Tremamondo, Domenico Angelo Malevolti (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57
Tremamondo, Domenico Angelo Malevolti

by Thomas Seccombe

TREMAMONDO, DOMENICO ANGELO MALEVOLTI (1716–1802), fencing master, the son of a wealthy Italian merchant, was born at Leghorn in 1716. After travelling widely upon the continent he settled in Paris, and studied horsemanship and fencing under the great Teillagory, who was instructor at the Manège Royal, as well as at the Académie d'Armes. While still at Paris he was fascinated by the charms of Peg Woffington, and is said to have migrated to England in her company, probably about 1755. His style of living was costly, and he became anxious to turn his handsome person and remarkable skill as a rider and swordsman to account. He was soon recognised as an authority on the manège. He became écuyer to Henry Herbert, tenth earl of Pembroke [q. v.], settled at Wilton in 1758, and undertook to train the riding instructors of Eliott's famous light horse (now 15th hussars), of which Pembroke in 1759 became lieutenant-colonel. One of those he trained was Philip Astley [q. v.], the founder of the well-known amphitheatre. While Pembroke patronised Tremamondo, Charles Douglas, third duke of Queensberry [q. v.], is said to have shown a partiality for his wife, for he appears to have married in England within a few years of his arrival. The equestrian (whom his patrons persuaded to adopt the simpler patronymic of Angelo) was introduced to George II, who pronounced him the most elegant horseman of his day. George III was no less emphatic in his commendation, and at a later date Angelo sat on horseback as West's model for William III in his picture of the battle of the Boyne. In the meantime Angelo, as he was now called, seems to have met with some pecuniary disappointment, and early in 1759 he resolved to devote his energies to obtaining remunerative pupils as a fencing master. This change of plan was soon justified by results. Among his first pupils were the Duke of Devonshire and the Prince of Wales, while his école d'escrime in Soho became a crowded and fashionable haunt for young men of rank. His income was now large; he set up a country house at Acton, and his hospitality was lavish in the extreme. Among his acquaintances were numbered Garrick, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilkes, Horne Tooke, and many other distinguished persons. Encouraged by such a clientèle, Angelo brought out in 1763 his superb ‘L'École d'Armes avec l'Explication générale des Principales Attitudes et Positions concernant l'Escrime,’ dedicated to Princes William Henry and Henry Frederic (London, 1763, oblong fol.; 2nd edit., with two columns of text, French and English, 1765; another, Paris, 1765; 3rd edit. 1767). The expense was covered by subscriptions among 236 noblemen and gentlemen, Angelo's patrons and pupils. The work was adorned by forty-seven copperplates, drawn by Gwynn, and engraved by Ryland, Grignion, and Hall. It rapidly established its position as an authority, being embodied under the heading ‘Escrime’ in Diderot's ‘Encyclopédie,’ and it was certainly the most important book that had appeared on the subject in England since the treatise of Vincentio Saviolo [q. v.] It appeared in a purely English guise in 1787 as ‘The School of Fencing’ (2nd edit. 1799). The Chevalier d'Eon resided for some years with Angelo in London, and it is understood that he assisted him in writing the letterpress [see D'Eon de Beaumont]. In 1770 Angelo purchased from Lord Delaval Carlisle House, at the end of Carlisle Street, overlooking Soho Square; but as this district became less select he transferred his salle d'armes, first to Opera House Buildings in the Haymarket, and then to Old Bond Street. Eventually he retired to Eton, but he continued to give lessons in fencing until his death in that town on 11 July 1802.

Domenico's younger brother, Anthony Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo, proceeded to Scotland about 1768 and became ‘Master of the Royal Riding Manège’ at Edinburgh, where he resided in Nicolson Square, and was widely known as Ainslie. He died at Edinburgh on 16 April 1805, ‘aged 84’ (Scots Mag. 1805, p. 565). A large equestrian portrait of him appears in ‘Kay's Original Portraits’ (Edinburgh, 1877, i. 69).

Domenico's eldest son, known as Henry Angelo (1760–1839?), was sent in 1766 to Dr. William Rose's academy at Chiswick, but was transferred in the same year to Eton, where his father had already begun to give fencing lessons, and he remained there until 1774. He afterwards studied fencing in Paris under Motet, and became the virtual head of his father's académie from about 1785. Sheridan and Fox were in the habit of dropping in at the school in a friendly way, and Henry Angelo had almost as distinguished a circle of acquaintances as his father (for a list of his titled pupils see Reminiscences, ii. 406; cf. Grantley, Recollections, 1866, iv. 159). He retired from the active conduct of the school about 1817, in favour of his son, also named Henry (1780–1852), who moved the academy in 1830 to St. James's Street, became in 1833 superintendent of sword exercise to the army, and died at Brighton on 14 Oct. 1852 (Gent. Mag. 1852, ii. 543).