Lady Jane Westmorland

 Jane Huck-Saunders

(1783 - 1857)

Short Biography

Born Jane Huck-Saunders, she became in 1800 at seventeen years of age the second wife of the forty-one year old John Fane, the tenth Earl of Westmorland, thereby acquiring the title Lady Westmorland. She had five children, but left her marital home in 1810, and set up house separately.

She lived at the Fane's 'second home', Brympton d'Evercy House near Yeovil in Somerset with her daughter Georgiana (b 1801) for a while.

Photogravure Brympton d'Evercy House
Photogravure of Brympton d'Evercy House, E.O.Hoppe

She was described by Charles Fox as

... perhaps not mad, but nobody ever approached so near it with so much reason. (quoted by Robert Dunning, Somerset Country Houses, p20)

 

Portrait of Georgiana Fane, Sir Thomas Lawrence
Portrait of Georgiana Fane, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Public opinion turned against her for her actions in leaving her lord and master, and, excluded from London society, she left the country for long periods.

After meeting her in Algeciras, Spain during 1809, Byron came across her again in London, writing to Lady Melbourne on 21st June 1813:

I wish she (Lady Caroline Lamb) would not call in the aid of so many compassionate Countesses - there is Ly. W[estmorland] (with a tongue too) conceives me to be the greatest Barbarian since the days of Bacchus and Ariadne...

and to Lady Westmorland herself on 23rd June 1813:

I have several times been upon the point of calling upon you - but an unwillingness to disturb you by the unavoidable egotism of the subject has prevented me - But I am too anxious for your good opinion to pass it over altogether. I can assure you most sincerely that during the whole evening at Lady J[ersey]'s I was never in the same part of the room with [Lady Caroline Lamb] that neither in word look nor gesture was it in my power nor inclination to molest her - and that I am at this moment as ignorant of my offense as I then was of having offended - I saw her for one instant at a distance as she entered the room but she neither saw nor appeared to see me - I can say no more - and would not have said so much were I not desirous to vindicate myself to you (as her friend) from the imputation of affronts I did not offer and offences I do not understand.

and to Lady Melbourne on 6th July 1813:

..Ly. W[estmorland] says 'you must have done something - you know between people in your situation - a word or a look goes a great way' etc etc.

To Murray on 22nd January 1814, he writes:

As Mr G[ifford] likes the 'Portuguese translation' pray insert it as an Ad[ditio]n to the Corsair - Lady West[morlan]d thought it so bad - that after making me translate it she gave me her own version - which is for aught I know the best of the two.

To John Cam Hobhouse on 14th April 1817 from Venice, he writes:

Dr Polidori has this day departed with all the Guilfords he has left alive, for England - a successful young person that in the drug line - he has attended Lord Guilford whom he succeeds in embalming - he attends Mr Horner, who is dead - and Mr Hope's son who is buried - in short, he seems to have had no luck unless he has had any with Lady W[estmorland]'s Clitoris - which is supposed to be of the longest - I have advised him to marry if only to fill up the gap he has made in the population. He called on me every day - and I think he is improved in manner, but he is a little too full of 'high lived company' - Shakespeare and the 'musical glasses'. He travelled to Florence with the Sapphic Westmoreland - and that black sheep - Mrs George Lamb - and thence with the as yet unembowelled Lord G., Lady G., and a Miss Somebody....

To John Murray, from Venice, La Mira, 18th June 1817:

Talking of Doctors reminds me once more to recommend to you one who will not recommend himself - the Doctor Polidori - If you can help him to a publisher do - or, if you have any sick relation - I would advise his advice - all the patients he had in Italy are dead - Mr Hope's son - Mr Horner - and Lord Guilford - who was the great success at Pisa -- the present Ld Guilford - who was the charlatan Frederic North and the Lady Westmoreland - will I hope do something for him -- it is a pity the last don't keep him - I think he would suit her - he is a very well looking man - and it would not be to her discredit.

In a letter from Venice on 15th November 1817, he mentions her as 'Willam Ward's Mad Woman'.

At Rome, she writes (in a letter to Ralph Sneyd dated Monday 24th December 1821), of herself:

.. it is one of her maxims in life by which she has constantly regulated her actions, to consider the honour of every individual as of equal value and of the same value as each individual ought to consider it himself and to the most inconsiderable person in society Lady Westmorealnd would give the same opportunity of justification, and would become herself his defender if she had accused him unjustly, with the same alacrity that she would do to the first in station and honour.

All very laudable. But she continues by lampooning Sneyd:

Lady Westmoreland knows scarcely anything of Mr Sneyd, and not enough to have any prejudice either in his favour or against him. She does not think she has ever heard him mentioned since about 6 or 7 years ago, when she recollects having a cursory view of a copy of verses of his performance the subject of which she did not comprehend, nor did the verses themselves invite a very attentive perusal as she remembers they gave her but a mediocre idea of the natural talents of the author in a composition which seemed to convey a desperation to lampoon Lord and Lady Burghersh. Neither did Lady Westmoreland appreciate much more highly the judgement of the person who displayed a very blunt attempt to ridicule the Lord and Lady of a house in which Mr Sneyd had probably been received with Lord Burghersh's accustomed hospitality.

