The Clarkes of Graiguenoe Park

I'd always wondered if the old family legends were true about Dr Johnson. It was said that the Rev. John Batteridge Pearson inherited much of Dr Johnson's possessions, including his copy of the famous dictionary, his walking stick, his writing desk, and much of his fortune. It was said that the dictionary was later destroyed when a maid thought it was rubbish and tore out leaves of the book to light fires. Since John Pearson was in no way related to Dr Johnson, though they lived nearby, it seemed curious. Why had John Pearson been so favoured? Here is confirmation that it happened. The writing desk and dictionary are definitely still owned by a cousin.
Andrew Clarke


Notes and Queries 10S. IX. May 1908 - Page 423

(See 10 S. viii. 281, 382, 462 ; ix. 43, 144, 302.)

Aleyn Lyell Reade

The Rev. John Batteridge Pearson.—In my book (p. 243) I was unable to give much account of this clergyman, who, as Lucy Porter’s principal legatee, and inheritor from her of many valuable Johnsonian relics, seems almost to come within the circle of the Doctor’s kinsfolk, though, as a matter, of fact, quite unrelated. Mr. Pearson and old Mr. Seward supped with Johnson and Boswell at “ The Three Crowns ” Inn at Lichfield on 25 March, 1776. From the Doctor’s letters we gather that Mr. Pearson was very intimate with Lucy Porter during her later years, and even wrote her letters if she felt disinclined to write herself.1 1: Miss Seward, in a letter to Boswell on 25 March, 1785, tells him that Lucy Porter is breaking up, and that “ she is now too ill to be accessible to any of her friends, except Mr. Pearson.”

Sir Robert White-Thomson, whose Johnsonian connexions I have already explained, tells me he understands that Mr. Pearson was in the habit of cheering Lucy Porter by evening visits and games of piquet. It is pleasant to think that he did not gain her esteem, with the substantial proof she afforded him of it, by any species of toadying. Mrs. Piozzi tells us, on the authority of Dr. Johnson, who witnessed the incident, how Lucy Porter,

“being opposed one day in conversation by a clergyman who came often to her house, and feeling somewhat offended, cried out suddenly, * Why, Mr. Pearson,’ said she, ‘ you are just like Dr. Johnson, I think: I do not mean that you are a man of the greatest capacity in all the world like Dr. Johnson, but that you contradict one every word one speaks, just like him.’”

Principally through the kind assistance of his grandson, Mr. Philip P. Pennant, of Nantlys, St. Asaph,. I am now able to give accurate particulars of the Rev. John Batteridge Pearson-.and his family.22. Much of this information concerning Pearson’s ancestors and children is derived from an account of the family in his own handwriting, kindly lent to me by Mr. Pennant. Particulars of his children do not seem to have appeared in print before, which justifies me in enumerating them here, apart from the fact that it is necessary to do so in order to explain the location of various Johnsonian relics which have descended from Pearson.  Born on 27 April, 1749, “at Merival, near ye Stone Bridge,” he was the fourth and youngest son of the Rev. James Pearson (1686-1756), M.A., St. John’s College, Cambridge, for thirty-six years minister of St. Julian’s Church, Shrewsbury, by Jane his wife, daughter of John Batteridge of Ightfield, near Whitchurch. The Rev. James Pearson was the second son of the Rev. Samuel Pearson (1647-1727), M.A., St. John’s College, Cambridge, for fifty-one years Vicar of Holy Cross (Abbey Church), Shrewsbury, by Ann, daughter of Thomas Bowdler, of Shrewsbury. The Rev. Samuel Pearson was fourth son of one James Pearson (who, about 1640, left Newport, in Salop, for Shrewsbury, where he died in 1692) by Jane Hawkins, his wife.

