Another Look at Lord Alvanley

We first introduced you to Lord Alvanley in a previous post on this blog and thought it was time that we encountered him once again.

William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley (8 January 1789 – 16 November 1849) was the son of Richard Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley. He was an officer in the Coldstream Guards, attaining the rank of Captain in the service of the 50th Regiment of Foot. In 1835, Alvanley fought a duel with Morgan O'Connell. According to a near contemporary report "[Alvanley] went through the business with the most perfect sang froid, but on his way to the field he whimsically intimated a singular alarm. Having descended a hollow, 'My Lord', said he to his second, 'you get me down well enough, but', alluding to his full size, 'should I fall, I do not know how the devil you will ever get me up again.'"

Underbank Hall

It was to Alvanley that Brummell turned whilst in exile in France for help and for many years Alvanley regularly sent the Beau financial support. However, because of his spending habits, his family estates had to be sold to pay debts. Underbank Hall in Stockport was sold by auction in 1823, most of the Bredbury estate was sold in lots in 1825, the Arden Hall mansion in 1833. He was forced to dispose of his half-pay on 10 June 1826. He later served in the Forest Troop, King's Regiment of Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, as a cornet, but resigned on 17 January 1840. He did not marry and had no children. On his death, the title went to his only brother, the Hon. Colonel Richard Arden.

From The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope

"But a yet more celebrated leader of fashion mentioned by Mrs Stanhope as being present at the ball given by the Duchess of Bolton was Lord Alvanley. One of the accepted dandies in the same category as Lord Petersham, the Duke of Argyle, Lords Foley and Worcester, Beau Brummell and his great friend, Henry Pierrepont. Lord Alvanley had served with distinction in the army, and further enjoyed the reputation of being one of the wittiest men in Europe. Short and somewhat stout, with a small nose and florid cheeks usually adorned with a lavish sprinkling of snuff, like his rival Lord Petersham, he cultivated a lisp which accentuated the humour of his utterances. He also adopted much the same method of enhancing his value by indulging in certain peculiarities which, however inconvenient to his fellows, appear to have been accepted by them with surprising amiability. For instance, being fond of reading in bed, when he at length felt sleep overpowering him, he would extinguish his candle by the novel method of popping it alight under his bolster, or flinging it into the middle of the room and taking a shot at it with his pillow—but if the shot was unsuccessful, with a heavy sigh he left it to take its chance. So well known, indeed, was this little habit of Lord Alvanley, that hostesses who were anxious not to have their houses set on fire at midnight would depute a servant to watch in a neighbouring apartment till his lordship composed himself to sleep, a precaution which was invariably adopted by Mrs Stanhope when he paid his annual visit to Cannon Hall.

Cannon Hall
"However, despite such minor failings, Lord Alvanley enjoyed a popularity seldom surpassed. To his other recommendations was added that of being a celebrated gourmet, and the excellence was proverbial of the little dinners which he gave in his house in Park Street, St James's, to which never more than eight friends were bidden, and at which there was an apricot tart on the sideboard all the year round. Moreover, although like Brummell and Sheridan, many a bon mot was fathered upon him to which he had never given utterance, yet his reputation as a wit was well deserved, and at a date when both the dandies and the fine ladies prided themselves upon their undisguised insolence, Lord Alvanley remained a shining example of good-nature, so that, save, perhaps, in one instance recorded in this book, his wit never offended."

Coming soon - An account of Waterloo by Lord Alvanley's sister, the Hon. Katharine Arden.

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