Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/173

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

at 5B Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London, on 25 Jan. 1894. His book on ‘The British Mission to Uganda’ was published a few months later. His recommendation that Uganda should be retained by the British government was ultimately adopted.

Portal was a man of handsome presence and athletic mould, and possessed tact, firmness, and daring. He married, on 1 Feb. 1890, Lady Alice Josephine Bertie, daughter of the seventh Earl of Abingdon.

[Times, 26 Jan. 1894; Foreign Office List, 1893; Memoir prefixed to British Mission to Uganda.]

C. A. H.

PORTEN, Sir STANIER (d. 1789), government official, was the only son of James Porten, merchant of London, of Huguenot descent, who lived in an old red-brick house adjoining Putney Bridge, which he was obliged, through his failure in business, to vacate at Christmas 1748. The son entered the diplomatic service, and for some years before 1760 he was British resident at the court of Naples. He was transferred in April 1760 to the post of consul at Madrid (Gent. Mag. 1760, p. 203; Clark, Letters on Spain, pp. 346–54). In July 1766 he was appointed secretary to the extraordinary embassy of Lord Rochford to the court of France (Home Office Papers, 1766–9, p. 435; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App. p. 138). Several reports were made by Porten in 1766–7 on the terms ‘of liquidating the Canada paper in France’ (ib. pp. 136–9; Home Office Papers, 1766–9, p. 176). Porten was appointed in November 1768 as under-secretary to Lord Rochford, then secretary of state for the northern department, and in December 1770 he followed that nobleman to the southern branch (ib. 1766–69), remaining under-secretary until 1782. He was knighted on 5 June 1772, appointed keeper of the state papers at Whitehall in 1774, and from 1782 until November 1786 was a commissioner of the customs. He was characterised as the ‘man of business’ in his department, and as possessing a gravity of demeanour which was exaggerated by his long official residence at Naples and Madrid (Hawkins, Memoirs, 1824, ii. 7–11). After ‘long infirmities and gradual decay,’ he died at Kensington Palace on 7 June 1789.

Porten's youngest sister, Judith, married, on 3 June 1736, Edward Gibbon of Buriton, Hampshire, and was mother of Edward Gibbon, the historian, who spent in his grandfather's house at Putney the greater part of his holidays and the months between his mother's death in 1747 and the break-up of that establishment. He was tenderly cared for by his eldest aunt, Catherine Porten, who, after her father's ruin, established a boarding-house for Westminster School, in which Gibbon lived, and which proved very successful. She died in April 1786. The third sister married Mr. Darrel of Richmond in Surrey.

Gibbon wrote on 24 May 1774 that Porten was ‘seriously in love’ with Miss W., ‘an agreeable woman,’ and that he was ‘seriously uneasy that his precarious situation precludes him from happiness. We shall soon see which will get the better, love or reason. I bet three to two on love.’ Gibbon's prophecy proved correct. The lady's name was Miss Mary Wibault of Titchfield Street, London, and the marriage took place at the close of that year (Gent. Mag. 1774, p. 598). They had two surviving children: a son, Stanier James Porten, B.A., of Brasenose College, Oxford, 1801, and rector of Charlwood, Surrey, who died in November 1854; and a daughter Charlotte, who married, on 7 Feb. 1798, the Rev. Henry Wise, rector of Charlwood. At Porten's death, the widow, a very lively woman, who long survived him, was left with a moderate pension for her subsistence. Gibbon thereupon proposed adopting the eldest child, Charlotte, ‘a most amiable, sensible young creature,’ and rewarding ‘her care and tenderness with a decent fortune;’ but the mother would not, at that time, listen to the proposition. By his will, dated 1 Oct. 1791, Gibbon left his money to these two children, his nearest relatives on his mother's side.

Numerous letters to and from Porten are in the Marquis of Abergavenny's manuscripts (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. pt. vi.), and in the official papers of Lord Grantham, Sir Robert Gunning, and others, at the British Museum. Archdeacon Coxe, in the preface to his ‘Memoirs of the Kings of Spain of the House of Bourbon, 1700–1788’ (1813 ed. pp. xviii–xix), acknowledges his indebtedness to the papers of Porten.

A picture of the Porten family, painted by Hogarth and the property of the Rev. Thomas Burningham, was on view at the exhibition of the old masters in 1888. Stanier Porten was depicted as handing a letter to his father (Catalogue, p. 13).

[Gent. Mag. 1775 p. 550, 1782 p. 207, 1789 pt. i. p. 577, 1798 pt. i. p. 169; Townsend's Knights from 1760, p. 47; Chatham Correspondence, ii. 31–40; Miscell. Works of Gibbon (1814), i. 24, 33–4, 36–8, 296, 315, 426, ii. 125, 132, 392–3, 429–30; Old Houses of Putney, p. 11; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. i. 152; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

W. P. C.