handing it down to an inattentive son

Captain Philip Thicknesse (1719-1792) was an eccentric British author.

image found here

“He claimed he could, at any time, muster ten or a dozen knaves and fools, who would put £100 in his pocket, merely for holding them up to public scorn. The dozen could include a fumigating Duke, ten Lords, a white-headed travelling Parson, three Doctors of Physic, a broken, deaf and lame Sea-Duck, ten thousand five hundred Male Midwives, and about the same number of their silly female customers, a Bulgarian Bath Painter, two hundred Black Legs and a Dancing Master of Ceremonies.

male midwife toad found here

In 1742 he eloped with Maria Lanove, a wealthy heiress, after he abducted her from a street in Southampton and took up residence in Bath with her, taking full advantage of the social whirl of life. In 1749 Maria and his children contracted diphtheria; she and two children died, leaving only a daughter, Anna, to survive. When Maria’s parents died some time later, he spent much time in trying to claim their fortune. Thicknesse then married Lady Elizabeth Tuchet, but she died in childbirth in 1762. His third wife was his late wife’s companion, Anne Ford, whom he married on 27 September 1762. Anne was a gifted musician with a beautiful voice who was well-educated and knew five languages. She gave Sunday concerts at her father’s house, but her ambition was to became a professional actress and, in spite of her father’s disapproval, she left home to enter the stage. The couple spent a lot of time travelling in Europe.

gratuitous “gifted musician” photo by Terry O’Neill

Thicknesse died on one such journey near Boulogne, France, and was buried in this town. In his later life he had become an “ornamental hermit”. In his will he stipulated that his right hand be cut off, and that it should be delivered to his son, Lord Audley, who was inattentive

plush severed hand found here

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46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Is that the origin of the expression “talk to the hand”?

    Also, nice post title.

    • Thanks Laura

    • Hey, give the guy a hand for being so original. Oh wait, Van Gough was the original one for removal of body parts to be sent to someone whom he cared about. Lend me your ear, I say.

  2. What an odd wish. But he was an odd man to be begin with.

  3. I’ve heard of this chap several times. He seems to have been a bit of a ladies’ man (yes, plural!)
    Looong time ago…I visited friends who lived near Audley End, a lovely(now) Georgian estate. I wonder what connection there might be? (Google does not say enough.)
    Well, whatever the link, if any, old Phil was a bit wacky!

    • Yes, that craze for ornamental hermits attracted some strange people

  4. Definitely eccentric. I’m still grappling with his bizarre list of knaves and fools.

    • I love that list

  5. Truly a hand me down!

    • A thoroughly gruesome one

  6. I have to say that is the first post that I needed to click on every one of the source photos to learn more about them. Weird!!!

    • Do you like the Bowie photo? That’s my favourite

  7. proving yet again that my dog is a lazy hound. has done NOTHING to earn his keep. off to voice lessons for Mr. Pickles!

    • Can he at least walk on two legs?

  8. Around that time there were loads of exciting things happening in Bath – I reckon it must have been the waters.

    • Have you been immersed in them daddyp?

  9. So he gave a hand to his son – the bastard can’t complain. A true gem of the 18th century, thank you for this!

    • Perhaps if the severed hand came with a ring on it…….

  10. I can just imagine the postman coming to the door. “One right hand for you, sir. Sorry about all the blood. If you’d just like to sign here….”

    • Sounds like a Monty Python skit doesn’t it?

  11. I thought he only had the daughter who survived diphtheria (Anna). Where’d the inattentive son come from?

    Both of my boys are inattentive, but I simply refuse to give them my severed limbs. They’re mine! Mine, I tell you!

    • He was the son of the second wife, the one who died in childbirth. I’m leaving my tattooed shoulder to my sons when I die. They can sever it from the rest of me with their inattentive hands.

      • You just reminded me…a friend won rather a big jackpot in a card game once and later kept his winning cards and willed them to someone.

      • Gamblers tend to be superstitious. The recipient was probably delighted.

  12. Quite convenient for him that his 2nd wife’s “companion” was female….

    • he was just looking round for the closest warm body…..

  13. Good Lord woman where do you find this stuff… I love it!!!

    • I think I first read about ornamental hermits in Edith Sitwell’s book

  14. Ornamental hermit. Is that a hermit who only puts in 8 hours a day or something?

    • Just like a garden gnome only bigger ;-)

  15. Oh I so love those ornamental hermits. I think Edith Sitwell had one.

    I wish The King had one in the gardens.

    • you’d have to feed him and grant toilet facilities. and who would mind him when you’re on holidays? Ornamental hermits aren’t just for Christmas you know…..

      • We DO have a handmaiden, you know.

  16. Wow, just wow… I hope my parents don’t do that to me – I’m very absent minded and rather inattentive at times.

    • then it’s just as well I’m here to remind you what happens to inattentive children

  17. Where do you find this bizarre stuff, Nursemyra?

    • Mostly from the books I read

  18. He had a great name…you’ve got to hand it to him, etc, etc. etc

  19. Ornamental Hermit and an inattentive son. Sounds somewhat like my life.

    • Post a photo of yourself sitting in your garden Archie

  20. A slap in the face from the grave

  21. That toad is bizarre (shudder).

  22. I think you’ve mentioned ornamental hermits before. If there’s no dress code I think I might be good at that job. I wouldn’t have to speak, would I? Could I take my ear plugs with me?

  23. I would have just given the finger to my inattentive son.


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