John Batteridge Pearson, whoso godparents were Mrs. Bingley, the Rev. Mr. Brooke, second master of the Free School at Shrewsbury, and Mr. Pearce; was educated at fit. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took ha LL.B. degree in 1772. From 1774 to 1782 he was Perpetual Curate of St. Michad’s, Lichfield. Early in 1779 he was appointed Vicar of Croxall, Derbyshire. On 4March Dr. Johnson wrote to Lucy Porter: " I have seen Mr. Pearson, and am pleased to find that lie has got a living. 1 was hurried when he with me, but had time to hear that my friends ware all well”

In the year after Lucy Porter’s death Mr. Pearson, now a man of means, was married at St. Mary’s, Lichfield, on 17 Sept., 1787, to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the Rev. James Falconer (1737-1809), D.D., Archdeacon of Derby and Prebendary of Lichfield. It is of some interest that Mrs. Pearson’s aunt Elizabeth Falconer 3 3. James and Elizabeth Falconer were the children of James Falconer, of Chester, Lieut. R.N., who in 1734 had married Elizabeth, daughter of William Inge, of Thorpe Constantine, Staffs. See Falkoner pedigree in Burke’s ‘Landed Gentry,’ 4th ed., 1868 ; also Nichols’s ‘Leic.,’ iii. 1144. had, in 1759, married Thomas Pennant (1726-98), the celebrated traveller. “He’s a Whig, sir ; a sad dog,” said Dr. Johnson in defending Pennant against Bishop Percy, “but he’s the best traveller I ever read ; he observes more things than any one else does.”

Writing to Mrs. Gastrell and her sister, at Lichfield, on 30 March, 1782, Johnson, who was then at Bolt Court, mentioned that “when Dr. Falconer saw me, I was at home only by accident, for I lived much with Mrs. Thrale.” Dr. Birkbeck Hill has a foot-note to this, saying that Miss Seward mentions “a Dr. Falconer of Bath (Seward’s ‘ Letters,’ v. 222).” This is so. Writing to F. N. C. Mundy on 6 May, 1799, Miss Seward recalls that when at Buxton in 1769 with Honora Sneyd, “ the present Dr. Falconer, of Bath, was of our party.” William Falconer (1744-1824), M.D., F.R.S., of Bath, is not to be dismissed as “a Dr. Falconer ” ; as the 'D.N.B.’ says, his “ attainments as a scholar and a physician wore of the highest order.” But Johnson’s caller, we may safely say, was not Dr. Falconer of Bath, but his kinsman, the Rev. James Falconer, D.D., of Lichfield, who, on his return home from London, had told the ladies at Stow Hill of his visit to the lion of Bolt Court.

The Rev. J. B. Pearson, who was appointed Prebendary of Pipe Parva, in Lichfield Cathedral, died on 14 August, 1808, “ at Croxall, co. Derby, after having performed the duties of the day and gone to bed in apparently perfect health” (Gent Mag.) His widow survived him almost half a century, dying on 8 Dec., 1856, at Hill Ridware, Staffordshire, aged ninety-two. She supplied Croker with copies of many of Johnson's letters to Lucy Porter, as well one by Boswell. The Rev. John Batteridge Pearson had issue, by Elizabeth Falconer, his wife, four sons and three daughters :—

