Gulston, Joseph (DNB00)

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GULSTON, JOSEPH (1745–1786), collector and connoisseur, was born in 1745. His father, Joseph Gulston, a successful loan contractor, was elected M.P. for Poole in 1741, 1747, 1754, and 1761, and built the town hall there. He secretly married Mericas, daughter of a Portuguese merchant named Sylva, and she was living at Greenwich when her son Joseph was born under the romantic circumstances which form the groundwork of Miss Clementina Black's novel 'Mericas.' The marriage was not acknowledged for many years, principally owing to the elder Joseph Gulston's dread of his sister, and for some time his children were brought up in the strictest concealment. The father died 16 Aug. 1766 and his wife 17 Nov. 1799, aged 84. Both were buried in Ealing Church.

Upon his father's death Joseph, who had latterly been educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford,where he matriculated 18 Feb. 1763, found himself in possession of 250,000l. in the funds, an estate in Hertfordshire worth 1,500l. a year, Ealing Grove, Middlesex, and a house in Soho Square. This fortune he dissipated in collecting books and prints, in building, and in all kinds of extravagance except vicious ones. His indolence equalled his extravagance; though handsome he was of a corpulent habit of body, he was elected M.P. for Poole in 1780, but lost his seat in 1784 by neglecting to get out of bed till too late in the day to solicit the votes of five quaker constituents. After a succession of expedients, sales of property, consignments of annuities, and spasmodic efforts at economy, he sold his books in June 1784. George III was a purchaser at the sale. At length, in 1786, Gulston was compelled to dispose of his unrivalled collection of prints, which, besides the works of the great masters, contained eighteen thousand foreign and twenty-three thousand five hundred English portraits, eleven thousand English caricatures and political prints, and fourteen thousand five hundred topographical. The sale lasted forty days (from 16 Jan. to 15 March 1786), but produced only 7,000l., and the unfortunate possessor, overwhelmed with family cares and pecuniary difficulties, died in Bryanston Street, London, on 16 July 1786, and was buried in Ealing Church. Gulston was a most amiable man, whose faults were in great measure due to his physical constitution and defective education at the most susceptible period of his life. He was highly accomplished in many ways, and his memory was most retentive. He was partly engage'd for several years in the preparation of a biographical dictionary of the foreigners who have visited England; the manuscript was purchased by a bookseller after his death, but no use seems to have been made of it. Gulston was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. A few of his letters to his friend Granger are printed by Nichols.

Gulston married Elizabeth Bridgetta, second daughter of Sir Thomas Stepney, bart., a woman as extravagant as himself celebrated for her beauty and accomplishments, and as the inventor of plated harness. She was also an etcher, and etched portraits of her husband and of Dr. Francis Courayer from paintings by Hamilton in 1772 (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 44). She died 9 March 1780, and was buried at Ealing. A son Joseph, after a troubled career of dissipation, died at Lausanne, 18 Dec. 1790, aged 22 (see for an account of his difficulties ib. ix. 605-6).

A portrait of Gulston is prefixed to Nichols's 'Literary Illustrations,' vol. v. There are mezzotint engravings of Gulston and of his wife by James Watson and Richard Earlom after paintings by Hamilton.

[Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, v. 1-60; Gent. Mag. 1786, ii. 622.]

R. G.