Francis Town of Bond Street (1738-1826) and his family: With Further Notes on Early Anglo-Jewish Artists

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IN January 1809 the Battle of Corunna was fought and the British army withdrew from the Peninsula. This serious defeat aroused little interest at home where the public was eagerly following the sensational details of the Duke of York's private life with Mrs. Clarke. George The Third's second son, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, had been charged with corruption in connection with army promotions and an examination was taking place before the House of Commons. The evidence was supplied by his former mistress, Mary Ann Clarke, with whom he had parted on bad terms and showed that she had received large sums of money from army officers in return for promises of promotion but it was clear that the Duke was unaware of these transactions and he was exonerated by a majority of the House. Nevertheless the scandal was so great that he was obliged to resign his army appointment. The examina? tion lasted no less than seven weeks and the printed report takes up more than 600 pages.2 According to The Annual Register for 1809 it "interested the public more deeply than any question has done since that concerning the succession to the Crown and the limitation of the regal power".3

The affair must also have caused quite a stir among the little Anglo-Jewish com? munity for one of the officers mentioned was of Jewish birth and one of the principal witnesses was a Jewish artist. The officer was David Ximenes, major in the 62nd Regt., who in a letter to the Committee stated that he had never been in touch with Mrs. Clarke, that he had served ten years in the army before receiving his majority and that he was in America in 1804 when he was promoted. On the strength of this communication he was dismissed from the proceedings although both he and his brother, Captain Moris Ximenes, were anxious to give evidence.4

The artist was a certain Benjamin Town. His evidence was important because he testified that he had frequently called at Mrs. Clarke's house in Gloucester Place in order to give her lessons in painting on velvet and that she had shown him how she was able to forge the Duke's signature. Mrs. Clarke, an attractive woman who thoroughly enjoyed the publicity she received, conducted herself throughout the proceedings with remarkable composure in spite of being caught out telling deliberate lies no less than 28 times. In anticipation of Town's evidence she made a vicious attack on him when the case was opened and stated that she had introduced him to the Duke in order to arrange a loan from Jew King.5 I will not weary you with the lengthy evidence by

1 Paper read before The Jewish Historical Society of England on 17th June, 1953. References to Hart relate to a collection of letters written between 1837 and 1840 by S. A. Hart, r.a. to Sir Augustus and Lady Calcott in the author's possession. They include some notes he prepared on Jewish artists

2 Investigation of the Charges

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