1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bertie Greatheed

Anonymous, Obituary in New Monthly Magazine NS 18 (April 1826) 162-63.



Lately, after a few days severe illness, Bertie Bertie Greatheed, Esq. of Guy's Cliff, Warwickshire. He was related to many of our highest nobility: and was nephew to the late Duke of Ancaster, his mother, Lady Mary Bertie, being his Grace's sister. On the death of Mr. Collyer, a minor, the only child of the late Lady Milsingtown, Mr. Greatheed succeeded to the moiety of the Duke of Ancaster's large personal property and unentailed estates. Mr. Greatheed was not only the ornament of his rank in Warwickshire, but had long been considered, in a most extensive literary and scientific society, the beau ideal of the English country gentleman. More estimable private virtues were rarely united in the same individual; which, with the elegant accomplishments of his mind, and the suavity and manliness of his address and manners, created numerous and strong attachments. His house was the resort and delight of the most celebrated characters of the kingdom; and in a long residence on the Continent, particularly in Germany and Italy, he had formed acquaintances with the most distinguished foreign literati, many of whom in their visits to England were welcome guests at Guy's Cliff. Mr. Greatheed, in his political principles, was the ardent, early, and consistent friend of civil and religious freedom; but, although repeatedly solicited to represent his county town in parliament, he constantly declined, and preferred the pleasures of a private life to the anxieties and temptations of a public one. He was the author of The Regent, a tragedy, London, 1788, of considerable literary dramatic merit; and his diffidence only has prevented his being, more frequently and recently known to the public as a man of letters. Mr. G. was the early patron of Mrs. Siddons. This unrivalled daughter of Melpomnene, after being the vocal heroine of her father's provincial company, retired into the family of the Greatheeds, where her highly-cultivated talents and polished manners endeared her to the large circle of well-educated persons connected with it. We believe Mrs. Siddons resumed her theatrical pursuits on quitting the hospitable roof of Mr. Greatheed, and burst upon the world by her performance at Bath, from whence she went to London. The chief occupations and amusements of his latter years have been to improve his romantic and picturesque residence in Warwickshire; a spot remarkable in the antiquities and traditions of the county; in the simple language of Leland, described as "the abode of pleasure, a place meet for the Muses;" and by Dugdale, as "a place of great delight, that to one who desired a retired life, either for his devotions or study, the like is hardly to be found." Such a place appeared designed by Nature for its late highly-gifted possessor; and Mr. Greatheed, in all his improvements and additions, with the purest taste preserved its natural and characteristic beauties. On Mr. Greatheed's property the new town of Leamington is chiefly built, and his liberality will be there long and gratefully remembered. We may sincerely say, that the loss of few private characters will be more generally and deeply regretted throughout the country; for no difference of opinion, political or religious, was an exclusion from his hospitality or friendship: his lofty mind and warm heart were utter strangers to the unfortunate prejudices which but too frequently prevent the interchange of social intercourse between those who differ in their sentiments, but who, perhaps, are equally sincere and virtuous. It may be mentioned to the honour of Mr. Greatheed, and as particularly interesting at the present period, that although in early life nearly his entire income was derived from estates in the island of St. Kitt's, he was among the first and most zealous public advocates of the abolition of slavery.