  1. George Pearson, born 18 Sept. 1791 and baptized 29 Nov. at Lichfield Cathedral by his grandfather Falconer, his sponsors being Mrs. Inge, 4 4: His grandfather. Dr. Falconer, had married Mary, daughter of Thomas Hall, of Hermitage. Cranage, Cheshire, sister to Anne Hall, who married William Inge, of Thorpe Constantine, Dr. Falconer’s first cousin. the Earl of Belfast, and Dr. Falconer himself. He was B.D. at Cambridge University; and was rector of Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire,from 1825, as well as Rural Dean. He died 13 May, 1860, having married at Chester Cathedral, on 17 Sept., 1825, Catherine (d. 1859) second daughter of Philip Humberston. of the Friars, Chester ; by her he had issue, of whom later. According to an obituary notice in The Gentleman a Magazine. he “was possessed of high classical and theological attainments, and was at one time Christian Advocate in the University of Cambridge......Ho was seized with illness on his journey from London into Cambridgeshire, and died on the following morning. By a strange and melancholy coincidence, a daughter of the deceased also died on tho same day, at the early age of 21
  2. James Pearson, born 4 Jan.. 1795, and baptized 29 April at St. Mary's. Litchfield, by his grandfather Falconer, his sponsors being Miss Catherine Falconer 5 5: His aunt Catherine Falconer married Col, Sir Edward Miles, C.B., on 9th Oct., 1802 with his uncles Col. Madan 6 6: His aunt Frances Falconer had married William Charles Madan, a colonel in the Army, younger son of Spencer Madan, Bishop of Peterborough on 16 Jan., 1793and the Rev. J. G. Norbury.  7 He entered the Navy, and died at sea. 7: His aunt Mary Falconer had married the Rev. John George Norbury. Prebendary of Lichfield, on 5 Jan., 1791. She died 23 Jan., 1797, aged 31; he husband on 6 Oct., 1800, aged 42. In the Cathedral is a monument to their memory. In 1795 Mr. Norbury occupied the Friary, where Johnson had used to visit Mrs. Cobb. In a letter to Mrs, Powys on 13th June, 1797, Miss Seward remarked: "1 wonder that tidings of poor Mrs. Norberry's death, which happened in the winter, did not sooner reach you.  A melancholy instance of the trustless flattery of youth and prosperity. Yet. her long, though very patiently-endured sufferings made their close desirable to those who loved her most.'
  3. John Pearson, born 19 Feb., 1798, and baptized 24 March at St. Mary’s, Lichfield, by his grandfather Falconer, his sponsors being his aunt Henrietta Pearson, 88: Henrietta, younger daughter of the Rev. James Pearson, was born 6 Jan., 1744 the Marquess of Donegal1,' and Mr. Inge, of Thorpe. He became a staff-captain E.I.C. Maritime Service, and died 1 Dec., 1855, at Cheltenham.
  4. Charles Pearson, born 4 Oct., 1799, and baptized 19 Feb., 1800, at St. Mary’s, Lichfield, by his grandfather Falconer, his sponsors being his aunt Madan, the Bishop of Peterborough (Spencer Madan), and the Rev. Spencer Madan. 9 9: The Rev. Spencer Madan (1758-1836), elder son of the Bishop, married Henrietta, daughter of Dr. Falconers cousin (and brother-in-law) W. Inge. He was a colonel in the 61st Regiment, and married Jane, daughter of Col. William Eccles, of Davenham, Cheshire, and Mary his wife. By her he had two daughters: (1) Mary Elizabeth, born 22 Nov., 1836, married, in 1864, Marshal Neville Clarke (1828-84), M.A., J.P., of Graiguenoe Park, Tipperary, having issue; and (2) Harriet Jane, born 7 Jan., 1839, married, in 1860, George Henry Grey, son of Sir George Grey. Mrs. Marshall Clarke has a writing-desk that Dr. Johnson was in the habit of using at Lichfield. Mrs. Grey’s eldest son is the present Sir Edward Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, ; who possesses one of Dr. Johnson’s walking-sticks.
  1. Lucy Pearson, born 4 July 1793, and baptized 30 July at St. Mary’s, Lichfield, by her grandfather Falconer, her sponsors being Lady Kenyon, her grandmother Falconer, and her uncle Pearson.10 10: This must have been Samuel Pearson, born 2 April, 1746, LL.B. St. John’s Coll., Camb., 1771, and F.S.A. She married William Harwood, M.D., of Hastings.
  2. Henrietta Pearson, born 2 Oct., 1796, and baptized 4 May, 1797, at St. Mary’s, Lichfield, by her grandfather Falconer. her sponsors being Mrs. Spencer Madan, Miss Powell, and Mr. Hall, of Armitage (? Hermitage). She married, on 22 Nov., 1822, Charles Berwick Curtis (1795-1876), fourth son of Sir William Curtis, first bart., and died 6 Aug., 1884. She had eleven children.
