Rempstone.