LADY LONDESBOROUGH’S ALBUM with Entries by Dinosaur Hunters, Artists & Writers

Ursula Denison, nee Bridgeman & Albert Denison, Baron Londesborough [with] Gideon Algernon Mantell, Thomas Crofton Croker, Edward Belcher etc
An exceptionally high-powered album recording the activities of an intellectual country-house salon, compiled by Ursula Denison, nee Bridgeman (1… Read more
Published in 1849 by .

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LADY LONDESBOROUGH’S ALBUM with Entries by Dinosaur Hunters, Artists & Writers by Ursula Denison, nee Bridgeman & Albert Denison, Baron Londesborough [with] Gideon Algernon Mantell, Thomas Crofton Croker, Edward Belcher etc

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An exceptionally high-powered album recording the activities of an intellectual country-house salon, compiled by Ursula Denison, nee Bridgeman (1823-1883) and offering stellar contributions by the intellectual friends that she shared with her archaeologist, politician and diplomat husband. Albert Denison, 1st Baron Londesborough (1805-1860) was the first President of the British Archaeological Association who became enormously wealthy around the time that this album was started. Often contributing substantial entries to these pages, during long visits to the couple’s home in Grimston, north Yorkshire, are Gideon Mantell (discoverer of the Iguanodon) who contributes a sort of intellectual credo; Edward Belcher, who sketched the ship in which he intended to lead the final ‘rescue’ expedition for Sir John Franklin. There is William H Smyth, hydrographer and historian of learned societies, who has written a phillipic against alchemy and mysticism, and a page by the principal librarian at the British Museum, Henry Ellis who wrote about - and drew - ‘The Nineveh sculptures’. Frederick William Fairholt has drawn a commemoration of Londesborough’s Presidency of the British Archaeological Society and the Irish writer Thomas Crofton Croker contributes a superb illuminated version of his long poem, ‘Dear Killarney’. Around the same time Lady Londesborough had commissioned a Christmas masque from Croker whic was performed at Grimston in 1850 and subsequently published.

Ursula Bridgeman became Albert Conyngham’s second wife in 1847; the earliest entry in this album dates from 1849 which coincides with her husband’s inheritance of an immense fortune and their change of name to Denison - and elevation to Baron and Lady Londesborough in 1850. The following year they bought Grimston Park near Tadcaster in north Yorkshire where they entertained lavishly - that lifestyle, and the couple’s intellectual millieu is visible through these pages. That the album had a significant place in family life cannot be doubted. Tipped in close to the end is a letter from the dramatist James Robertson Planche submitting a poem but hesitating to nominate it for inclusion ‘in the Album’. In fact it made the cut and the poem is present too. After Londesborough’s death in 1860, Ursula Denison remarried Lord Otho Fitzgerald (amateur composer and son of the Duke of Leinster). Lord Brabourne contributes a long poem about Ursula’s new life with her second husband which is the last item directly written into the album apart from the signature of Michael Faraday on the final leaf.

It is clear that much fund was had along the way, but this is Victorian England at its most intellectually ambitious.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Quarto, recently handsomely rebound in quarter calf over green buckram covered boards with marbled endpapers. Some soiling to early blanks; watermark of ‘J Whatman Turkey Mills 1845’. The book has had rough treatment at some time in its history and there is soiling to the edges of some blanks and slight damage to the gilded foreedge.

Full page Album Contributions by:

1 John Yonge Akerman (1806-73, published coin expert) June 1850, mini dissertation with two drawings of ‘the beautiful Vase discovered in the Tumuli at Bartlow in Essex a few years since’ but destroyed in the fire at ‘Viscount Maynard’s mansion’.

2 Frederick William Fairholt (1814-1866, antiquary and wood-engraver) ‘A Memorial of The Meeting at Worcester of the British Archaeological Association 1848’ illuminated with margin and vignette of Worcester.

3 Gideon Algernon Mantell (1790-1852, discoverer of the Iguanodon) Statement of his intellectual creed: ‘If I have been so fortunate as to kindle in the heart of others, that intense desire for the acquisition of Natural Knowledge... which once kindled can never be extinguished... For to one imbued with a taste for natural science, Nature unfolds her hoarded poetry and her hidden spells...’ Written at Mantell’s London home, ‘Chester Square, Pimlico December 1849’.

4 William Henry Smyth (1788-1865, hydrographer, astronomer and historian of learned societies) Eight lines about the Royal Society’s opposition to ‘alchemy, astrology, magic or other unnatural inquiries...’ (Dec 1849)

5 Henry Ellis (1777-1869, Principal Librarian at the British Museum) ‘The Nineveh Sculptures [with a drawing of the sculptures by Ellis] from the Connection with Scripture History have proved an Attraction to the Public to visit the British Museum far greater...’ (Jan 1850)

6 Thomas Crofton Croker (1798-1854, Irish writer of Fairy Legends) ‘Dear Killarney’ poem which extends over 6 pages, watercolour historiated initial letter ‘D’ and 6 further superb vignettes (May 1850)

7 James Robertson Planche (1796-1880, dramatist) 16 line poem on Fairy Land: ‘What though no more their emerald rings/ The Fairies trace on dewy green....’ (June 1851) Two further poems by Planche are tipped in towards the end of the volume: ‘The Flowers of Towton Field’, 1858 and a Fairy poem together with a letter to ‘Dear Lord Londesborough’ tentatively suggesting their inclusion ‘in the Album’

8 Ephraim Squier (1821-1888, American archaeologist) 12 line poem addressed, seemingly, to Lady Londesborough: ‘Lady in these mighty far off western lands where men of thoughtful brows and iron hands...' (Grimston, Christmas 1851)

9 Edward Belcher (1799-1877, explorer) written in December 1851, shortly before he led the largest - and last - Arctic expedition to find Franklin, Belcher contributes a striking sketch of his ship entitled, ‘The Derwent charged with Despatches from the North.’ On the sails of the ship is written: ‘News from the Arctic Regions.’

10 Frederick W Fairholt (see above) ‘Scarborough 1757 and 1857’ two vignettes which compare the costumes and mores across the two centuries

11 Philip De Malpas Egerton (1806-1881, palaeontologist) 250 word mini-essay on the fossils found among the ‘Mechanical Rings in the possession of the fair owner of this book [Lady Londesborough which] contains two specimens of unusual interest to me as bearing upon my favorite pursuit in Fossil Icthyology’, October 1858

12 Edward Knatchbull-Hugesson (1829-1893 Fantasy and faery writer & politician) 90 line Ode ‘To Lady Otho Fitzgerald’ following her remarriage and move to Kent and London where: ‘In Carlton Terrace [you] hold your own/ And live for Otho’s life alone!... Saint Ursula’s my fav’rite saint....’ May 1868.

Additional brief entries by G Chatterton; Charles Waterton (1782-1865, early environmentalist); Mary Cowden Clarke (1809-1898, author of a Shakespeare concordance) who jots down a 3 line quotation from the Two Gentlemen of Verona. On the verso of the final leaf are the signatures of the physicist Michael Faraday, C Wheatsone and the chemist William Thomas Brande.

BIOGRAPHY Ursula Bridgeman (1823-1883) became the 2nd wife of Albert Denison, nee Conyngham (1805-1860) Whig politician and diplomat who was created Baron Londesborough in 1851 when he changed his name from Conyngham to Denison and inherited his uncle’s vast fortune, buying Grimston Park. He died in 1860 - his widow marrying Lord Otho Fitzgerald.

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Added under Manuscript
Date published 1849
Subject 1 Manuscript
Signed Yes
Product code 8457

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