Mr Jones, Mr Birch, and George Boulton Esq in the Stothard portrait are just images in a picture because, without much more information, they are impossible to trace. Fortunately for informaphiles there is plenty about the others!
Mr Asperne is James Asperne 1757-1820, bookseller and proprietor of the European Magazine, a monthly magazine published from 1782 until 1826. He was also Past Master of the Foundation Lodge and St Peter’s Lodge and Grand Steward for 1814. His image in the Stothard is little more than a coloured blob if we zoom in so, fortunately, there is a much better portrait by Samuel Drummond in the Library of Freemasonry.
Another in the print trade was Mr Whittle as it seems very likely that he is the Whittle of Laurie & Whittle. Laurie, a skilled artist, had been apprenticed to Robert Sayer and took over from him in 1794. James Whittle had also been an apprentice but in the Needlemakers’ Company and he joined with Laurie producing maps, charts and prints from the Golden Buck in Fleet Street. They and their families lived on the premises.
‘The foundation of their business was the existing Sayer stock of printing plates, both for maps and atlases and also decorative prints, but they continued to add new material to freshen up the atlases, as well as separately-published maps on topical issues, notably events during the Napoleonic Wars.’ https://www.crouchrarebooks.com/mapmakers/laurie-whittle
After his partner retired, and until his death in 1818, Whittle continued the business with Laurie’s son. ‘Ultimately the business formed part of the famous nautical chart firm of Imray, Laurie, Norie &Wilson.’ https://www.jpmaps.co.uk/includes/biography.popup.cfm/id.803
No portrait of James Whittle has been found and, like Mr Asperne, he is just a blob in the Stothard so it makes us no wiser about his appearance.
Standing next to him, is Dr de Valangin and, in a neat connection, the image below was published by James Asperne! The legend states “Engraved from an Original Painting by Abbott. Dr. De Valangin.” and “Published by J. Asperne, at the Bible, Crown & Constitution, Cornhill, Sept.r. 1st 1805.”
Dr Franciscus Josephus Pahud de Valangin was born in 1719 in Berne, Switzerland and studied medicine at Leiden. In 1768 (the same year that Ruspini also published a treatise) he published a Treatise on Diet. From his practice in Fore St, Cripplegate he dispensed not only his own medicines but also Ruspini’s haemostatic styptic, given to the poor free of charge in tins stamped with his coat of arms. Medical care at that time being costly, de Valangin was unusual for charging people according to what he thought they could pay.
‘To those in the humbler walks of life, it was his constant custom to regulate the acceptance of his fees by their presumed ability to afford them: and the poor were always welcome to his gratuitous assistance.’ (European Magazine 1805)
De Valangin leased land at White Conduit Fields, Pentonville and had a house constructed to his own design. He called it Hermes Hill House derived from Hermes Trismegistus deemed author of Hermetic Corpus. (No, I had no idea either – and I’m not much wiser having looked it up.)
‘His house was remarkable for a singular brick tower or observatory, which was taken down by the next tenant.’ https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol2/pp279-289
From his first marriage, he had two sons and a daughter. Sadly, the daughter died when she was nine years old and she was buried in the garden of Hermes Hill House. Fortunately for the next occupant, her body was later transferred to Cripplegate church. De Valangin married for a second time in 1782, the widow of the architect who built his house.
De Valangin was certainly involved in the early days of the School. The first attempt to find some premises, in Little Chelsea, failed quite a long way into the negotiations because the Duchess of Cumberland decided they (and the owner) were not suitable. In a very short space of time, they had to find other premises and it was de Valangin who found the Somers Place East site. He also gave his services as a physician free of charge to the School.
Curiously, his death, like that of Thomas Stothard, involved a carriage accident. The European Magazine – see, they’re all connected – reports that on 2nd January 1805, de Valangin slipped and fell whilst alighting from his carriage, the ground being frosty. He sustained an injury which he himself predicted would shorten his life and so it proved. On 1st March 1805 he died and was interred in the family vault in Cripplegate church, the same vault to which his daughter’s body had been removed the day before.
