Saturday, September 12, 2009

Department of Manly Beauty: 1st Earl Granville

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Granville Leveson-Gower*, Earl Granville** (1773-1846)

“Adored Granville, who could make a barren desert smile,” was what Harriet Cavendish*** wrote as his bride. They married in 1809, and she went on loving him until the day she died, in 1862.

“LORD GRANVILLE died on January 8, 1846. Long as his death had been expected, when the end came it was a crushing blow to his wife, from which she never quite recovered,” (Some Records of the Later Life of Harriet, Countess Granville by her Grand-daughter Susan H Oldfield)

I came upon the “barren desert” line a long time ago, when reading Judith Schneid Lewis’s In the Family Way. It stuck with me, and ended up, paraphrased, in one of my stories.

He was deemed “the handsomest man in England.” I’ve been trying for years to find pictures of him. I've got two so far. The family portrait includes his two illegitimate children by Harriet’s aunt, Lady Bessborough--another interesting story, which I mention in Lord of Scoundrels. I’m pretty sure I came upon a portrait at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland, but I’m not positive it was the right man. It’s hard to keep the Granvilles and the Leveson-Gowers straight. But the gentleman at Dunrobin was quite handsome, so I did gaze worshipfully at him.

*Pronounced Lewson-Gorr
**Became Earl Granville in 1833
***daughter of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire--the one Keira Knightly played


Monica Burns said...

Ok, LOS is on my keeper shelf, but I totally don't remember the Granville mention.

Have to know, was Lady Bessborough before or AFTER he was married to Harriet. Please tell me before I love happy endings, but if he cheated on her, I'm gonna have to hang my head in despair that she continued to love him. *sigh*

Loretta Chase said...

Monica, I mention it in the second half of the book, when Dain has to deal with his illegitimate son. The children were born before the marriage (the two older boys in the picture). I don't have details immediately at hand, but I don't recall reading anything indicating that the affair continued after his marriage.

Monica Burns said...

Whew! I love HEAs and it sounds like the Granville marriage was one. WOOT! And I'm now going back to reread LOS as soon as I get my copyedits done and the last 75 pages of my WIP done. Just a couple of weeks. Dain is incentive to make me work harder and faster. grin*

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Oh, we do love a lovely-looking man, Loretta. I can see why you gazed worshipfully at him.

I esp. like seeing the family picture. Even if he's doing the 'pater familias' thing and not actually interacting with the children, it's a wonderful scene. Though a very strange, bleak landscape behind them that seems at odds with the dancing children. Any info on where that might be? Dunrobin?

Vanessa Kelly said...

The family figures really pop out of the bleak background, don't they? Aside from the apocalyptic cloud front, it's a lovely picture.

Maybe the artist was making a comment on the English weather!

Ingrid said...

I've been thinking about this for a while, but marrying your aunt's lover does not seem romantic to me. To me it's a bit icky.

The man in the black-and white picture seems to have a very small head in relation to his shoulders. At first I thought that he might be wearing one of those many-caped greatcoats, but then his shoulders would rise as well as broaden. And he has very long neck, a bit too long maybe, so it cannot be capes.

Which just proves that going to a cheap portrait painter is a false economy!

Loretta Chase said...

Monica & Ingrid, I found a gossipy version of the story of Harry-o and GLG here
Vanessa & Susan, I've seen those apocalyptic clouds in other paintings. I'll have to bow to the art history majors on the symbolism, if any. It may have some romantic connotation. Based on limited personal experience, I will say it's a typical English sky, and even more typical Scottish one. Ingrid, as to the proportions of the portrait, again, I have to bow to art history experts. I don't know whether it's a style of portraiture, or a version of manly beauty of the time. As Susan will confirm, earlier ages' ideas of what was handsome were quite different from ours. One thing I read was that small hands and feet were prized in men. I used this portrait because it was the only one I've ever found, of a man who was judged "the handsomest man in England." I will try to track it down, to find out if it was a professional portrait or an informal one.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Ingrid, now that you mention it, he does seem to have an unnaturally long neck, something I hadn't noticed before! I don't think it's an inept painter -- even in this black-and-white reproduction, it looks as if it could have been done by one of the more skilled portraitists of the time.

I'm guessing the long neck was exaggerated to be flattering, to conform to the fashions of the day. Those big wrapped neckcloths were supposed to be elegant, so I'd say a long neck must have been desired, too. As Loretta says, every generation has its own interpretation of manly (and womanly!) beauty -- the very chiseled faces and lean bodies with extreme muscular definition that are desired today would have horrified Society at the time this portrait was done. So I think we have to go by his wife's interpretation that he was totally hot, and leave it at that.

As for the romantically darkling sky -- looks like a Weather Channel Event waiting to happen. *g*

Loretta Chase said...

Ingrid & Susan, I was compelled to seek further. I found this at the National Portrait Gallery
I also checked out some of Thomas Lawrence's portraits, and he does the same thing, especially with portraits of men in the 1820s-1830s. The long neck, as Susan, said, seems to be a matter of style--conforming to fashions of the day. What I saw in a quick scan of Lawrence's work made me wonder if this is a Lawrence painting??? If so, it's weird that it's not credited--or so far seems not to be.

Ingrid said...

Loretta, I agree with you that the picture looks like a Lawrence. His Wikipedia entry shows a portrait dated ca. 1800 of Sir Alexander Mackenzie. He too has a tiny head and wears a huge coat. GLG would have his 27th birthday in 1800. That would fit with the face in his portrait. Maybe huge coats were fashionable round 1800. Sir Alexander does not have a short neck either, but his is not quite so long.

Lawrence was of course a very well-paid painter, but he's not on my list. A friend and I play this game of which portrait painter would you like to have your portrait painted by. Obviously the painter must flatter you outrageously while still making the painting look like you. Usually the number one on my list is Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, because every woman she painted looks very pretty and around twenty years old. Oh, and wears gorgeous clothes, of course.

Thanks for the link to the Devonshire blog. it looks very pretty and has lots of interesting portraits. I will have to explore!

Monica Burns said...

Monica & Ingrid, I found a gossipy version of the story of Harry-o and GLG here

Well, shoot. That reads as dry an affair as anything. I was really hoping for a love match there, *sigh* I'll just have to remember Charles Fox and his mistress. *grin**sigh*

Loretta Chase said...

Monica, I had to laugh. I thought it was very romantic--that she wasn't beautiful, that he was forced to pursue her, that she stole him from his mistress, her aunt--and got the kids, too! But we're all bound to read between the lines differently. I'm dying to get my hands on the correspondence--there's tons of it, apparently--but then I'd never get any books written!

Monica Burns said...

And that's the bear about research isn't it. We can get so wrapped up in it, that we can wind up finding ourselves with our backs to the deadline wall as the commander of the Foreign Legion unit facing us, offers us a last cigarette and blindfold. LOL

Loretta Chase said...

Monica, you put it so well!

FD said...

I realise that this a very old entry, but in case anyone else stumbles upon it...
There is actually a Harlequin Masquerade novel by Paula Marshall (herself a historian) called An Unexpected Passion, which tells the story of the courtship of Harriet Cavendish and Granville Leveson-Gower. It's a darling story, which does not gloss over the intricacies (it's very blunt in a non explicit way about the rampant infidelity and illegitimate children) and inspired me to track down some of the sources cited in the back by the author. At least according to their private letters, although it did not begin as a love story, it became one, and they remained entirely faithful and devoted till they were separated by Granville's death.

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