Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Eccentric Relations: Dorothea Herbert and Her Cousin Ned Eyre

Peter Somerville-Large, The Grand Irish Tour (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1985), on Ned Eyre of Linville near Kilsheelan in Co. Waterford (I think Kilsheelan is in Tipperary, but that Eyre's house was across the count line in Waterford):

Ned Eyre, a strange yet attractive eccentric spendthrift bought Linville in 1786 'after searching out every old ruined seat about (for such only would he take)'.  He lived 'in a most romantic retirement with half a dozen favourite servants and two very large spotted spaniels of the Leopard Breed which he called Miss Dapper and Miss Kitsy and adopted as Daughters and Co Heiresses' . . . . 

Ned Eyre was 'the greatest Oddity in the world'.  He wore bright silk or satin, often women's clothes.  
'His hair was dress'd like a Woman's over a Rouleau or Tete, which was then the fashion among Ladies'.  He sometimes carried a muff, sometimes a fan, and was always painted up to the eyes with the deepest carmine; a sort of eighteenth-century drag.  He played cards constantly and bought two hundred pounds' worth of lottery tickets each year.  Extravagance ruined him and he and his mother fled their debts to go abroad; they died impecunious in Flanders to the sorrow of their cousins (66-7).


She [i.e., Dorothea Herbert, Eyre's cousin and author of Retrospections of an Outcast, from which Somerville-Large's citations are taken]  wrote of her visit to the races with a party of friends.  The Herberts journeyed from Knockgrafton in their new  bottle-green coach and 'four of the handsomest young Bay Horses in the Kingdom'.  Ned Eyre accompanied them in his glass vis-à-vis rouged to the eyeballs.  In the evening at the rout in the assembly the Herbert girls wore pink lutestring and black silk bodices with white plumes in their hair.  Their dresses were a present from Ned Eyre, who outshone them wearing the same pink lutestring, his suit decorated with paste diamonds so that he was 'One blaze of Brilliants from Top to Toe' (69).

Well.  We do all have relations of one sort or another, don't we?

I take it a vis-à-vis was some kind of 18th-century vehicle.

The graphic is Dorothea.  I haven't located a portrait of Ned.

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