[ Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, poisoner, artist and art critic. ] 13 items from his biographer W. C. Hazlitt's papers, including two letters apiece from J. B. Wainewright and W. H. Whitear, one from A. G. Allen, two photographs of Linden House.

[ Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (1794-1847), poisoner, artist and art critic; William Carew Hazlitt (1834-1913); John Bannerman Wainewright (1871-1929); Walter Henry Whitear; A. G. Allen ]
Publication details: 
London and Oxford. Between 1891 and 1907.
SKU: 19579

Wainewright has the questionable distinction of being the first English murderer to employ strychnine; he was in addition an interesting author (contributing to the London Magazine in its heyday), a capable artist, a connoisseur, dandy, friend of Charles Lamb and patron of William Blake. Hazlitt's long biographical essay prefixed to his edition of Wainewright's 'Essays and Criticisms', published by Reeves and Turner in 1880, excited considerable interest in its subject; Oscar Wilde's essay 'Pen, Pencil and Poison', published in the Fortnightly Review in 1889 and reprinted in 'Intentions' in 1891, is nothing more than a precis of Hazlitt's biography, with a Wildean twist. An interesting collection of material relating to this fascinating and elusive figure. Twelve of the thirteen items offered here are in good condition, lightly aged and worn; the other item (Five in the description below) is heavily worn at the extremities. The collection includes two photographs of Wainewright's family home Linden House (built by his grandfather Ralph Griffiths, editor of the Monthly Review), taken shortly before its demolition); two letters from Wainewright's kinsman the Catholic academic John Bannerman Wainewright, giving details of the family and expressing great interest regarding 'the black sheep'; two letters from the Pepys scholar and historian of Chiswick Walter Henry Whitear; and one letter from A. G. Allen, who contributed the article on Wainewright in Thomas Seccomble's collection 'Lives of Twelve Bad Men' (1894). ONE: ALS from 'John B. Wainewright' to Hazlitt. New College, Oxford, on embossed letterhead of the Oxford Union Society; 29 January 1891. 3pp., 16mo. He wonders whether Hazlitt would mind answering a question 'concerning T. G. Wainewright whose Essays you collected and published in 1880 and whose life you wrote': 'How is it, if the various cases of poisoning were well known at the time of his trial he was not condemned to death, and how is it that his wife, his accomplice was allowed to go free? Perhaps to a member of the family you would not mind divulging where his sketch-books and the portrait of Helen Abercrombie are at present? Is the Robert W. mentioned on p.lxv (Introd.) his cousin – of the firm of Cookson Wainewright and Pennington (solicitors)?' He ends by stating that he is 'much interested in what pertains to the black sheep of the family'. TWO: ALS from 'John B. Wainewright'. New College, Oxford; 'Wednesday' (no date, but soon after Item One above). 3pp., 12mo. After thanking him for his reply he explains that his grandfather is 'very taciturn about family matters' and that he himself knows nothing about them of any interest. 'My grandfather John and my great-uncle Robert are sons of John brother of Thomas the father of the criminal. The former was till quite lately a taxing-master in Chancery and the latter is a solicitor of the firm of Cookson Wainewright and Pennington.' He has 'an unfinished drawing of considerable merit which at one time I thought was of the criminal, but now I think it may be a picture by him. It is of a young man in the costume of about 1760 reading a paper and I thought he might have got someone to sit to him in that costume'. He quotes a relevant passage by Wainewright from Hazlitt's book before stating the picture's provenance: it was among the 'possessions of Mr. Triphook an usurer of Golden Square' and 'was bought sometime between Feb: and June 1888 by Lord Balcarres'. He ends by describing how the picture is mounted ('in the oldfashioned way') and its light colouring. THREE: ALS from 'A. G. Allen' to Hazlitt. On letterhead of 13 Fairfax Road, South Hampstead; 19 December 1892. 3pp., 12mo. He has 'recently been making some researches into the life of this remarkable criminal', and is writing regarding 'one point in your very valuable life': 'Is there any evidence apart from Mr G. W. Thornbury's account in All the Year Round (which I do not think can be considered valuable) for the whole tale of the murder of the Norfolk gentleman?' He explains why he believes that 'A priori such a murder appears exceedingly unlikely', and that he thinks it is 'full of lacunae': 'The one definite fact is the insurance for £3000 with the Pelican: but on enquiry at that Office I am told that after careful search they are unable [to] trace any record of any such policy.' He is 'inclined at present to disbelieve the whole story', and asks Hazlitt for any further evidence. FOUR: ALS from 'W. H. Whitear' to Hazlitt. 4 Ravenscroft Road, Fairlawn Park, Chiswick; 14 April 1896. 2pp., 12mo. Asking if there is 'any view of Linden House Turnham Green extant, or any portrait of T. G. Wainewright'. He is enclosing a paper (not present) which will explain his interest. Hazlitt's book led him 'to think you were more likely to be able to give me the information than anyone'. FIVE: ALS from 'W. H. Whitear' to Hazlitt. On Ravenscroft Road letterhead; 11 January 1907. 2pp., 12mo. He begins by reminding him of his previous letter, to which Hazlitt 'replied that you did not & regretted that you had not had the house photgraphed for your book'. He continues: 'I have recently come across two small lithographs of the house evidently from the letter press attached, the auctioneers prospectus, when the property was sold. I have had these copied, thinking you would like to have them.' (None of the items are present.) He continues, referring to Items Six and Seven below: 'I also send you copies of two photographs which were taken just before the house was pulled down – the photos were very faded & poor – hence the appearance of these copies.' SIX and SEVEN: Two 11 x 15 cm black and white photographs of Wainewright's family home Linden House, Turnham Green, referred to by Whitear in Item Five above. In pencil on reverse of both photographs 'Just before demolition'. (Linden Gardens now stands on the site.) The house is in neo-classical style, and one photograph is a view, seen through overgrown greenery, of its front, behind a low brick wall with stone balustrade incorporating an imposing door built into a pediment. The second photograph is a rear view of the house, with lawn in front. The house is on two stories, and features three sets of large glass doors opening out onto the lawn, the central set of doors flanked by two alcoves, in each of which is placed a statue of a figure. Several of the windows on the top floor are smashed. EIGHT: 17 x 11 cm sepia photographic reproduction of a drawing of a girl's head. At foot, in Hazlitt's hand: 'Proof | Miss Abercromby [sic] | by T. G. Wainewright.' In pencil on reverse: '1/2 the same size | but as well.' A proof of the illustration of Wainewright's victim Helen Abercrombie which is reproduced in Hazlitt's book. NINE: Printed British Museum Reading Room order ticket, filled in by Hazlitt with details of the book 'Some Passages in the Life of Egomet Bonmot' (previously thought to be by Wainewright, but now known to be the work of Edward Gandy (see M. V. de Chantilly's edition, 2000), and headed by him 'Wainewright'. TEN to THIRTEEN: Four cuttings. One a notice of Hazlitt's book from the Richmond and Twickenham Times, 26 January 1889; two, regarding Wainewright's grandfather Ralph Griffiths, from Notes and Queries, both 1885; one, undated and from an unknown source, regarding the 'Burney Family Scrap-Books'.