His obituary says of him that he was ‘a friend to mankind and an honour to his profession.’
Now, Sir John Eamer, on the other hand, is described less flatteringly as ‘a remarkable and controversial man’ http://thekempetrust.co.uk/?p=292 written by Adrian Barlow, 2015. He was a friend of the Prince Regent although Stothard portrays him standing behind the prince’s brother on the opposite side of the hall. In 1794 he became Sherriff of London and was knighted by George III. He was elected to the position of Lord Mayor of London in 1801 so perhaps Stothard mistakenly attributed his later position to the listing rather than giving him as Sherriff.
On completing his term of office Sir John became Colonel of the East London militia, ‘with responsibility for safeguarding the London docks from possible French attack after the collapse of the short-lived Treaty of Amiens in 1802.’ http://thekempetrust.co.uk/
His costume, as depicted by Stothard, is vaguely uniform-like but it is difficult to be sure. The other portrait, commissioned by himself when he became Lord Mayor is definitely uniformed. The portrait, by Mather Brown, is ‘a stunning piece of myth making’. As Barlow indicates:
… he stands, flushed and supremely confident in scarlet uniform, his right elbow resting on the muzzle of a tall canon. Immediately behind him, his massive horse is draped in a cheetah-skin saddlecloth. Above and behind the horse loom the arms of the City of London, supported as heraldry demands by a griffin. Below, in a distant view barely glimpsed between the horse’s legs, soldiers can be seen drilling on a parade ground with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. The implicit title of this picture is all too clearly ‘Sir John Eamer, Heroic Defender of the City of London’.
But lest we should think that, Malvolio-like, Sir John from humble beginnings had greatness thrust upon him, it would appear he got to where he was by using his wealth to buy influence and it was wealth, moreover, which came from the West Indian sugar trade and, by implication, the use of slaves.
In 1805, he was court-martialled for ‘Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman’. Junior officers complained that he was bullying and abusive although, in his own defence, at a time when there was a threat of invasion and strict military discipline was necessary, Sir John found this in very short measure among the officers of the East London Militia and said some had stubbornly refused to turn out on parade.
“I was prepared to expect much discontent and strong opposition; but I was not prepared to expect that the ruin of my character, the destruction of my peace, and the blasting of my fair fame were to be the price of my duty so discharged.” (Colonel Sir John Eamer’s Defence on the court martial held on charges preferred against him by Captain William Ayres, &c. &c. as cited by Barlow)
Sir John was cleared of all charges although advised to temper what he said and how he said it. (‘Language, Timothy!’) However, just a year later he was ‘up before the Beak’ again for intemperate behaviour following a road accident in which his carriage, apparently on the wrong side of the road, had side-swiped another vehicle. Sir John, far from admitting any liability, ‘immediately began to exercise his horsewhip most actively upon the head and shoulders of the plaintiff’s servant.’ To make matters worse when the owner of the vehicle appeared, Sir John laid into him as well! This time, the court found against him and he was obliged to pay damages.
Did this sober his behaviour? Well no, because in 1810, after refusing to account for some £8000 granted for equipping the Militia, Sir John was court-martialled again for
behaving in a scandalous infamous manner, such as unbecoming the character of an Officer and a Gentleman towards one of his subordinate officers … Sir John [was] acquitted on all charges but reprimanded, again, for his use of ‘unguarded expressions’.
His reputation, however, was damaged and a few years later he withdrew from the City and retired to Brighton. He died there on 29th March 1823, and his death merited only a brief note in the Gentleman’s Magazine:
‘On a warm treacherous sun-shining day, he imprudently ventured to sit on the beach, which sapped the foundation of a frame already bending under the weight of age and infirmity’. [Definitely overtones of ‘Well if you will go out without your vest on …]
As Sir John was clearly a colourful character. It seems almost a shame that he is wearing sombre colours in the Stothard portrait.