The peculiarity of the letter begins to make itself felt more strongly as she continues:

As however Lord and Lady Burghersh could at Florence have crushed Mr Sneyd pleasantly with a glance, Lady Westmoreland would have conceded from good nature what she in truth suppressed from forgetfulness. For she does not recollect that from that hour to this the subject has ever recurred to her recollection nor does she think it ever would have done so if she had not now heard that Mr Sneyd has again come forth in the character of a public jester; and that he is going about from house to house talking loosely with levity upon those slanders which he tells Lady Westmoreland he only alludes to in 'strict honour and confidence', thus exposing the name of a Lady while he avails himself of the integrity of persons of honour, to serve his own..... Lady Westmoreland has had many years' experience of the world herself and has acquired in consequence great contempt for all its empty contrivances. In that long experience too she has constantly observed that the jester at length becomes the joker, and those who introduce themselves into society of persons of higher rank than themselves by deigning to amuse the community at the expense of others, generally end by diverting it at their own. (RGWW)

She became one of the painter Joseph Severn's major patrons in Rome, where he had arrived with John Keats in late 1820.

Her ladyship is a most superior woman, having all the really English nobility in her and much learning - she is about thirty-eight and is a very noble looking lady - the charm of her manner from the many accomplishments blended down in this lady of fashion is very astonishing. She is a beautiful musician and a poetess and seems to be quite acquainted with all the great persons of the time.

 

After the death of Keats, he was introduced to Lady Jane Westmoreland who quickly became one of his most generous and loyal supporters. It was she, in fact, who wrote on his behalf to Thomas Lawrence about the 'Death of Alcibiades', the picture he had sent to the Royal Academy in hopes of winning the traveling pension that was initially lost. In addition to his painting, she admired his musical skills and his congenial nature. As a consequence, Severn was a frequent guest at the Palazzo Rospigliosi where in 1827 he met Lady Westmoreland's ward, Elizabeth Montgomerie. They began a clandestine courtship, and against the strenuous objections of Lady Westmoreland, were married in October 1828. Although she attended the wedding ceremony, Lady Westmoreland vowed that she would never speak to either of them again. (GSAK, p13)

But Severn received a letter which was 'full of hints and insinuations which were obviously intended to make him doubt the purity of his wife's conduct before her marriage', and the Severns were attacked at law in a claim for back wages for their servants, probably funded by the good Lady Jane.

On 13th December 1828, Charles Brown writes to Joseph Severn at Florence:

Lady W must certainly be crazy. Now, however, as you have gone through all the nuisance and trouble of cutting acquaintanceship, I think you are right in not submitting to a revival of it.

It was not until 1838 that Severn was to encounter Lady Jane again. He writes:

Lady Westmoreland I saw last night. She had been here 3 or 4 times, and staid for hours - I found her very pleasant and civil, she made me play on the piano forte and told me that I had a greater talent for music than painting, but I suspect the old devil still that she was only spying on me coming into Thompson's house - She told me that I lookd far too young and handsome to be trusted in London and that she should write to you - How little she knows me after all, how narrow minded, and disposd to stir up a row in any way - at all events, I shall consider her as the same person.

 

Peter Koch writes, with multiple interpolations of things he could not possibly know:

Rich and uninhibited, Lady Westmoreland frequently sought to attract men more her age for a secret liaison, and Joseph Severn had now caught her fancy....

She was ten years older than Severn.

Lady Westmoreland wished to journey up the Nile to see the Egyptian ruins, and she wanted Severn to come along as the artist for her impromptu expedition. Severn knew that she had other expectations of him, which were of a more amorous nature. Hoping to relieve himself of her romantic advances, Severn suggested the name of his good friend Catherwood as a substitute. After bragging about Frederick's impressive skills and his immediate availability, Lady Westmoreland replied 'My dear Severn, I do not know this young man, but I would take anyone of your commending, because I feel you understand me'.... Joseph Severn brought Frederick Catherwood to Lady Westmoreland's residence of the Villa Negroni for a proper introduction.

 

Oil painting, the Villa Negroni, by Hubert Robert
The Villa Negroni, Hubert Robert

She was sixteen years older than Catherwood.

Severn later recalled that his young friend was besotted by the beauty of Jane Huck-Saunders and was entirely at a loss for words when he first met her. After regaining his composure, Catherwood told Lady Westmoreland he would be honoured to join her upcoming expedition down the Nile to explore the ancient ruins of Egypt... Having fallen under the spell of Lady Westmoreland, Frederick soon became her lover and even took up residence at her palatial abode. Severn felt guilty over the introduction of his childhood friend to a married woman of high society and tried to undo what he had done, but his words failed to sway the already smitten young artist. The affair eventually came to an end on its own. (PKJL p23)

 

GSAK Scott, Grant, After Keats, the Return of Joseph Severn to England in 1838, Romanticism on the Net, November 2005

PKJL Koch, Peter, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood; Pioneers of Mayan Archaeology, McFarland, 2013.

RGWW Roberts, Greg, Wicked William, Resources for the study of the life and times of William-Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley (1788-1857) http://www.wickedwilliam.com/127/

 

 

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