Monday, 25 February 2013

The Roscoes, Rome, and Les Miserables

Right, we are back in business, apologies for the long silence, and thanks to all those who have bought the Ebook. Volume 2 has been unavoidably delayed, but will see the light of day soon.

We will kick off 2013 with some news of publications from John Hussey, another author who writes about Liverpool, and who has a particular interest in the Roscoe family. John is writing a book about Allerton Hall, a publication which I will feature here when it is published; but I thought it would be of interest to tell you about some of John’s other work, particularly those books with connections to the Roscoes. Here are the connecting threads.

 John Hussey’s most recent work is John Gibson R.A. The World of the Master Sculptors
 The subject of the book, the sculptor John Gibson, (1790–1866), was born in Caernarvonshire in 1790. He moved with his family to Liverpool when he was still a child, and it was there, while working for the marble masons Samuel and Thomas Franceys, on Brownlow Hill, that he first met William Roscoe.

     Roscoe commissioned a bas-relief from Gibson for his library at Allerton Hall, the result being Alexander the Great Ordering the Works of Homer to be Placed in the Sarcophagus of Achilles. The young Gibson became a regular visitor to Allerton, copying pieces in Roscoe’s collections, and benefiting not only from Roscoe’s knowledge but also his circle of friends, several of whom became Gibson’s chief patrons, notably the d’Aguilar family. By 1814 Gibson was exhibiting at the Royal Academy; by October 1817 he was in Rome, supported initially by a subscription of £150 raised in Liverpool by William Roscoe and Rose Lawrence, one of the d’Aguilars’ daughters. He did not set foot in Britain again for twenty-seven years, during which time he studied under Canova, among others, and became one of the celebrated sculptors in Rome.
John Gibson, self portrait, 1806 (Tate, London)
  His work was popular and is found in many major galleries and public spaces. 

Narcissus, John Gibson, Royal Academy, London

William Huskisson, John Gibson, Pimlico Gardens, London.
You can read more about Gibson in John Hussey’s book. The particular connection with the Roscoes, and with North Wales is that Gibson’s important later patrons included one of William and Jane Roscoes' grand-daughters, Margaret Roscoe—who was also one of Gibson's close friends and intimate correspondents—and her husband Henry Robertson Sandbach (1807–1895). 
The couple had married in 1832 (Henry was JP for Caernarvonshire and from 1855 high sheriff of Denbigh) and had met Gibson in Italy in the late 1830s. Margaret enjoyed some celebrity with her writings, chiefly her poems; she also began a biography of Gibson in 1851, when Gibson was visiting the Sandbach family at Hafodunos, but Gibson’s sudden recall to Rome, on his brother’s death, and Margaret’s own illness (she died of breast cancer in 1852) meant that the work was never written. Gibson, who was devastated by her death, created a monument to her, which is now in the Walker Art Gallery. 
Monument to Margaret Sandbach (1812-1852)

John Gibson, RA (1790-l866) c.1852

Marble relief,
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

I will look at Margaret's writing, and her botanising at her garden in Hafodunos, in a later post. 

And Les Miserables
Well, that’s not actually connected with the Roscoes, but it does have a connection with John Hussey, and another of his books Finding Margaret. The life story of Margaret Bernadine Hall. This is  a biography of the Liverpool artist whose painting of Fantine—imagined from Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables—has been at the top of the stairs in the Walker for over a century. Here she is, with Cosette in the cradle. (Less Anne Hathaway, more Sarah Lancashire).
Fantine, Margaret Bernadine Hall (1863-1910), Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
      Margaret was born in 1863 in Wavertree, Liverpool; her father was a local merchant and in 1879 was elected mayor of Liverpool, but in 1882 the Halls moved to London. Later that year Margaret moved to Paris, where she studied art for five years, after which she travelled extensively, visiting Western Europe, North Africa, Australia, North America, China and Japan, before returning to Paris in 1894; during those years she exhibited work in Paris, Vienna, Chicago, London and Manchester..

     Margaret was obviously a pioneer, but sadly most of her paintings have since disappeared. Fantine is one of only a few surviving works; another is this study of  musician and scholar Sedley Taylor, now in Trinity College, University of Cambridge.
Sedley Taylor, by Margaret Bernadine Hall, 1892 (Trinity College, Cambridge)
 Margaret moved back to London in 1907, dying in Hampstead in 1910. She is buried in the churchyard of All Saint’s Church, Childwall, where there is a brass memorial tablet to her. Her painting Fantine was turned down by the National Gallery, London, in the year of her death, but was accepted by the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 1911.

     So, next time you go to the Walker, remember, you can see William Roscoe on the stairs, and Fantine too.


Briefly, John Hussey’s other books include:

Cruisers, Cotton and Confederates

The story of the ships out of Liverpool and the people who made them for the

Confederate government during the American Civil war, including the Alabama, the Florida, and 30 blockade -runners.

The Confederate Years

 Little known people and places in Liverpool where the Confederate agents

and blockade-runners carried out their business during the American Civil War. Includes information on the Grand Southern Bazaar in St Georges Hall, and how Gracie Fields ended up with the Captain of the Alabama's sword, and other little-known facts.

The Light of Other Days  - Aspects of Liverpool’s history including the Earle family, Botanic Park, Edge Hill, Smithdown Road, slave ships and slave captains, and some of the Liverpudlians who took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

All the books can be obtained on Amazon or from