  3. Mary Pearson, born 9 Nov., 1801. She married Edward Thomewill, of Dove Cliff, Burton-on-Trent, D.L. Staffs, who died March, 1866, and had issue: (1) Thomas Thomewill, died unmarried; (2) Edward John Thomewill, a corn broker in Liverpool, who won the Grand National with Gamecock in 1887 ; married in 1870 Anna Maria Heywood, daughter of Robertson Gladstone, and niece of the great statesman, by whom he left a family ; (1) Elizabeth Mary, Thomewill; (2) Fanny Susan Thomewill, who married William Arkwright (1809-57), Major 6th Dragoons,, and had issue ; (3) Caroline Louisa Thorne-will, who married in 1859 William Cotton Curtis, grandson of Sir William Curtis, second bart;, and has issue; (4) Harriet Georgina Thomewill, who married in 1869 Michael Arthur Bass, now first Lord Burton, and has issue; (5) Octavia Jane Thomewill; (6) Anriabella Emily Thomewill, who married in 1880 Robert Moreton, grandson of first Earl of Ducie, and has issue ; (7) Jane Thomewill. I think it is Miss Jane Thomewill who is described in the newspapers as “ the King’s favourite partner at bridge,” a distinction almost equal to that enjoyed by her grandfather Pearson in playing piquet with Mistress Lucy Porter.
The Rev. George Pearson, the eldest eon, had issue by Catherine Humberston, his wife, seven sons and five daughters:
  1. George Falconer Pearson, of Downton, [New Radnor, J.P. co. Radnor, late Colonel [Madras Staff Corps. He was born in 1826, and married, in 1864, as his first wife, Caroline, daughter of the Hon. James Augustus Erskine, and niece of the twelfth Earl of Kellie. She died in 1865, and Col. Pearson married, in 1870, as his second wife, Emma, daughter of the Hon. J. Colvin, late Lieutenant-Governor N.W.P., India, by whom he has issue. To Col. Pearson has descended a portrait of Capt. Jervis Henry , Porter, R.N., Dr. Johnson’s eldest stepson, which hangs in Castle Camps Rectory, whither it was moved on the death of oid Mrs. Pearson in 1856. The portrait, which is full size, represents a middle-aged man in naval uniform. The late George Richmond, A.R.A., who saw it, expressed the opinion that it was by one of Hogarth’s pupils. Col. Pearson also owns the portraits of Mrs. Johnson—the Doctor’s “ Tetty"—and Lucy Porter, as a child, which, however, both hang at Nantlys, St. Asaph, the residence of his younger brother Philip (see 4). Of the former of these portraits Mrs. Piozzi wrote: “The picture I found of her at Litchfield was very pretty, and her daughter, Mrs. Lucy Porter, said it was like.”
  2. Charles Pearson, born 1831, of the Indian Civil Service.
  3. John Batteridge Pearson, born 1832, Rector of Whitestone, Exeter, since 1883. He is M.A. St. John’s College, Cambridge, and D.D. ; a Fellow of Emmanuel; was .Bell’s University Scholar in 1854 ; and has made some contributions to literature.
  4. Philip Pennant Pearson, born 5 August, 1834. Thomas Pennant, the traveller, who, as I have already explained, married Elizabeth, daughter of James Falconer, R.N., and aunt of Mrs. John Batteridge Pearson, left by her a son David Pennant, who died in 1841, leaving his Bodfari and other Pennant estates, in the event of his granddaughter Louisa dying without issue, to Philip Pennant Pearson, the grandson of his first cousin.' Louisa, who was the [only child of David Pennant the younger who predeceased his father in 1835, having married firstly, in 1822, Lady Caroline Spencer-Churchill, only daughter of George, fifth Duke of Marlborough, who died in 1824; and secondly, Lady Emma Brudenell, daughter of Robert, sixth Earl of Cardigan, who died in 1847), became, in 1846, the first wife of Rudolph William Basil, Viscount Feilding, afterwards eighth Earl of Denbigh, but died without issue in 1853, when the Pennant estates passed, under her grandfather’s will, to Philip Pennant Pearson, who assumed the surname of Pennant in 1860. Mr. Philip Pennant Pennant, M.A., J.P., D.L., who lives at Nantlys, Bodfari, near St. Asaph, was High Sheriff of Flintshire in 1862 ; he is Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and High Constable of Flint Castle. In 1862 he married Mary Frances, daughter of the Rev. Edward Bankes, of Soughton Hall, Flintshire, Canon of Gloucester, by whom he has issue.
  5. James Falconer Pearson, born 1836, died 1853.
  6. Thomas Hall Pearson, born 1841, died 1853.
  7. Edward Lynch Pearson, born 1845, Rector of Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire, since 1879. He is an M.A. of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and married Sarah Matilda St. Quintin.
  1. Catherine Hester Pearson,'bom 1827.
  2. Frances Elizabeth Pearson, born 1829.
  3. Anne Pearson, born 1839, died 1860.
  4. Adelaide Sophia Pearson, born 1843. In 1883 she became the second wife of John Scott Bankes (1826-94), J.P., D.L., of Soughton Hall, half-brother of her brother Philip’s wife.
  5. Henrietta Georgina Pearson, born 1847, died 1848.

