Mr and Mrs Brown (Miss Fuller that was) are at Pisa for the winter. I have not yet seen them. Our neighbour of Rose Hill has been lately I hear refused by Miss Susan Thrale and is so very angry with her that he has brought down a woman of the Town to Tunbridge Wells on purpose to distress her by following her everywhere. If this is a fact I think him a great Fool.
Many people have speculated as to why Jack Fuller never married. Some have gone so far as to suggest that he may have fathered illegitimate children. The latter are usually those who seek to claim descendancy. There is no evidence to support such claims.
Some light may be shed on the subject of his bachelorhood in this letter written in 1790 by the infamous Henrietta Henckell Hare of Herstmonceux Place. It was published in the Sussex County Magazine (Vol. VI p.672, 1932) along with several other letters written by her while in Italy during the same period.
The Mr & Mrs Brown referred to are Lancelot Brown and his wife Frances Fuller, Jack Fuller's sister.
Rose Hill is approximately seven miles (11 km) from Herstmonceux, the home of the Hare Naylor family, which was considered relatively close as far as country neighbours went at that time. The author of the letter, Mrs. Henrietta Henckell Hare (died 1826), was the second wife of the Rev. Robert Hare Naylor (1756 -1832). She notoriously persuaded her elderly husband to allow the interior of Herstmonceux castle to be dismantled in order to build Herstmonceux Place for her children. You might say that she was the archetypical "wicked step-mother". Her ill treatment of her step children is documented here.
Susannah Arabella Thrale (1770-1858) was the seventh of twelve children born to wealthy Streatham Brewer Henry Thrale and his wife Hester Lynch Salusbury . Of the twelve, only four daughters live to maturity: Hester Maria (known as Queeney), Susanna Arabella (known as Susan and Susette), Sophia and Cecilia Margaretta (known as Cecile and Cecy).
Susannah would have been just nine years old when she travelled to Brighton with her parents and Fanny Burney in 1779. Burney writes that, "Mr [Jack] Fuller, a very intimate young friend of Mr Thrale, who is Captain of a Company belonging to [The Sussex militia], Dined with us." Frances Burney, Journals and Letters, Penguin, 2001, pp. 116. Read more about this meeting of Fuller, Burney and the Thrales here.
Hester Thrale was a great diarist in her own right and a close friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson. Henry Thrale died on 4 April 1781 and three years later, Hester married Gabriel Mario Piozzi, her daughters' music teacher. This marriage was not accepted by Hester's family or her friends and caused many rifts.
“On June 9 Susan Thrale, in evident anticipation of her sister’s [Sophia] marriage, moved from London to the cottage called ‘Ash Grove’, and Chevening, Kent, which she ever afterwards occupied as a permanent residence. Mrs. Piozzi [Hester Thrale] refers to her removal, in a letter of June 8 to Hester [Queeney]: “Susette leaves Town tomorrow if I am right, and consummates her Marriage with Mr Ash Grove. If like Many Modern Couples they should be soon tired of the binding Words to have and to hold, She may get a Divorce any Day,”
Thraliana Vol II, p 1082.
Susannah Thrale lived with watercolourist William Frederick Wells, a widower and father of seven, but did not marry him. She "joined him at his house", Ash Cottage, in Knockholt, Kent. Wells' name does not appear in the Thrale family correspondence. Susannah's mother Hester refers to him as Mr Ash Grove.
Wells was a drawing instructor to young aristocrats and had exhibited at the Royal Academy. He founded the Society of Painters in Watercolours, now the Royal Watercolour Society in 1804.
Susanhah Thrale lived at Ash Grove Cottage for the rest of her life, remaining there even after Wells retired to Mitcham, Surrey.
She died a spinster on 5 November 1858 and was buried at St Leonard's churchyard, Streatham.
Hester Maria "Queeney"
& mother Hester Lynch Thrale
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1787-88
It was the Thrale's eldest daughter Queeney who was more taken with Jack Fuller. One wonders why he did not propose to her. It would appear that Hester Thrale would not have approved of the match.
29 Jan 1781
"Lord John Clinton sent to request the favour of me to put his
Name down : my notion is that he is in Love with Hester – de tout
mon Coeur : so far as I see of him he is a very sweet Young Man;
steady in his principles, regular in his Conduct, unaffected in his
Manners – there is no Money indeed, but there are good prospects of high Rank; and when is a Nobleman distress’d in good Earnest,
merely for want of Fortune…
Queeney however likes a more brilliant Character I think –Lord John is tame & gentle, & she doats on a Flasher;ill contrived that I must confess, for a sprightly Fellow wou’d break her Heart in half a Year with Jealousy and Terror. Jack Fuller seems her Favorite : Jack Fuller of all People! wild, gay, rich, loud, I wonder how a Girl of Delicacy can take a Fancy to Jack Fuller of Rose-hill? no proposal however has been made, nor do they often meet;but I rather think She likes a boisterous Character – She often speaks with Approbation of Sir Godfrey Webster – Good heaven –Sr Godfrey Webster!
Thraliana: The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale (Later Mrs Piozzi) 1776 – 1809, Edited by Katharine C. Balderston, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1951
Volume II 1784-1809, p. 480
Hester Maria “Queeney” Thrale (1764 – 1857) married Viscount Admiral George Keith of Elphinstone on 10 January 1808.
Lord John Pelham Clinton MP for East Retford, Nottinghamshire died in Lisbon, later in 1781. Sir Godfrey Webster, 4th Bart of Battle Abbey was later divorced by the Jamaican heiress he married and committed suicide in 1800 after bad luck at cards. Ironically, it was his son Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster that sold Bodiam Castle to Jack Fuller.