the good ole’ days: conspicuous they were

The noble houses of eighteenth century England and the regal lifestyles that accompanied them. Life was good if you had money and bling was king…

As with paintings, so it was with all that was rare, exotic, and costly: nobleman vied with nobleman over jewels, pictures, books, plants, animals. The world was ransacked to give distinction to an English house and garden. Here are a few exotics that poured into the household of the “Princely Duke of Chandos”:Captain Massey of Carolina sent him rice, kidney beans, pineapples, a Mexican squash, or little beaver and flamingos; Chiswell of Virginia sent mockingbirds; Stephens of Cape Coast, a tiger that mauled a servant; Ashley of Barbados, pineapples, cinnamon, coffee trees, avocado pears; from Jamaica, pawpaws, star apples, custard apples, guavas, tamarinds; Harriman of Leghorn, broccoli seed, fennel, orange-flower water, capers, preserved citron,anchovies, Lucca oil, olives, and evergreen-oak acorns.

—Pompeo Batoni, Peter Beckford, 1766, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.—Read More:

By 1739 Chandos boasted of the finest and largest collection of fruit in Europe. And his rare birds were equal to his fruit. They poured in from the four corners of the globe: storks from Rotterdam, wild geese from Barbados, whistling ducks from Antigua, redbirds from the Gold Coast, blue macaws, Muscovy ducks, parakeets, a crown bird, ostriches, an eagle- all grotesquely expensive.

Benjamin West. Battle of La Hogues. Read More:

Chandos also loved music; so he created an orchestra of about thirty instrumentalists and vocalists, conducted by the famous Dr. Pepusch. “His concert,” as he called it, lived in the house, and provided background music to his dinners. It cost him nearly 1,000 pounds a year in wages, but this was less than his wine bill, which ran at about 1,500 a year, roughly the same as Sir Robert Walpole’s, whose household in 1733 returned 540 dozen empties.

—Johann Zoffany
Nationality: German
(b nr. Frankfurt, 13 Mar. 1733; d Strand-on-the-Green, Middlesex [now part of Chiswick, Greater London], 11 Nov. 1810). German-born painter who settled in England in 1760 after working in Rome. He was patronized by the famous actor David Garrick and made his name with paintings representing scenes from plays, usually depicting Garrick in one of his favourite parts. They show how quickly he adapted to English taste, and he also painted conversation pieces of much the same small scale and in the same relaxed vein. —Read More:

For those who did not relish artists or menageries, furniture or gardens, there were the hounds and the horses, the women and the gaming tables. Lord Stavordale, scarcely beyond adolescence, lost eleven thousand guineas at cards only to regain them the next evening in a single bid when he cursed himself for not playing for really high stakes!

Even generosity could grow as wanton as a weed. Lord Egremont, the owner of Petworth, disdained to pay his servants wages. If they greatly pleased him, he would give them 1,000 or at times 2,000 worth of stock; for little kindnesses they got 50 pounds in the local savings bank. Guests at Petworth were always welcome; they stayed weeks, months, even years. He celebrated special occasions- victories, coronations, royal birthdays, and, of course, his own- with vast public entertainments that amazed even his own time. ( to be continued)…

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