Mr. Pennant possesses another interesting Johnsonian relic, of which he gives me the following description:—

“ The book which contains two prayers written by I)r. Johnson is entitled  'Forms of Prayer proper to be used Before, At, and After the Receiving of the Holy Sacrament. Published by W. Ginger, near the King’s School, Westminster, 1768.’  With it is bound up ‘The servioe of the Holy Communion.’ In the beginning there is written, in, I think, Dr. Johnsons handwriting: ‘This Book given to Mrs. Lucy Porter by Dr. Johnson 1782.’ There is also a note, in, I think, my grandmother’s writing, to the effect that these two prayers are contained in his ‘ Prayers and Meditations,’ published by the Rev. G Strahan, 1785, p. 206.”

The two prayers alluded to are, of course, in the Doctor's own handwriting.

The Rev. J. Pearson inherited from Lucy Porter what his obituary notice in The Gentleman's Magazine describes as:

“ Sir Joshua Reynolds's best portrait of Dr. Johnson, at perhaps not above 45 years old, in an attitude of deep thought, hands lifted breast high, and the fingers half-spread in a particular manner, and uncloathed neck. "

This portrait, which has been often reproduced, Mr. Pennant tells me,

 “now hangs in Stafford House. The story, m I have always hoard it, runs thus. At my grandfather’s death, his widow was left with seven children from seventeen years old downward. Lord Stafford, when hunting in her neighbourhood, would always call, and at length, after many refusals, persuaded her that, for the sake of the education of her children, she ought to sell this picture, which at length she did. It is interesting to know that, after the divorce of the portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Johnson, the two hung again side by side, for some months, at the National Portrait Exhibition in 1867, Miss Lucy Porter also being one of the party.”

 "Lord Stafford" must have been the second Marquess of Stafford, created first Duke of Sutherland in 1833, the great-grandfather of the present owner of Stafford House.

The obituary notice also states that Mr. Pearson inherited from Lucy Porter a portrait of u Joseph Porter senior, by Hogarth, esteemed to be the best portrait produced by that excellent Artist, quoting from Nichols’s 'Leicestershire.' This portrait is not in the possession of any of Mr. Pearson’s descendants. Mr. Pennant has made inquiries, and feels quite satisfied that it must have been purchased from his grandmother by Lord Stafford when he acquired Reynolds's portrait of Dr. Johnson. Mr. Pennant hopes to settle this point definitely later on. There is an engraving of the portrait in an interleaved copy of Harwood’s 'Lichfield ’ at the Bodleian Library. Mr. F. G. Shirreff, assistant librarian there, kindly tells me that it

“represents a rather stout man seated at a table-folding a letter; he is wearing a wig, plain coat, and embroidered waistcoat. The inscription (engraved) is 'Joseph Porter, Esqr, of Mortlake, From a Drawing taken from the Original Picture in 1807. Published.....1809.’ And above—‘Hogarth pinx*. T. Cook sculp*.' ”

Since my last article was printed I have discovered rather striking proof of my contention that it was not William Falconer, M.D., of Bath, who called on Dr. Johnson in 1782. The Rev. Richard Warner, in his ' Literary Recollections,’ 1830 (vol ii. p. 70) recalls a discussion that took place at a dinner-party many years before, at William .....(rest of article lost)