Hanson, Levett (DNB00)

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HANSON, ‘Sir’ LEVETT (1754–1814), author, born 31 Dec. 1754, at Melton, Yorkshire, was the only son of Robert Hanson of Normanton in Yorkshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Isaack Jackson of Bury St. Edmunds. His father was the son of Benjamin Hanson and Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Levett of Normanton. Hanson went in 1766 to a school at Bury St. Edmunds, and afterwards, in 1769, to one at North Walsham, Norfolk, where Nelson was for two years his schoolfellow. He was on terms of friendship with Nelson through life. In 1771 he studied with Dr. Zouch, prebend of Durham, at Wycliffe, and in October 1773 went to Trinity College, Cambridge. Owing to some brawl he soon migrated to Emmanuel as a fellow-commoner, but did not take a degree. In the autumn of 1776 he made, in company with Dr. Michael Lort [q. v.], his first tour on the continent, and acquired a taste for foreign life and society, which led him to live out of England. Between 1776 and his death he paid only four brief visits to England (in 1780, 1785, 1786, and 1790). After long sojourns at many foreign courts, Hanson made the acquaintance, in 1780, of Prince Philip of Limbourg, duke of Holstein, who created him his councillor and knight of his order of St. Philip. Later on Hanson was made vice-chancellor and knight grand cross of the order, and resided for several years at Ghent. In 1787 he spent some time at the court of Ferdinand, duke of Parma; in 1789 he visited Naples and saw the Hamiltons, and in 1791 he took up his residence at the court of Ercole III Rinaldo d'Este, duke of Modena, with the rank of brigadier-general and chamberlain. He had previously become a member of the academy of Parma. In 1794 he incurred the suspicion of the Austrian government, and was compelled to leave the court of Modena, though he retained his office and the friendship of the duke until the latter's death in 1803. On arriving at Innsbruck he was arrested, kept eleven months in confinement, and finally tried at Vienna. On his release he travelled in Germany, finding favour at various courts, notably at Saxe-Hildburghausen, where he was presented with the family order of the duke, and settled in 1797 at Erlangen. In 1800 he was created knight vice-chancellor of the order of St. Joachim, an order he was afterwards instrumental in conferring on Nelson. He now devoted himself to the compilation of ‘An Accurate Historical Account of all the Orders of Knighthood at present existing in Europe,’ which was printed at Hamburg and published in London in 1803, with a dedication to Nelson. In 1807 he moved to Stockholm, where he was presented to Gustavus IV by the British minister. An entertaining account of Hanson's appearance at this ceremony is given in Brown's ‘Memoirs of Northern Courts’ (ii. 321–6). In 1811 Hanson moved for the last time to Copenhagen, where he published in the same year his ‘Miscellaneous Compositions in Verse,’ dedicated to his friend Warren Hastings. He died at Copenhagen on 22 April 1814. He was unmarried, and his property passed to his only sister, Mary, wife of Sir Thomas Gery Cullum, bart. [q. v.], of Hardwick House, Bury St. Edmunds. Hanson's correspondence, containing amusing and interesting details of the various courts which he visited, together with three portraits (one a miniature by N. Hone), are preserved at Hardwick House, now in the possession of G. Milner Gibson-Cullum, F.S.A.

[Letters, family papers, &c., at Hardwick House, Bury St. Edmunds; Hanson's preface to his poems; Banks's Walks near Wakefield.]

L. C.