Beauclerk, Diana (DNB00)

BEAUCLERK, Lady DIANA (1734–1808), amateur artist, was born 24 March 1734. She was the eldest daughter of Charles Spencer, second duke of Marlborough. Her sister, Lady Betty Spencer, was afterwards countess of Pembroke. Lady Diana, or, as she was more frequently called, Lady Di, was married in 1757 to Frederick St. John, second Viscount Bolingbroke, nephew and heir of the great Lord Bolingbroke. In 1768 she was divorced by act of parliament. Two days later she was married at St. George's to Topham Beauclerk [q. v.] Johnson, according to Boswell (Life of Johnson, ch. xxix.), spoke of her character with great asperity, although he knew her; but he admitted subsequently that she nursed her sick husband (Beauclerk) 'with very great assiduity' (Letter to Boswell, 21 Jan. 1775). Beauclerk died in 1780. His widow survived him for many years. In later life she resided at Spencer Grove, Twickenham, which she decorated with her own paintings. Walpole speaks of her art with all the extravagant enthusiasm which he employs in praising his friends. She executed a series of seven large designs 'in sut-water' (her first attempt of the kind) for his 'Mysterious Mother.' To these he devoted a closet at Strawberry Hill, which he christened the 'Beauclerk Closet,' where they hung on Indian blue damask. 'Salvator Kosa and Guido could not surpass their expression and beauty,' he says (Correspondence, ed. Cunningham, vi. 311, 462, vii. 265). In 1778 she made a drawing of Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, which Bartolozzi engraved. He also engraved a set of illustrations which she prepared for the Hon. W. R. Spencer's translation of Bürger's 'Leonora,' published by Bensley in 1796. In the following year the same publisher issued the 'Fables of John Dryden,' with 'engravings from the pencil of the Right Hon. Lady Diana Beauclerc,' engraved by Bartolozzi, and his pupil, W. N. Gardiner. Bartolozzi also reproduced some of her designs of children, cupids, &c. Reynolds painted her portrait in 1763, when she was Lady Bolingbroke. According to a note in Hardy's 'Life of Charlemont,' 1812, i. 345, Sir Joshua thought highly of her artistic abilities, and said that 'many of her ladyship's drawings might be studied as models.'

Hume describes her as 'handsome and agreeable and ingenious, far beyond the ordinary rate' (Private Corr. 1820, 251-2), and Boswell on his own account (Life of Johnson, ch. xxix.) bears witness to her 'charming conversation.' Lady Beauclerk died in 1808, aged 74.

[Walpole's Letters, and Anecdotes of Painting; Boswell's Johnson; Tuer's Bartolozzi.]

A. D.